Before I met Jes Kast-Keat I loved her. “You two should meet,” mutual friends said of both of us to one another. “You’ll love one another instantly.” And we did. Jes is deeply Reformed in her theology; liturgical in her worship; socially just and pastoral in application of her call; filled with the Spirit in her living; and graceful in her loving. She is the kind of pastor a person would want serving her or his church. How lucky is the Reformed Church in America to have her?
Reformed minister, Roman Catholic roots
by Rev. Jes Kast-Keat
Whenever I need centering, whenever I need serene worship, whenever I need anonymity in a liturgical gathering I turn to my roots and run to Catholic Mass. I walk into the doors and my eyes follow the art and architecture upward, my very being is lifted up as the Cathedral-like sanctuaries invite me in. Saturday night was one of those nights for me.
I love the icons and ornamentation in Catholic Churches. Each icon is a visual representation of a Biblical story. I am especially drawn to and comforted by the familiarity of the Stations of the Cross in each sanctuary. (I am smiling as I write this because the first date that my husband and I went on was to a Catholic Church to follow the Stations. It was quite romantic and serene.) I value the liturgical movements and repetition; I love the standing, the kneeling, the sitting, and holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer. It reminds me that worship requires my body and not just my mind.
I love the reverence – oh, do I love the reverence. That is the penultimate reasons why I run to my Catholic roots when I need centering. I look forward to dipping my hands into the holy water that is positioned on the wall by all the doors. As I make the sign of the cross on my forehead, both shoulders, and my breastbone I feel the water dampen my shirt and I am reminded of my baptismal identity. I can slip into worship, in silence, escaping the need to get caught up on my neighbor’s latest gossip. Before the liturgy begins each worshipper is invited to pull the kneeling bench down to prepare himself/herself for worship in prayer. This preparatory prayer allows the worshiper to reflect and center. And this is precisely what I need.
The Eucharist is the ultimate reason why I turn to my Catholic roots when I need centering. I love how the Lord’s Supper is celebrated weekly and I love how we all process to the front where the elements are offered. We do not sit in pews and we do not grab a chunk of bread ourselves – each of these ways of communion communicates different theologies that are beautiful in their own way. Instead we walk forward, in solidarity with one another, following the steps of the women and men of faith who have tread before us. There is something humbling about walking up to the priest and receiving the body and blood of Christ. It has always been moving to me.
As I worship with my Catholic brothers and sisters I am deeply aware that my theology differs in some drastic ways. I do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the elements, I am aware of the patriarchal ways of the Catholic Church that discriminate women from the office of priesthood (check out this article on the latest sexism), I am aware that my polity beliefs differ from my Catholic brothers and sisters, and I’m aware that while we both have a sacramental view of reality, I hold two sacraments and not seven. And yet I still believe we can worship together in unity. A Trinitarian reality is at the center for both of us and I believe that unites us together in worship.
I’m not Catholic anymore but I sure do love worshipping with my sisters and brothers and bless them (particularly the sisters right now) for the work they are called to do. My Catholic days inform me on how to be a better Reformed Church in America minister and for that I am grateful.
Rev. Jes Kast-Keat is the Associate Pastor at West End Collegiate Church inNew York City. She loves the art of Frida Kahlo, Malbec wine, the politics of fashion, and if often found frequenting poetry slam clubs in the city.