This past weekend was my first weekend without traveling or homestays, and it was the first time I was able to attend worship on campus. To give you a little bit of background, Uganda is a primarily Anglican nation as it was colonized by the British, and the Church of Uganda is actually one of the largest provinces of the Anglican church worldwide. All this to say Uganda Christian University is affiliated with the Church of Uganda, an Anglican body. I had never had much exposure to the Anglican church, all I knew of the America's version, the Episcopal church, and with the issues they have been having in recent years, I was nervous about what I was getting myself into church-wise when coming here.
I've been to a couple of Anglican functions already, including the "enthronement" of a new bishop, so I have already observed the ceremony and liturgy of the Anglican service. I think I've always had a little bit of a negative conception of liturgical style churches, but I've been really impressed. The words of the responsive readings are so spiritually deep, and I've had the opportunity to talk to some Anglicans here are genuine Christians, believing in Christ's redemptive work, not their own merits, and wholeheartedly seeking after Christ. These people are saying the words of the liturgy from the heart, not just out of instinct or as the result of rote memorization (although if you here the same words every Sunday your whole life, those are definitely factors). Also, for my Faith and Action class we just read some articles about liturgy and the Anglican church, and it's convicted me that even at home in my non-liturgical service, my worship can be simply out of habit, and my heart and mind could be miles away, not there to serve the Lord, learn more about Him, or worship Him.
Sorry for all that background, anyway, I attended campus worship, which is less liturgical and more casual than parish services, for the first time this past Sunday. I know that the Church of Uganda preaches the gospel faithfully, and that while there are some things I disagree with (i.e. baptizing babies), I know my own convictions well enough that I am not going to be swayed, and three or so months isn't going to kill me. I was good until we got to the end of the service, and it was announced that we would be celebrating communion. There are a plethora of different beliefs held about communion: transubstantiation, consubstantiation, saving grace, sanctifying grace, mere symbolism . I had no idea what beliefs the Church of Uganda holds to regarding communion. I was feeling a little uneasy. As people went up to receive communion from the priest and deacons, I was praying about what I should do. On one hand, I don't want to take part in a practice that goes against what I believe to be a faithful interpretation of scripture. On the other hand, from all I know of the Church of Uganda, it's pretty legit, and Paul definitely pushes the concept of unity of the Body of Christ when he writes about communion in 1 Corinthians. I also didn't want to let the fact that the communion process itself (serving the elements, etc) was different than I was used to get in my way, because, honestly, none of us observe communion exactly the same as Jesus and His disciples did in the Upper Room.
Long story short (well, not really short :) I ended up taking communion. So did the majority of USP students, but the two other girls from Cedarville that were there did not. We were able to talk about it afterwards and they were wrestling with a lot of the same thoughts as I was. My first though, as I walked back to my seat was "oh, goodness, this is real wine," followed by "this reminds me of the bourbon chicken at Chuck's," followed by a lot of doubt and prayer. If I was really following in obedience to Christ by taking communion, why would I have doubt? If I really had an attitude of self-examination and celebration of Christ's death and resurrection, then why would I be thinking about Chuck's at all?? The communion issue continued to bother me that day.
Later that afternoon, as I was going devotions, I flipped open Our Daily Bread, and saw the title for that day "Celebrating Together." The scripture for that day was 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.The author was talking about the first Sunday of October, which happens to be World Communion Sunday, and how "it is a time to observe the Lord's Supper with a special awareness of celebrating together with our brothers and sisters and Christ around the globe." How perfect! Reading the devotional really gave me a peace about my decision, and while I am going to look further into the Church of Uganda's beliefs on communion before deciding to do it again, I am really glad I was able to stand together with Christians from another culture. I'd highly encourage you to check out the devotional: http://odb.org/2010/10/03/celebrating-together/