Sunday, 10 October 2010

What is Worship?

I recently attended a regional Baptist meeting which, as these things do, began with a time of "worship." The minister of the church hosting the meeting was not able to be present and another gentleman had been prevailed upon to lead the worship. 

The worship was unconnected to anything else which took place in what was, for me, an exciting and encouraging meeting. The congregation sang half-heartedly, had not opportunity to join in prayers or readings and sat in passive apathy as the worship leader gave us his thoughts.

I was left reflecting what place "worship" has within our church life. What we performed seemed perfunctory and tokenistic. Presumably, in a church with numerous musicians to judge from the equipment at the front, none were available at the beginning of the meeting. Why then, was it necessary to sing? Is singing an essential ingredient in worship? The reflections upon the Scripture passage were neither profound nor relevant. Is it necessary either to read or to study the Bible in order for the gathering to be defined as "worship?" The prayer was so short that if you had sneezed at the wrong moment you would have missed it. Yet for some reason our worship leader felt compelled to include it. Why?

The rest of our gathering was a joyous celebration of our common life together as an association, sharing news from around the northwest, receiving new churches into membership of the association and exploring together some of the challenges of mission in our various contexts and making some unexpected connections between our churches.

Was not that sufficient to be defined as worship?

This morning, OBT will gather around our table to decorate some ceramic tiles with symbols of the 28 values and pledges expressed by the Urban Expression network with whom we have recently begun to walk. I have put together a Spotify playlist of jazz for the background, but unless someone rebels and demands to sing something, that will be our only music. Towards the end of our time together, we will reflect together silently upon what God is saying to us, then we will break bread and share wine (which will probably be blackcurrant juice because the children prefer it!) in silence. Then we will go our separate ways, seeking to live out the values we have expressed through our creativity.

Perhaps this is not worship?

1 comment:

  1. Hmm. You do wonder sometimes don't you.

    Lots of odd thoughts...

    Do our colleges all still teach ministers how toconstruct acts of worship that are coherent? And do many/any ministers train the worhsip gorups/leaders in any of this/ Does anyone actually read things such as Chris Ellis' excellent little book or bother with 'Gathering' or 'Patterns & Prayers' or even, if they are soo old-fangled Payne and Winward?

    Now I am pretty sure that whatever OBT did today you gathered, shared and scattered which are basics of authentic Christian worship. Whilst I'd always want to read a reasonable amount of scripture in any service, I wouldn't need it to be exposited, and for me worship is wider than the service anyway, hence why I used the word ibn this sentence.

    If worship is saying to God 'you matter' then it has to be as much about the 'how' as the 'what.' Beautifully decorated tiles are therefore worship (nb beauty not measured as perfection or worldly standards). Half-hearted singing sounds like it isn't. but hey, I'm a heretic - last week we made smoothies to ther glory of God!