Maybe I am uptight...

My response to the comments of my last post became long enough to be a post themselves, so here it is.

I want to thank everyone for their words. There are times when I wonder if I am a bit uptight about worship. But then I remember how many times I have laughed ay my own mistakes and enjoyed the play that occurs between myself and the congregation.

So, I don't think I am uptight about worship, but I am a bit frustrated with those who don't take care with the language they use and the worship they create. That is as much of an abuse as anything good that could occur. I may be picking on small things during this service, but if they aren't teaching about the small things, then what about the big things?

The most frustrating part is the ignorance of those who are supposed to know better. Tod has experienced me as a worship leader before and knows that I make mistakes but I am not sure if he would call me uptight or not, Tod?

Therefore, I will become a great deal less frustrated when people think through the things they are asking others to be a part of. Too many people try to copy the hottest worship model in order to increase the size of their church, without simply asking the appropriate questions.

How shall we label each part of worship?

Why do we use only masculine pronouns when referring to God?

Why do we choose a praise band over organ music?

What do the songs we sing say about what we believe?

What effect will our decisions have on the overall experience of worship?

How can we include more people in a service of God?

and so on...

There are many questions that need to be asked before creating a liturgy for a congregation. So, I might quit being uptight when people quit being ignorant, especially those people who are in charge of the worship life of the multitude.

Read a book (Marva J. Dawn's is excellent, Ron Byars has some good words as well (he was my preaching and worship prof.), Gordon Lathrop has some excellent stuff on the history of worship). Learn about denominational history and traditions. Find ways to know why worship is structured a certain way and then make changes. Without the history and connection to people of all times and places (thanks Erin) worship is meaningless and obsolete.

In my denomination worship comes out of scripture, and on top of that there are several hundred years of tradition and trial and error. There is so much rich material out there that one just needs to look and find out how to best communicate it to a congregation. This congregation's worship looked like it was put together piece-meal, as if they just wanted to thumb their nose at history for the sake of being popular.

On a side note, my best friend (a Baptist minister) and I were sitting in an ecumenical service one time when another minister got up to pray. He and I often joke that for our various heresies we have permanent seats on the bus ride to hell, he gets to control the radio, I get to navigate.

Any way, we were sitting at this service and about a third of the way through the prayers of the people, the minister starts with the "Jesus wejus". From that day forward we decided that sitting together in worship may not be the best thing. Between the elbows and convulsive (though silent) laughter both of us were practically in tears by the end of the prayer. This may seem sacreligious to some but we had a great time, and I really don't think God minded so much.

Worship is a vertical and horizontal experience. It is a focused time where we communicate with God and with the community that surrounds us. That doesn't mean that we cannot laugh and enjoy ourselves and play in the space that has been created. However, a safe place of worship must be created before anything else meaningful can happen. Safe places are created when the community can feel as though each member has equal part in the experience rather than showing up to be entertained. Safe places are places of trust and growth where we can lay our faults and imperfections before the community and have our wounds tended by God and then by one another.

Good worship, in a safe place, is about God, never about us...

... and thanks to all those who respond here. Your comments and thoughts are meaningful and give me pause to think and clarify what it is I believe and what it is I hope to share with others. Every comment is important because it also lets me know a little bit more about who you are as well, and that can only be a good thing...

grace and peace



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