For the past few months I’ve been part of a worship discernment group called “Next Steps”. We had been given the task of discerning what God is calling our worship gathering to in regards to, well, worship. But it’s become so much more than that (typical of God, eh? Not one to stick to the agenda).
Initially I felt hesitant to join. But Aj, you babble on and on about worship stuff all the time: why not dive in? Because worship is so much more than a Sunday morning gathering, and I feared that the group would be focusing solely on that activity — and then I’d get antsy and cranky – never a pretty thing. However, as folks listened intentionally – to each other, to God, to God through each other – the focus started to shift. We shared stories, dreams, woundings, longings. Folks felt like we should be a think tank *and* an action group (hallelujah!): if we feel that there needs to be an atmosphere of hospitality, then we should engage in that practice ourselves!; if we sense that God wants us to be present more in the day-to-day aspects of our community, including on Sundays, then we need to look around and respond!; if we wonder how much our body truly knows about worship – elements, meaning, reasonings behind – then we should explore and educate! Ah, a breathe of fresh air.
NFC had a quarterly business meeting Sunday in which our recommendations were presented to the body. Even though I was a bit loopy, having rushed back into town from a weekend with the NFC women at the coast (and my clinging yet squirming appendage, I mean, son), I felt a strong desire to be present – to hear folks’ thoughts – to share, if need be, my experience and longing – to continue to participate in this journey with the larger gathering.
It was good.
People had some concerns: any recommendation for change creates discomfort; how we respond makes a *world* of difference. Folks actually voiced thanks for the “hard” work that we did. I know it sounds contrived, but it really did not feel like work – it was simply so engaging and energizing! Some worried about the lack of Sunday School for the children during the pastoral-proposed six-week fast, to which others shared their deep longing to have a church where children were more incorporated into the corporate worship gathering.
The closing response meant so much to me: a Next Stepper shared his experience in this process, stating he previously felt no longing or need for change, but through much patience and intentional listening has come to be able to hear and see this call. He cautioned the folks of his generation to listen patiently and react lovingly, and he reminded us that we will be having this conversation in a few years because the nature of culture is so consistent in changing. I hadn’t thought about the fact that the words some of us shared might be hard for others to hear; his testimony is a gentle check for me to offer the same respect and graciousness to others when the do not see things as I do, whether they voice that or not.
Here is a link to Sunday morning’s message (which I have yet to listen to) in which a six-week fast is proposed: look for March 9th.
And here is the recommendations that the Next Steps committee offered to the congregation: next-steps-recommendation.pdf
Any thoughts? Does anything look exciting? Or scary? Or need to be checked? Have you experienced this before? Does it resonate with you?