I attend Messiah College, a non-denominational Christian school. “Non-denominational” means “open or acceptable to people of any Christian denomination.” However, most non-denominational churches adhere to Protestant tenants, as do many of my peers. Due to my Episcopal roots, I struggled to spiritually plant myself at Messiah.
The first time I attended Powerhouse, the student-run worship service, I felt out of place. They sang worship songs projected onto a screen rather than hymns from a book. Few people knelt, but a majority stretched out their hands. It felt more like a rock concert than my church’s liturgy. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with contemporary praise – it was just unfamiliar to me. Despite my hesitance, I am grateful I gave Powerhouse a chance. Worshiping God in new ways taught me that Jesus calls us to unity, not uniformity.
During my freshman year, I grew frustrated with peers, and even professors, who harbored prejudices toward particular denominations, specifically Roman Catholicism. Despite a chauvinistic population on campus, I found people who embraced the blessings of a nondenominational community. I joined friends to visit Eastern Orthodox, Brethren in Christ, and Metropolitan Community churches. I met truly open-minded people with a desire to see God anew. In 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 (ESV), Paul wrote: “Each one of you is saying, ‘I follow Paul,’ and ‘I follow Apollos,’ and ‘I follow Cephas,’ and ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?” Although I attend St. Paul’s Church, I belong to a much bigger church: the body of Christ.
This does not mean there should only be one denomination, but that they should share fellowship with one another. For instance, Catholic J.R.R. Tolkien helped C.S. Lewis convert to Christianity, but Lewis found harmony in Anglicanism. In “Mere Christianity,” he said, “[Christianity] is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms….But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in.” Each room of Christianity reveres God uniquely, but are one in the Holy Spirit.
I have learned so much, and have much to learn, from different Christian traditions. My spirituality is a beautiful blend of my inter-denominational experiences, from Mennonite to Methodist. I commend Messiah for creating a community where Christians of all creeds can grow together.