Sunday Morning Musings: As something different for the next six or seven weeks I have asked my congregation to submit their requests for favourite hymns and to offer a few words about their particular choice. The response was good, and even more fascinating, have been the reasons for their choices. Some like the melody and others spoke about the words, some like the combination of words and melody.
I have to admit, that there are tunes that I like and prefer, but it may be the poet in me, but I am often struck by the choice of words. Granted when it comes to hymns in our latest hymn book there are still many that are over 100 years old, or older. One hymn even mentions the desire to get away from “stagnant traditions”. In some churches the old hymns and even hymn books are being discarded almost completely. Even the traditional church organ is being replaced as electric guitars and drum sets have found their way into worship. It may be my traditional up-bringing, and maybe my centre of the road approach to life, but my preference would be to use it all. (Although, I do admit that I still prefer an acoustic guitar to a dual pick-up one with a whammy bar.) Regardless, music is an integral part of any worship.
I also find that worship can be just as meaningful if it is held outside a “traditional” church building. Many congregations are not even concerning themselves with buildings – yet much of my experience over the years is that even new congregations then to develop a focal point (place) for worship. I have even known one new congregation that went so far as to replace their chairs with pews in the worship area. I must admit that pews (especially those fixed to floor) do limit the functionality of the space. On the other hand there are those people who are quite willing to do just that and want the pews left.
But as I mentioned, worship can and should happen outside the traditional sanctuary. After all, creation is all-encompassing and the God we worship is there too. Which brings me to another aspect of worship. What is worship all about?
At one point worship was defined as “(that which seeks) to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission” (Webster’s Dictionary, 1828). Worship thus means to express the worth we have for “God” in our lives. (One can also worship money but that is another story.) So it is that each week, often like-minded people, gather to offer praise and gratitude. I say “like-minded” people because there is such a variety of understandings about God and other elements of religious life, that many find it easier to seek out a place where they feel more accepted and more comfortable.
What I have found most hurtful occurs when one form of worship is viewed as better than another. Not all of any worship service is going to touch everyone in the same way. Some folks want a more traditional celebration. Others may go only for the music or other elements of the service itself. No matter the reason for participating one of the main reasons is the fellowship of sharing with others the wonder of being part of a larger family, part of the whole of creation.
Lastly, worship is intended to be a celebration, but also an invitation or challenge. It is not enough to gather once or even twice a week and not seek to live our faith every moment of every day. We can and must do this, always aware that we are never alone.