As worship leaders, Chris and I put a lot of time into preparing for Sunday service. We try to make sure
- that all pieces of the service are connected;
- that the theme is worked through;
- that the music is relevant and
- that all of it reflects what we believe.
When someone walks through the church doors it is our hope that they will feel welcomed, challenged, comforted and affirmed. I believe it is essential that worship be inclusive, engaging and filled with spirit. To accomplish all of this (and certainly there are times that we fall short!) we try to be mindful of the language we use, the images we create, the theology that we communicate. This takes great effort but it is certainly worth it to provide a space where people can engage the gospel, learn, grow and be empowered.
The Best/Worst Service
Having said all of that, I think that sometimes we forget the most essential ingredients – human contact and connection. On Canada Day Mark and I attended worship in a small community in Newfoundland. It was the best/worst service I have attended in a long time. The language was exclusive, the music was mediocre, the theology was conservative and, for me, it was filled with far more ritual than I like. However, when I left church that morning my soul was fed. I knew that I had been in the presence of sacred and my spirit sang!
So you might wonder what it was that made this such a powerful spiritual experience for me? The answer is simple – the people.
When we entered the church people were standing around chatting and we were greeted as if we were already part of the family. When we sat down a delightful older gentleman came over and started talking. He was filled with energy and was so obviously glad to be in this space. He was also a storyteller and made connections easily. Within minutes he knew our names, where we were from and began to connect his story to ours. Then, the musician, from where he was at the front entered into the conversation and we were a natural part of the experience. During announcement time someone from the congregation jumped in to explain something she thought we might not understand and following worship the connections just kept going.
If I were searching for a new church home I would definitely give this community a chance!
There is a Eucharistic prayer in the Anglican tradition that uses these words –
“we do not worship as we aught, but as we are able.”
This is the second part that stands out for me in this service. The regular minister was not present so the service was led by members of the congregation. Each participant gave as they were able with such joy and genuine love. What they offered was done with humility and grace and there was no doubt that Jesus was present in that place.
© 2018 Rev. Valerie Peyton Kingsbury. All rights reserved.