Discussing the Protestant Reformation in class over the past few weeks got me thinking about the various groups that broke away to form Churches independent of the Catholic Church. Although I have been to many Catholic Masses throughout my life, I was interested to see some of the differences between a Catholic Mass and a Protestant service in terms of both the liturgy and the house of worship. Because the beliefs and actions of Martin Luther essentially spawned the Protestant Reformation, I thought it would be a great idea to visit a Lutheran Church. Luckily, there happens to be a Lutheran Church in my hometown and I know many of the people who attend services on a weekly basis. Trinity Lutheran Church in Nashville, Illinois is a member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
Trinity Lutheran Church is no more than a few miles from my home, so I was quite familiar with the exterior of the building. However, it was interesting to see the panels of stained glass windows as I walked in for the service. Immediately inside the doors I was greeted by a church elder who handed me a bulletin for the day’s service. Although there was nothing out of the ordinary about this greeting, I did notice it was somewhat different from Catholic Masses I have been to where one simply enters and walks to a pew without being greeted. As I walked into the main body of the church, I noticed many things found in Catholic churches that were not present. For example, Holy Water fonts which are found in all Catholic churches were not present. Additionally, a carpeted church was different from what I had expected as all of the Catholic churches I have visited do not have carpeting.
The lack of both genuflection and kneelers at Trinity was interesting. I am used to seeing parishioners genuflect as they enter pews and kneel to pray before Mass. Witnessing congregants simply enter their pews and take a seat was something I had not seen before. The pews in which congregants sat were also padded, far different from the wooden pews at most Catholic churches. The lack of statues and intricate religious paintings and other artwork was another point of contrast between Catholicism and Lutheranism.
Although I remembered something about the difference between a cross and crucifix, I did not realize that Lutherans use a cross which does not display the body of Jesus while Catholic churches most often will have a crucifix. The cross at the front of the church was quite interesting. Rather than being made from wood, the cross seemed to be formed of some type of metal and sat between the bricks of the building rather than standing or hanging independently. Also, at the center of the cross was a stained glass window with intricate artwork.
Despite the cross being at the front of the church, what really caught my eye were three flame-like structures of different colors that held burning candles. Immediately what came to mind is that these three structures were present to represent the...