Monday, May 17, 2010

Worship Routine

Last Friday, Leslie and I went to the confirmation of one of her friends at a Lutheran church. For those of you who don't know, I was raised Southern Baptist. I haven't attended a Baptist church for . . oh . . at least 15 years now, for various reasons, but doctrinally, I'm still quite Baptist, I think. Yet there are a lot of things I appreciate and enjoy in the traditions of other denominations, even while I disagree with some of their theology.

This was a new experience for Leslie, though. She has never been to a liturgical church before, with the ritualized serving of communion -- standing, sitting, singing "Amens" after each step of the process. I followed along in the hymnal, but she didn't know to do that and just watched and tried to mimic those around her.

I can see how, to those raised in that tradition, the routine of the liturgy could be very comforting and meaningful. I can also see how it could be boring and a stumbling block, especially for young people. I think it's all in how you approach it spiritually.

When I was at a conference in Gambier, Ohio, many years ago, I went to Sunday morning services at the only church within walking distance (I didn't have a car) of where I was staying. It was an Episcopal church, I believe, in a really beautiful old building that I'd been wanting for days to see the inside of. A lot of the service felt very foreign to me, but I enjoyed it. Kind of like visiting an African American congregation. It's good to worship in someone else's "love language" once in a while -- opens your perspective.

I particularly remember a prayer time they had. The . . pastor? priest? not sure what his title was . . . went through a prescribed list of general prayer needs (from the service book in which I was following along), and after each one, the congregation responded, "Lord, hear our prayer." And at the end, he added needs from the local congregation. "Lord, hear our prayer." At first, I was a little perturbed by the roteness of it. But about half-way through, I started thinking about the thousands and thousands of people all around the world who were saying the exact same prayers that we were at that moment. And then I was moved by it all.

I have to say, though, that I lean toward more variety in my worship. Even in a "contemporary" church, when we do things the same way every week, it loses a lot of its power. Maybe it's just our ADD/Sesame Street generation that gets bored easily. But worship is about a relationship -- and any relationship can start to atrophy when it is the victim of over-imposed routine. The Psalms talk frequently about singing a new song to the Lord. There's probably a reason for that.

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Vianelli and Eastin said...
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