Do you ever have something come up in your life over and over and over again? For example, you think about a song, and then it plays on the radio and then is on the loudspeaker at CVS and then is the background of the television show you’re watching and then someone is whistling it while they pass you on the street? It’s tempting to believe such incidents are meaningful – the universe it trying to tell you something – but I think it’s more likely that where your attention is, that’s where your thoughts follow. If you hadn’t thought of that song, you wouldn’t have heard it at the CVS, or noticed the whistling on the street, even though they would have been there.
I’ve had worship services on my mind. In part this is because the church where I work during the week (First Presbyterian in New Canaan) is going through a time of transition. They are working with an interim pastor who is a respected author and educator on mindfully crafting worship services with the intention of fostering church growth. It is a fascinating time to be a fly on the wall; I am learning a great deal.
And now, in my life, how people craft their worship services seems to be popping up everywhere. I was traveling in Ohio last week and attended a Friday night Shabbat service (my in-laws are Jewish) – and was floored to see new large monitors all around the room. They displayed the Hebrew text with an appropriate image and basic description of what we were praying; for me, out of my comfort zone, that made a world of difference in my feeling like I was participating in the worship rather than simply observing it.
I went to an Episcopal church while I was traveling as well, for a Summer Sunday Eucharist. This is a lovely small congregation – but I couldn’t help wondering what it would have been like if I wasn’t a regular church-goer. I was greeted and handed a bulletin, but then I was on my own. Is that enough? Maybe? I remembered those screens and wondered if a simple description of why we were singing a Gloria with an appropriate Glorious Image would enhance or distract from the worship. I’m honestly not sure.
I’ll be traveling a few more weeks, and then will be back home at St. Stephens…where our Sabbatical Rectors will be guiding our worship. With my new focus of how these things are crafted, I’m interested to see what is the same and what changes – and how those things may look to a someone checking out St. Stephens for the first time. From the interim pastor at the Presbyterian Church, I’m learning that how comfortable people feel in engaging in worship really impacts if they come back.
I think my mindset is shifting from being someone who is fed at church to someone who is doing the cooking. From a guest to a host. As church members, where should we be – eating or serving? How can we make those we serve the most comfortable, eager to return for more?
Careful – once you start thinking about this stuff, you’ll see it everywhere. Get ready.
Peace, Erika Hagan