My 88-year-old mother has lived in a nursing home for almost four years. That’s more than two hundred Sundays! Frequently I ask, “Mom, did you go to church today?” Always she answers, “Oh, there’s no church here.” On several occasions I’ve attended the afternoon worship, and almost always I’d have to agree.
Articles in this issue:
The older I get, the more hungry and thirsty I become for communion. The older I get, the more I receive that crust of bread and sip of wine as food desperately needed for the journey and an appetizer for the great wedding feast of the Lamb. The older I get, the more moving it becomes to look someone in the eye, hold out the loaf and say, “Nancy, this is the body of Christ broken for you.” The older I get, the more frustrating I find my own denomination’s practice of excluding children from the Lord’s table.
When I ask a young person if he or she is interested in making profession of faith, the answer is almost always a variation of “I’m not ready.” When pressed to explain, the young person will often say, “I’m not good enough,” or, “I’m not sure about some things.”
Q. How can we balance our desire to make changes in the service for emphasis and still allow the congregation to be comfortable within a certain structure so they can worship without distractions?
A. It was C.S. Lewis who famously compared good worship with an old shoe. The more familiarity and fewer surprises, the better. Lewis was right that innovation tends to draw our attention from the purpose to the mechanics of what we are doing.
Sunday, October 2, 2005, marks the sixty-ninth year that churches around the globe are celebrating World Communion Sunday. Originating in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1936, with the hope that other denominations would join in, it took only a few years before the celebration spread far beyond its origins. On this Sunday, as we gather around the Lord’s table, we are reminded of our oneness in Christ and celebrate with our fellow believers the faith and work of the Church worldwide.
Two voices, bracketing the Bible’s witness like audible bookends, shore up the theological convictions of this article. On one side of the biblical witness is the voice of the Creator thundering into creation’s inky darkness, “Let there be light. . . .” And on the other side is the voice of the prophet gasping for breath to choke out a benediction in the apocalypse of St. John, “Blessed is everyone who reads aloud the words of the prophecy of this book. . . .”
In our postmodern society we hear a lot about the importance of narrative. There is nothing all that remarkable about that emphasis; telling stories to recount important events and pass on values and knowledge has been integral to all communities throughout history. The postmodern twist, however, is that each person is able to make up their own story and to interpret or reinterpret the grand narrative as they like. Though touted as being the key to true freedom, the end result is like trying to build a house on a sandpit—it doesn’t work.
Given expensive equipment and potential conflicts over changes in worship style, the purchase of a video projector system is often a difficult decision for churches to make. But it’s only a first step. Once installed, the Sundays keep coming and the question becomes, What next? What do we put on the screen, week after week? How can we use the screen to do more than reproduce the texts from the bulletin and songbook? How can the screen lead the congregation in its liturgical tasks rather than call attention to itself? And who will produce this imagery?
Being intentionally intergenerational in worship can sound like an overwhelming task. Indeed, it does require some time and effort. As a place to start, consider planning a service that celebrates each generation and the particular gifts it brings to the body of Christ. Doing so may jumpstart your thinking about how to draw in all generations on a more regular basis. Following are two resources that could be used in such a service.
Litany of Thanksgiving for the Seasons of Life
Every Sunday morning at 10 a.m., worshipers fill wooden pews in the sanctuary that once housed Thirty-sixth Street Christian Reformed Church in Wyoming, Michigan, a Grand Rapids suburb.
Ninety minutes later, as the first group streams down the center aisle to shake hands with the pastor at the back of the church, another set of worshipers enters from doors on either side of the pulpit area.