Posted by: ritagone | September 22, 2010

Church liturgy

I love my church; I really do.

We’ve been there for over 20 years; we’ve been through ups and downs, put two kids through middle school and high school programs, seen two pastors come and go and a third come and hopefully stay.  My husband served on the elder board and as chairman of the elders for many years and during a crucial time – a crisis, when good solid leadership was vital.  We have both been in leadership positions there and have encouraged commitment and participation.  We have given money and sweat and tears to it believing that the local body of Christ is of utmost significance in the community and for the Kingdom.

And so it saddens and discourages me to report that I am utterly bored at the etched-in-stone-like regularity of the liturgy in my church.  Every Sunday, regular as clockwork, here’s the way it goes: there is one of two worship bands playing, interchangeably.  You could drop either one in, close your eyes and not be able to tell the difference musically in terms of style and musical repertoire.  They are gifted musicians, no doubt about it.  But they – in my opinion – are performers more than worship leaders, and so, when I look around me, I see people watching them perform, not participating, for the most part, in singing.  We stand and listen as they sing and play their instruments, and the musicians are very happy.  They are doing what they love to do.  And the rest of us are not.

I think about Andrew Jones, the “tallskinnykiwi” who spoke at our recent CONNECT, and his admission that he does not worship through music.  (Yes, there are indeed believers who fall into this category.)  I smile when I remember him saying that once the praise choruses start, he begins to read the “Exit” signs, because we’ve lost him for worship.  It’s just not the way he connects to God.  And I think about our church service and wonder about the percentage of people attending there who fall into the same category with Andrew and how they must feel: abandoned, empty, lacking in something, unfulfilled?  Am I projecting my own dissatisfaction, I wonder?

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love music.  My life has been steeped in it, my family as talented as the next in terms of leading worship through it.  But I have more and more been drawn to the realization that God – the creative God of the universe who made all five senses within us – wants us to experience Him in many more ways than just through music when we gather together on a Sunday morning.  And so when I go to church week in and week out and the only means of worship is through music – and the same kind of music at that – it shrivels my spirit a little bit each time.  What about Scripture reading one Sunday?  What about pure, unadulterated silence for a change to allow people to worship in the beauty of their own thoughts and prayers?  How wonderful would it be to have poetry read that captured the praises about God down through the centuries?  Even in a sanctuary prohibited from much movement because the chairs are attached to the floor, isn’t there something a bit more creative that could be done even once in a while?

And just when I begin to think that I’m a lone voice crying – literally – in the wilderness, I go to Facebook and see a comment from Alan Hirsch that begins: “Why is so-called contemporary worship so derivative and generic?” and then see that 67 people – 67! – have bothered to comment because it is a subject that engenders so much emotion and opinion.  It’s not just me.  As I talk about it – and I do! – I find that I’m not alone.  People have opinions and ideas because they want true worship.  They don’t want the “same old, same old” week in and week out.  They know when their spirits are drying up and becoming stale because they are not worshiping God as they would like, in a creative and healthy manner.

What to do about it?  I don’t know.  I’m certainly not wanting to leave my church.  Besides, when I ask around, I find that most of the local churches in my community do worship the same way.  The ones I’ve heard of that do it differently and better are too far away (like Tribe of Los Angeles, where Deb Hirsch now pastors), and I’m committed to the local community.  So there’s the conundrum: how do I worship well in my church that I love when the worship there is not creative but redundant and repetitive?  And the answer continues to be: I don’t know.  I’m praying about it.  I’m seeking God’s face.  I’m talking to people, and in doing so, I’m getting into a lot of wonderful conversations about worship itself, which is exciting and challenging.

And when I find even the beginning of an answer, I’ll let you know.


Regards, Rita

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