Concerning Life as It Is Supposed to Be

In Debt to Our Trespasses

For the first nineteen years of my life, I attended Methodist churches in which we possessed ‘trespasses’ needing to be forgiven, according to the form of the Lord’s Prayer we regularly recited. For all but three of the years since (I’m now sixty) I’ve attended Presbyterian churches where the ‘trespasses’ had become ‘debts’. I’ve been confessing debts twice as long as trespasses. And yet…

Some months ago I was sitting in my study troubled by many things and seeking to pray. I prayed, as I am prone to do in such times when I don’t know how to pray, the Lord’s Prayer. In the intensity of that moment, I found myself praying for the forgiveness of my childhood Methodist trespasses and not my adulthood Presbyterian debts. Praying from within the context of desperation, those childhood liturgical forms welled up from deep within me where they had been disciplined to reside until needed most. Liturgy has an ability to shape the young and formative mind in powerful and lasting ways.

I was reminded of this in a comment by journalist James Fallows, not a particularly devout man if his blog and other writings are any indication, and yet he says this:

“I spent my youth hearing the cadences of Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer repeated roughly one zillion times and still feel they are my main guide to the proper shape and pacing of a sentence.”

Somehow our youthful liturgical exposure is formative in ways that transcend the merely spiritual.

And yet, we’ve persuaded ourselves that children get nothing from public worship. I beg to differ.


A Time to Refrain from Speaking


Cry, the Beloved Country


  1. child4

    I’m with you on children in public worship. Glad you welcomed little ones to worship with us when you were our pastor.
    (Don’t know how that name below got in there. You know who I am. -a-)

    • Well, I can guess you you are by the “-a-“, but it is merely a guess. The ‘child4’ is an oddity for sure.

      • child4

        I have three older siblings (two now deceased) and two younger sisters. I’m 4th in line; sort of a middle child with all the attendant woes; with six children there can’t be an exact middle. Maybe my only brother and I were the two middles.
        Enough clues?

  2. <3

    And I still have the notes from when you shared when out children became professing members of the church. Did I tell you I was present, same building, when J became a member of Providence OPC? Fruit from hunger years? God's grip of grace showing fruit while he is still young?

  3. Jason Strong

    “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know…. 🙂

  4. Stephanie

    It is my sincere and utmodt hope that my children find these liturgical truths deep within them when it counts, rather than the lies that always seem to find a passage way in.

    • Stephanie

      Utmost even.

    • I like utmodt. That’s a word that has potential.

      I suppose we need to transform ‘hope’ into ‘prayer’. But it is ever surprising to me that the words put into my young brain still come out like that.

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