Category Archives: Worship

Taking Our Next Steps

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?

A Gelatin Kind of Worship

What comes to your mind when you think of worship?

  • Putting on clothes that are fairly uncomfortable
  • Yowling at the family to get to church on time because we’re going to enjoy service, dang it!
  • Paper: bulletins, directories, offering cards that can be turned into airplanes
  • The smells of bad coffee
  • Songs, some old and some new, meaning at some point somebody has a happy face and somebody has a cranky face
  • Sermons, a.k.a. time to stare at the pastor’s tie
  • Offering plates that feel oh so slippery and wanting to hit the floor

Some variation of the above list is fairly typical images or components of worship.

But you know what I think of? Seven layer Jello salad. Really, that’s what first comes to mind. See, I grew up at Boise Friends Church, and we potlucked: oh, how we potlucked. One of my friend’s moms often made this jello salad which was so pretty and tasty and fun to take apart, and I was always wondered how she did it (fortunately, the wonders of the internet revealed her kitchen magic).

Now, a salad made out of gelatin may not seem to be a critical element of worship for you. But for me it represents a time of fellowship: my favorite part of worship.

On Sundays my family would drive a ways across town, attend worship in the sanctuary before scuttling off to children’s church and then Sunday School. While it was enjoyable sing ingthe songs and having Bible stories told to us on felt boards, the real fun was to be had after service during the fellowship time. People would hang out and talk for what seemed to be forever. The kids would run around crazylike hopped up on sugar cookies and red Kool Aid, and my folks would chat and laugh and really enjoy themselves. If we weren’t having a potluck, my friends and I would run back and forth between parents convincing them that we needed to go out to lunch: usually we wore them down pretty fast – anything to let them continue having adult conversation (which, as a parent, I now completely understand the need for).

Hearing the people laughing. Running around with friends. Contributing to the canned food tubs. Bringing in love loaves Enjoying each others’ company and hearing each others’ stories. To me, that is fellowship, but the deeper connecting bond is worship.

So, what comes to your mind when you hear the word “worship”?


Can who we worship with become an Idol?

In the previous post quoting an interview with Madeleine L’Engle she made reference to her son-in-law’s take on being “an atheist for Christ” – “He means that Christians build up little gods, little temples of Baal. We begin to worship them. And we must tear them down, destroy them. The gods we erect are easier to worship than the Creator of the universe. They’re more comprehensible.”

As I’ve mentioned I’m part of a worship discernment group at my faith community.  We have three Sunday services that are all the same (rather than having a contemporary, a classic, etc. – we are not Burger King  “do it your way”).  Members of the community feel that the Spirit is leading us to examine whether this is the way God is calling us to worship God right now:  they feel an itch, an ache, that something must change.  Others have no such feeling:   they’re fairly confused that the status quo would be in question because they find Sunday morning worship to be very fulfilling, and isn’t everyone else like them?

So we’re laying everything out on the table.  Or so we think . . .

The elders gave us the task of looking at different worship models that utilize our strengths as a multi-generational congregation while being present to meet the needs of our community.  Now, I don’t know one member of the task force who can get behind that mission:  too many questions, too many misconceptions.  And such a task doesn’t really lay *everything* out on the table.

“Strength as a multi-generational congregation.”  First, we’re trying to figure out what that means.  But also, even though we’ve experienced blessings at having a faith community of differing ages and walks of life, are we always called to that?  Some folks would say ‘yes’:  we should be widely varied in our backgrounds and ages.  Some folks would say ‘no’:  we can be more effective when looking at a specific group to minister to.

This gets into that whole “seeker sensitive” schebang which I don’t want to deal with; others have said things much more eloquently.

But I do wonder – have we made an idol out of being multi-generational?  When I hear folks say, “God couldn’t possibly call us to minister to one group” or “Our body will always have multiple generations as part of the community”, I wonder – are we worshipping the way we worship (or who we worship with) more than worshipping God?  Perhaps God called us to be varied in age — for a time period — and maybe God calls us to be not as varied — for a time period.  Just because it’s good doesn’t mean we’re always called to do it.

This is poorly fleshed out.  But it’s a start — sending thoughts out into the blogosphere — casting seeds — seeing what will come of it.

What all have we erected that needs to be torn down?  And will we actually follow through?

To Pew or Not to Pew – What’s this Worship Thing About Anyway?

I’m part of a worship discernment group at my faith community.  What does that mean?  Good question:  we’re not quite sure.  At our last meeting we were given the task of coming up with five statements about worship.  My group came up with five questions about worship (this should not be shocking – Aj’s group being non-conformist).

One thing we talked about was elements of worship – how worship looks, what goes into it.  Someone mentioned pews being constricting and perhaps chairs would be more freeing at our gatherings; another friend shared how she’s mostly worshiped in chairs, and they’re just like pews except a little more squished and clunky.  The best was having chairs roped together to resemble pews – ah, how the grass is always greener.

I thought I’d share some posts I’ve appreciated on worship, both for folks who read my blog (who are STILL silent.  Thanks to those who participated in the questions for the FAQ – this sleep-deprived brain needs some fodder to work with) and those in my worship discernment group (because I haven’t bothered to figure out Google Groups yet).  😀