It’s good to go outside our comfort zones, right??
At the risk of sounding like a broken record: I like liturgy. I like pipe organs, hymns, and candles. Extra points for incense.
This Sunday I went to a church that, in the morning, likely boasts all of these. At its 6pm service, there are electric guitars.
So I’m a skeptic. I’m skeptical that I can personally find God in the midst of a rock concert. I’m skeptical that I can find community in a massive congregation whose age range likely does not reach outside 20-35 years of age. I’m skeptical that my faith can grow in an environment where my fingernails are biting into my palms through drum solos.
But church, I suppose, is not about me. And if it’s about my skepticism in any way, it is only to address my doubt and shatter my preconceived notions.
The sermon was, fittingly, about rebuke. More on that another time. But in short: the electric guitars were a gentle reminder that God can find me anywhere, if I’ll let him, and that what suits my worship preferences most does not matter in the context of a congregation and its ability to come together with God in a sacred space.
I’ll probably go back. I’ll likely not, regardless of the worship leader’s encouragement, clap along with the music. But if I allow myself – if I swallow my preferences and tight demands – I’m fairly certain I’ll meet God there.
If the point of church is community, then I need to stop going at 8am on Sunday mornings.
It’s not that I’m not a morning person. I am, in fact, and perhaps a few of the other dozen or so congregants at these early services love mornings as much as me. The fact that we’re all in a pew when most sane people are still brewing their first cup of coffee is in itself a testimony to the fact that we’re all larks.
But we’re not there to socialize. The service ends as abruptly as it begins, marked by the exit of the priest and, if the Father is feeling generous, a weak handshake on the way out the door.
I don’t talk to the others who are present. Instead, I find the nearest open coffee shop. And the fact that they’re all up so early indicates that they’ve got places to be as well.
So we scatter.*
I’d like to have a community to interact with in worship, though. I’d rather say hello, at least, before shaking hands farewell.
This week at Bible study, which didn’t really happen because there were only three of us, we spent a good chunk of time on our smart phones looking for Sunday services that would work around my wacky work schedule.
We learned three things:
- Few churches have mobile-friendly websites.
- A surprising number of churches make it incredibly difficult to find Sunday service times on their websites.
- There’s a Sunday 6pm service near my neighbourhood. I’m going there this week.
* though it seems to be, this is not an awkward and inappropriate reference to the reactions of Jesus’ disciples to his death.
It doesn’t take long to get to that point:
The point where church is another item on a busy schedule,
another appointment in the calendar,
another item on the list that gets checked off as soon as it is finished.
When church becomes so routine and ordinary again, I get to Sunday evening and have completely forgotten that I was up before 7am to catch an early subway uptown for an 8am service. I couldn’t tell you what the five-minute sermon was about, except that it somehow tied in All Souls Day AND Veterans Day / Remembrance Day, all while giving a concise explanation of the Second Coming.
It’s no wonder that I tuned out a fair bit of the sermon, and focused instead on the very nice oxfords and pressed jeans of the young red-haired man sitting in front of me.
So that’s how church was this week.
No interaction, really. No community. No familiar faces aside from the priest, whose services I’ve been crashing over the last six years whenever I’ve been in this town.
Something tells me I need to switch things up again. I like church better when it is intentional. Or, when I’m conscious for most of it.
From here, an excerpt of a poem that I found especially grounding just now*:
I have often desired things which would have injured me, …I have depreciated some of my chief mercies, …I have erred both on the side of my hopes and also of my fears, …I am unfit to choose for myself, for it is not in me to direct my steps.
I hope too much, AND I fear too much. Every day is a challenge for both courage and humility.
*I don’t agree with all of the rest of the poem, especially the last bit of the poem. But there’s good in everything, right?