A friend of mine came to my office a few weeks ago. His congregation is beginning to think about a sanctuary renovation, and he wanted to talk through some of the dynamics at play when considering liturgical furniture. He had found himself, in an initial meeting, agreeing with those who argued, for example, that a pulpit was both beautiful and indispensable. Five minutes later he found himself agreeing with those who said a pulpit was anachronistic at best and at worst an impediment to hearing the gospel.
You can’t. Just accept it. It isn’t the role of the worship leader, worship coordinator, worship pastor or solo pastor to craft worship in such a way that makes everyone happy. This is impossible. When you try to make everyone happy, you end up making nobody happy. Yet, crafting inclusive worship is the most important thing that we can do for our churches.
Three times within the last week I have heard of churches that are letting people go hired professionals as well as seasoned volunteers, because they do not fit the image the church is trying to portray. The three churches are in three different states, three different types of communities, and two of them are of the “reformed” persuasion. In each case, the church was honest. And unbiblical. Idolatrous, if I can be frank.
Two weeks ago, I played the hymns for my grandmother’s memorial service. My uncles, father, and aunt had quickly gathered to plan the service, which was held only five days after her death. I wanted to serve my family and Grandma, and thought this was a good way to honor and remember her.
But I am thankful I pushed the microphone away from the piano and asked my brother-in-law to lead the hymns. Because during the final hymn, I choked up.
I started walking last June because of a FaceBook challenge put out by a former student. My job is primarily sedentary, and the goal of 10,000 steps a day seemed like a mountain to me. But I started. It was easier in the summer, and more difficult once school and classes and meetings filled my days. I’m on my fourth “tool” to track my steps. As important as meeting my goal was, the trackers have not been the most helpful aid to meeting my goal. Most helpful has been the music of the Psalms.
A tag line from a decades-old infomercial still makes me chuckle: [announcer voice] “This ____ can be yours. Do not be fooled by more expensive imitations!” There is something so deliciously ironic (and just plain wrong) about that phrase. The first time I heard it I said, “What???” Then I heard it again and again and again—promoting some piece of indispensable Americana plastica that could be “. . . yours for the low, low price of . . .”
How do you end a worship service? It’s not a simple question, is it?
I have a confession. I’m a Reformed Protestant worship director who attends Mass at a Catholic parish on a regular basis. Others in my position will understand that Sunday is a “working day,” and not always conducive to the kind of Sabbath rest and worship necessary for healthy discipleship. Saturday night Mass is something I look forward to for perspective, prayer, and nourishment. In fact, it is the only Saturday night service in our town that I am drawn to attend on a regular basis. Why? Because all the others tend to leave me frazzled or anxious.
One of the themes I loved to stress back in the days when I taught a university course on “Foundations of Worship,” is that worship provides a reality check. I can still hear myself saying to a class, “All week long our understandings of who God is and who we are gets hammered, and gradually becomes more and more out of focus. On Sundays we gather with God’s people to have our communal vision corrected again.”
But what if our worship actually contributes to the loss of focus?
This is the Golden Rule of radio. People like listening to songs that they know because of the feelings and emotions that came with hearing the song the first time all come rushing back. Most every couple can point to ‘their song’, maybe the first one they ever danced to or the one playing when she walked down the aisle. We have songs that are special to our churches too; the one sung when the last pastor retired, when you celebrated the Jubilee Anniversary of the building you meet in and sang ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’.