Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of the perfect worship time during a church service. Kinda like my dream-date with God…so-to-speak. I’ve got five items on my wish list.
I’m not exactly the Sabbath-social-butterfly-meet-and-greet type of girl. There are lots of those to be sure, but not me.
Sure I like seeing friends and strangers (who think they know me from this blog), but that’s not why I go to church. I’m going to a Sabbath church-service to have an experience with God. Something about pre-service potpourri-chatter inside the sanctuary doesn’t set the tone for me. In fact, I thought the lobby and coffee-shop were designated for these social interactions.
When I enter the sanctuary (so-to-speak) I need to settle in, get centered. I’m not sure how everyone easily changes their visiting into worship when the band takes the stage—I know I can’t. I’m slightly defective this way. And I know others can’t…because they just keep talking even after the music starts!
So, since I don’t “light-switch” my worship mental state, the first song (or two, or three) are basically swoony foreplay. Ahh, worship foreplay. Who knew? So first wishes of my perfect Sabbath dream-date are:
1) Bulletin hander-outers: don’t block the incoming crowd with striking up small-talk that becomes long-talk. A pleasant “Hi”, “Pretty Blouse”, and “Oh you brought your Bible” are fine (that last one really did happen). But getting into a conversation about the kid’s birthday party is just nuts. Do you not see the traffic jam being created? Move along people, move along.
2) Play pre-service contemplative music—that is just loud-enough-to-prevent-chit-chat. Dim the lights. Get me in the mood. Maybe a candle would be nice too. My church used to have a rotation of music videos they played pre-service—like “You’ll Come” or “Forever Reign” or “Hosanna”. This is good-getting-in-the-mood music. I miss that… Let’s talk less and spend more time in pre-worship foreplay.
Next, has this ever happened to you? The service has started, you’re getting swooned for God through a song—and your emotions start swirling and your eyes start leaking. I think this is very good stuff. Sometimes you just need to get into this place. And the Sabbath is special, sacred, and set aside for this very type of connection. So there you are, leaky eyes and all. Then suddenly you’re jolted out of the connection and into panic because someone from the pulpit/stage announces that we should greet our neighbors. I’m not even going to start on my germaphobe stuff – even though that is a minor issue.
But the major issue is that “neighbor greeting” is like being interrupted in the “heat of the moment” (oh no! I’m back to that foreplay stuff). I’ll be honest; I’ve never, ever, not once, liked this. And when I’m teary eyed—it’s just plain awkward—for me—for my neighbor. Once, someone, a stranger, handed me a Kleenex. Oy vey. Oy vey. So I’m adding this to the Sabbath dream-date:
3) Once the music portion of worship service starts, no “greet your neighbor” interruptions. Don’t bust up my mojo with God.
Okay, this next part might be shocking.
Let’s bring back some hymns.
Yes I’m a modern girl. King James is hard to read and I often like The Message translation. One look at me and you’d know I don’t subscribe to my Mennonite upbringing. BUT, I like the old hymns. And I get a little sad when I have to admit that they are dying. Little kids don’t know these songs—who will carry them on? There are sacred words there. I get a whole lot more out of “I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow; if ever I loved Thee, my Jesus tis now” as opposed to “Oh happy day, happy day, You wash my sin away.” So:
4) Give me one hymn per service. We don’t even have to sing all five stanzas… just one, two and five. Oh, and before communion would be extra nice.
The last part of my dream-date is about content. When I think of “worship” I think of something bigger and greater than music. And while I love the corporate structure of my church—I’m craving a little whimsy and mystery. I know it’s not everyone’s cup-of-tea, but I’d love to see more variety in the way of worship.
I’ve got a couple of friends who attend a church, where on-occasion, canvases and acrylic paint are set-up on the stage. If you feel led to get on stage and express your worship on canvas—then you do it. This type of stuff makes my heart jump out of my throat! Oh to worship and abstractly paint would be…amazing. My friends say it’s a hit every time. A deeply moving experience.
Now, just think for a moment how this could be a win-win. An initial win because it’s an amazing way to actively worship (either as the artist or viewing participant). This type of worship works, and has been proven many times here, here, and here. The second win comes from the church selling paintings (eg: two-week silent auction) for a church-supported-cause. Win-win-win!
Or let’s bring back the silent skits or interpretive dance. Okay, I know this makes some people really uncomfortable, and it starts to fray away the edges of corporate worship. I’m not asking for a Brother Franklin free for all dance with tambourines. But I am wanting a little bit more, so it’s going on the list:
5) Bring in more “arts” and expressive ways to worship that incorporate the music with action. Action for me doesn’t come in the form of clapping or raising hands… there is something more that I need in worship on occasion. Something deeply expressive. Mystery, movement, whimsy. And maybe it isn’t happening, not because it’s too freaky-deaky, but because it’s too much to organize—too much work. Maybe it takes parts of the church body with those gifts to ask, do, and become accountable. Maybe I’m talking to me. Maybe I’m talking to you too.
Okay, that about covers my church-worship, dream-date, with God. I could get into details and nuances that would only sound like complaining. And really I’m not. As churches go, I’m so happy with mine. We’re not stodgy and stoic, we’re hip and safely cutting edge. I suppose I’m just ready to step out of safe and sometimes get into the uncomfortable zone. After all, little good or growth happens in constant safety.