St. Cecilia Catholic Church
Under the banner of “Christianity” are numerous ways of worship, some simple and some elaborate. Ultimately, all Christians unite in the same purpose: to worship Jesus Christ, the Son of God. But there are remarkable differences and similarities between Catholics and non-denominational Protestants.
The St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Philadelphia is a modern, medium-sized building with ornate stained glass windows. There is a large cross on the roof, announcing that this is a house of worship. The Immanuel Bible church in Howell, New Jersey is a more modest building, dedicated to the internal worship process.
Inside of St. Cecilia’s, the large, long pews are arranged symmetrically, forcing one’s eyes to the front of the church, where a large crucifix (a cross with the crucified Christ) hangs. Along the side aisles are the various Stations of the Cross, representing Christ’s journey to his execution. Immanuel Bible has none of these ornaments. Nor do they have confessional booths in the back of the sanctuary, where Catholics confess their sins before the priest.
The Catholic rite, the mass, begins with an opening hymn and the processional, where the altar servers, lectors, Eucharistic ministers and finally the priest file down the main aisle to the altar. In Immanuel Bible, music begins the service as well. After opening hymns in both churches, prayers are offered.
The formal ritual of the mass continues with two readings and psalm responses by the lector, followed by the gospel and homily from the priest, usual themed on the gospel reading. This is called the “Liturgy of the Word.” At Immanuel Bible the Lead Pastor reads a Bible passage and discusses it, much like the homily (or sermon). Both churches have an offering, while the Catholic Church has the “Liturgy of the Eucharist,” in which Catholics believe that the bread and wine are actually transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The technical term for this is transubstantiation. Protestants, beginning with Martin Luther, questioned this, and maintain that the bread and wine is only symbolic (consubstantiation).
Catholics and Protestants also differ on the question of salvation. Protestants believe that one’s personal faith in Christ and relationship to Him achieves entry to heaven. Catholics, on the other hand, stress that a combination of faith and good works are essential to one’s continuing salvation. The Catholic Church places much of its teaching on scripture and tradition, while most Protestants, including Immanuel Bible, believe in direct revelation from the Bible.
After the service, Catholics leave for home, but at Immanuel Bible there is the Care Group, a chance to associate with other members, discussing the day’s message. Christians of all denominations are supposed to leave the service and spread the Gospel the rest of the week, living what they learn each Sunday.