Sunday, February 10, 2008


I think a lot of my discontent with the church over the spring, summer and even the fall, stemmed from profound dissatisfaction with the preaching, which was same-old, same-old.

But I also have not liked the worship here, for ages, because of its volume and its disconnect with me, with its unfamiliar tunes.

It’s a lot of what I was talking about with Natasha. The worship is scripted, with no real “jam session” quality. The music is melodies and lyrics I’m not familiar with, in a style that I do not feel at home with, and that change fairly regularly.

Here I think is the problem. Let me try it from this perspective. Brendan’s position is a worship leader. That means that he leads us in worship. It’s his job to stir the entire congregation into seeking God and expressing themselves in an attitude of worship toward God. This is a participatory experience, not a spectator one.

I’m going to compare this to the worship style we had at Saunders Station Presbyterian Church when I was a child. Worship at the time was done from a set of hymnals that the church had bought before we started to attend there, that collected hymns that had been mainstays of worship for decades if not for centuries. These were songs that we sang at different points in the liturgical calendar, year after year, and consequently they had a certain familiarity when they came back around.

Worship was led, not by a band, but by an organist. Nancy McNutt was a competent organist, if not an inspired one, and she played every song at the same tempo, whether it was “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” or “Amazing Grace.”

And yet for all the failings of that style of worship, there was no question that when she played, everyone in the congregation sang. It might be a song like “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations” or “They’ll Know We Are Christians by our Love,” but everyone sang when it was time for the hymn. We might have sung without enthusiasm, but we sang, all of us, young and old, and you could hear our voices raised in song alongside the moan of the faithful old organ.

Compare that to the worship situation at churches across the country and probably throughout the Western world today. We have a team that gets up front with a drum set, a couple guitars, and in our case, a violinist. Worship mostly consists of the worship leader singing, and if anyone else sngs, they simply are following his lead, much as we follow the pastor’s lead during the sermon, in understanding the text.

I was at a community group meeting last Monday where two of the worship team sarted tapping on glass, on plates and on whatever else was available, with a pair of wooden skewers. It was, without a doubt, an act of spontaneous worship, an expression of the demiurge within us as it swelled up and burst forth like a geyser. It was, without a doubt, the finest worship I’ve had in any church setting in years.

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