I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Fine Young Christians

Here is a picture of some of the Fine Young Christians that were to be found at the UUCF REVIVAL! meeting this past week. Again, it was a good, spirit-filled time. Some things occured while I was there that made me think about the importance of quality worship. Worship is interesting in that it is part performance , partly and articulation of theology, and partly a lived relationship with God and our fellow humans.

We expect to come closer to the Divine through our prayers and hymns--the rituals of communion and Baptism, too. We hope to be inspired by the sermon, when possible. God, of course, is always present, but how we do worship affects how well we sense that presence. How well we put the service together, how we carry ourselves and how we pray and preach are very important.

A muddy sermon, overly long special music, a sanctuary that is too hot or too cold, readings that don't match the theme, an ego that shows just a bit too much on a worship participant--all of these things can detract from the movement of God through our sanctuary. It is hard to be connected when you are distracted! Instead, the worshipper can feel like someone at Thanksgiving dinner who cannot find a single thing to eat. Bad worship leaves you hungry and profoundly unsatisfied. Really bad worship can leave you exhausted and somewhat bruised.

On the other hand, there is planty of room for quality worship. Simplicity is an excellent watchword. Chris Walton's Taize service was simple yet moving. So too are many a "sermon sandwich". Sure, it may not seem exciting at first, but if the preacher is talking about Jesus and God, and if the congregation is truly being fed, then the excitment will build from within. There will be nothing then that can match the power of the unadorned Gospel message. That, after all, is what it is all about.

The weekend gave me some ideas about how to deepen the worship experience at Eliot. I hope to give something a try sometime soon. However, I will also be striving to remember the fact that the medium (in church at least) is not the message. Something clever may be great and fun, but does it serve an actual purpose? Does it tell a story of a people and their God or a church and its prophet? If it doesn't, maybe there is another place where we can excercise our artistic side.

Finally, it is also good to remember that what may work for one community may not work well for another. At Eliot when we do communion, we have the wine and the bread. We pass it around and we pray. For another church (particularly many UU ones) that may not feel right. On the other hand, we do not consider "Flower Communion" a communion. Nor would the "Water Communion" be (unless you drank the water, which could be dangerous). Their meanings are different, after all, for different people. That, too is a part of telling the specific story of a particular community of faith.

Anyway, more on this later. I just heard that Rumsfeld has resigned and I have other work to do as well. I just want to say that I have worshipped with the Fine Young Christians above and they've got it goin' on...