A Word from Our Pastor: August 2013 Changes

As we have been deeply involved in the work of church renewal during the past year, one of the main areas that the Dream Catchers-Releasers has focused on is worship. If you come to church regularly, you’ve had to adjust to quite a few changes. I know it hasn’t been easy, and you’ve been patient and understanding.

All the changes we have made to the worship order are focused on one thing: to make our service more welcoming to newcomers and visitors. So every week, even though everyone present may know my name and the worship leader’s name, we are going to introduce ourselves. It may seem unnecessary, but we are doing this because we want to behave in welcoming ways all the time, so it will become a habit for all of us.

Another important issue has been trying to eliminate “dead time” – when there is (awkward) silence as we go from one thing to another during worship. This probably doesn’t feel awkward to those of you who come regularly, because you basically know what is going to happen next. But to a visitor, it can seem disorganized, like we don’t know what we’re doing. And with all the changes we’ve been making, we don’t always know what is going to happen next, but we’re trying for smooth transitions. This is one reason why the congregational songs come only at the beginning and the end of the service, instead of in the middle – so there is less time spent moving people and microphones around.

For many years at BMU, our order of worship hardly changed at all, and just about everyone was happy with how we did things. Why change things when everyone is pretty much “happy?” As we think about renewal, it is a good time to go back to basics and ask questions like, “what are we trying to accomplish in worship, and what is the best way to do that ?” or, “How can we fully worship God and meet each other in worship?” We have been asking these questions, and trying out some new things to see how well they work. We don’t always make the best possible decision, and so we change again. . .John Wesley might call it “moving on to perfection. . .”

When we make changes, it pushes all of us out of what we have grown comfortable with. (Even those who are advocating change aren’t necessarily comfortable with it). There is nothing wrong with being comfortable – in fact, that is a good thing. But we shouldn’t let comfort get in the way of trying new things. Everyone likes a regular pattern of worship — the same familiar order of things every Sunday. I believe that in repeating the same pattern over and over, it becomes part of us on a deep level, so that we are free to participate in worshipping God — we’re not thinking about what is going to come next, because we know, since we’ve done it this way so many times. At the same time, however, I think we need a break from the familiar. It can open our eyes, help us to appreciate the experience of worship in ways that we have never done before.

What, after all, is worship? …a time to experience God’s presence with us as individuals and as a community; a time to thank God for the blessings we receive, a time to reflect on God’s love and generosity towards us, and an opportunity to consider how we may share what we have experienced with others. We usually express all these things in words, in song and in listening. Worship can be quiet and reflective, or loud and full of movement – it can be introspective or outwardly expressive. Worship can happen any time and any where we celebrate God in our lives together.

I hope that we will be able to grow together in our experience of God, and our capacity to worship. We are always happy to hear your suggestions – just talk to me or one of the Worship Committee or Stephen and Naomi. After a great worship service, our lives are never the same. . .may all of your experiences in worship be life-changing!