Cindy Gregorson on faith and life

Posts tagged ‘worship’

Insiders/Outsiders

General Conference Day One

I was struck by a irony during the opening worship for General Conference.  There we were, 3000 plus people of all ages, from many nations, speaking a variety of languages.  The worship leaders worked hard to create a worship service in which all those languages were heard and the many hued world we come from was made visible in our worship.  And yet, there was this distinct moment that it felt like to me as something of an insider and outsider worship and the liturgy couldn’t quite overcome it.

I was sitting high up in the bleachers watching people as they arrived and were getting seated.  Many greeted others with hugs and words of long lost friends seeing each other for the first time in mant years.  General Conference, it dawned on me, for many was like a large family reunion.  Many of these people have been at several general conferences or had connected in some other work in the general church, and one of the reasons people look forward to coming is to see those friends.

It was this moment though where it really caught me.  At one point the bishops, all robed in white, stood up en masse, processing to the front.  Now I have respect for the office of the bishop, but wow, it looked like the elect, the in group of the insiders taking the place of honor.  And as I looked down, I saw the chosen surrounded by blue curtains, where those of us without the right credentials must not pass, each wearing a blue prayer shawl, further setting them apart as special.  And then there was the rest of us.  It felt like we were spectators to  someone else’s party, someone else’s family reunion.

I understand the cost and challenges of space.  There may well not have been available a room where all 3000 could have sat together side by side, on one level, no platforms or curtains separating us.  But I have to tell you, space made a difference in that moment, and while the words were stating we were all welcome, we all were called by name by a loving God, the space was saying some of us were more important than others.

It got me to thinking, how else do we do that in the church, in our worship?  While we proclaim all are welcome, all are childen of God, do we unintentionally give a message this is really an insider gathering, and if you want to spectate you are can do that, but you are not fully one of us, and maybe if you work really, really hard, one day you too can be  one of the chosen, one of the elect?

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Do we believe we are an Easter church?

I heard a respected church consultant say that every church could potentially have in weekly worship the number of people who attend on Easter Sunday. He was consulting with a church of about 1,100 people who attend on Easter; on a “normal” week, they have about 500 in worship.

It was intriguing to consider what this church would be doing differently, what the staffing would look like, what systems would need to be in place to effectively disciple that number of people on a weekly basis. An even more provocative idea was setting the intentional goal of being an Easter church, and how they could embody that day in and day out.

Of course, the irony is that this is what sets the Christian church apart. We are an Easter church. The Christian Sabbath is Sunday because that was the day of the resurrection. Even in Lent, as we are reflecting on the journey to the cross and the crucifixion, Sundays are not considered a part of the forty days of Lent because every Sunday is a mini-resurrection.

In this Easter season, reflect upon Easter services you have attended. What set them apart? In many of our churches, children, youth, and adults are in worship together. The music is joyful and celebrative and there is lots of it. The worship space is filled with flowers and other visuals to make it colorful and alive. Often there are special components such as skits, movie clips, and multi-sensory experiences to help people experience the power of the resurrection.

Easter worship shouts that something significant happened and it has changed everything. Those who plan that worship hope that everyone present will feel and know that so they can have the promise of new life.

Celebrate the resurrection year-round

What if every week we were as intentional and creative about worship as we are on Easter? What if we asked ourselves how we can embody the resurrection in our congregational life in all that we do?

If we truly believe that Jesus Christ is risen, then the body of Christ should be a community where people experience God as alive and well and present in our midst. And what if we believed and acted like an Easter church 52 weeks a year? Yes, that requires energy and resources. But it might just be what people are looking for in a church: that we believe our own story enough that we act like it is true!

I believe the world needs the hope of a God who can heal, make whole—and yes, bring life out of death and new beginnings out of dead ends. When we go back to “business as usual,” we send the message that Easter is only a day and not a way of life; not a real possibility for life after all. What would it take for us to be the Easter church that the world needs?