Worship – a collaborative responsibility

For the last few weeks public worship has been very much on my mind. As a minister responsible for leading worship every Sunday it is good to take time occasionally to think about the meaning and practice of worship.

If we were to widen the reflective circle and have a public discussion about the experience of worship, what would we be talking about? As I was sharing with some members of the Mission & Discipleship Council during last week’s Conference, a discussion on what we want, we like or dislike in worship is bound to get stuck, unless we are able to go beyond these issues.

Preferences are important, and we should discuss them, but there is a danger in setting any discussion on these terms alone, lest we end up fostering consumerism. A long discussion about what kind of music we like, or what kind of structure we like is likely to run into difficulties. The symptoms of such a narrow perspective is reflected in what people sometimes say about worship: “I didn’t get anything out of worship today”, “I didn’t like that hymn”, or a more positive “The minister did well today.” These reflections are more reflections of consumers than participants. Continue reading

The future of Victorian worship

For a time I was fascinated by traditional Presbyterian worship. There was just something majestic, dignified and deliciously predictable about it. That fascination slowly wore off, and for a time I could not tell why that was, and I found that troubling. I’m referring to the kind of Reformed Presbyterian worship on a typical Sunday morning in a 19th century traditional stone building, with uncomfortable pews, strange smell, pipe organs, massive communion table, elevated pulpit and sometimes a choir.

Coming from an Eastern European context where order is an exotic word, this type of worship was like a magnet to me. It is beautiful and dignified. It has a lot going for it. If I were to build a new form of worship, that’s where I would probably start. But it is not where I would end up. Not anymore.

It took me awhile to figure out why it just failed to satisfy. It just wasn’t buzzing for me anymore. What I initially regarded as different and refreshing soon became restrictive and oppressive. Trying to tinker with it as a minister lead to backlashes that shocked and disturbed me. That also contributed to my disenchantment. Continue reading