When your church comes together to worship God, do they do so as a community or as a larger group of individuals?
I came across a situation I found slightly disturbing recently. In order to try to facilitate worship in a smaller group of people (about 20ish) I arranged the seats in a crescent with myself on acoustic guitar at the end of one arm (not in the middle) so that we were all closer together. Negative feedback ensued, with one person particularly declaring how, when they worshiped they didn't want to have to see other people and another how they preferred CDs to a live musician where they needed to sing out (this church has a long history of using CDs in place of a worship team).
Now *to me* communal worship is what we do together as a body, rather than simply as a group of individuals. I know that I have argued the opposite to this in the distant past, but that was before I discovered what it meant to actually be part of a worshipping body. So my questions are really:
1) Do you see communal worship as everyone together, almost linking arms, to worship God, or simply as a larger gathering of individuals who worship alone en masse?
2) Is the way we arrange worship (band, gig atmosphere, 'clever' songs, words on screen etc) producing more performance oriented worship for individuals and less worship as a community functioning together?
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To question 1) - everyone together. Why bother otherswise?
A darkened room with a loud band and lights focused on the band, smoke on stage - all of these things encourage isolation instead of communal worship. It doesn't prevent it, but to me it discourages it.
Yes. The passage from I Corinthians 12 is usually about the valuing of specific gifts over others or in isolation, but it seems to apply here:
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. And if the foot should say, "Because I am not the hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.
AND if the hand or the ear or the foot or the eye simply decided they didn't feel like being part of the corporate worship of the church because they preferred CDs or spotlights or flashpots or loud bands or ambient lighting and weren't used to a more intimate, interactive gathering, they'd still just be fooling themselves in the same way.
When I see the phrase, "communal worship", I can't get past the mental images of American communes with hippies in white linen and far away expressions on their faces living in wooden shacks with outhouses. Sorry, I think it's a uniquely American thing.
I think you're probably correct - about it being a uniquely American thing.
Yea, something about their parents working hard and making money and the kids have time on their hands to contemplate their navels. And they usually have nice teeth...
Very funny!! Yes, most commies are rich kids, no doubt! hahaha
"And they usually have nice teeth..."
Proof indeed that they are American, and not British.
Glad you picked up on that. I would have doubted your blue blood if not.
1) If people at church worship "by themselves" then I think your pastor should do something coz people are not so comfortable with each other. Where is the fellowship in that? You don't have to really know each other. Just the thought that Christ is both in you, then you are no longer strangers but brother in faith. It's like the feeling when I see a fellow Filipino abroad. I do not really know the person but that person just feels family, home away from home.
Ummm sometimes it also depends on the song being sung to. If the song invokes the feeling of "me and my God" like Grace by Laura Story, then expect them to have a personal moment. But if the song is something like How Great is our God, then expect communal worship as in everyone almost linking arms to worship God.
2) I think the way we arrange worship is that part where the people of the church are doing their best in service, artists hand in hand with musicians and marketing and advertising people (their goal is inviting or attractive worship but at the same time reflective and emotional but flexible enough to switch to festive). The dim lights in our case are meant to divert your attention from "yourself" to "God". But of course it can't be too dark to the point that you can't see the person next to you's expressions and actions.
The catchy songs and words are meant for the congregation because there is an assumption that we are gonna sing each song as one community. Difficult songs would require extra time to study but for catchy songs, you sing it once then on repeat almost everyone can sing with you.
The band and gig atmosphere helps too. Like the drums intensify emotions. Example in the song "Our God" the bridge goes "And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us. And if our God is with us, then what could stand against.", heavy drums can invoke that "marching for victory" feeling, and it's very beautiful when everyone sings it with that "marching for victory" feeling. It can give you goose bumps :) So much courage, faith and hope in the room :)
Thanks Elaine, both for your thoughts and a way of doing 'our God' (I've never heard a recorded version of that).
The church is in an 'interesting' place, in that it is part of the Church of England, and was planted about 10 years ago. The couple who started it moved on in January (because of both funding and CoE rules) and there is no pastor or community head at the moment, and the 'leadership team' is also changing. The church itself is part of a 'benefice' consisting of 7 churches with 2 full time Anglican priests in charge. The other 6 churches like the 1662 service.
So we're a little unconventional in several ways.
Some of the issues are security, with some having only ever known church with the (now departed) leaders. However it was those who were mature and experienced Christians who struggled with worshipping together that really surprised me. The church is in a place of transition, learning and growing, and I posted this for a sanity check, as much as anything, that I wasn't going slightly barmy. We've been around 3 1/2 years - long enough to be a real part of the church, but short enough to remember what life is like elsewhere, and that gives us a slightly different view on change and where the church might go.
I'm still learning too, and it's often not enough for people to know why something is done to align themselves with you - there has to be a wooing and a buying in before they'll work with you instead of fighting you.