Friday, September 12, 2008

Worship From That Side, Part II

Readers left some good provacative comments on the post below. After further thought, I realized that the Sunday I had off was quite similar to what I experienced when I first served at the altar. Everything then was opposite--everything that I used to hear, I spoke or sung. When I had received for years, now I was giving. It took a long time--years--to be comfortable enough to be able to worship, and not be distracted with what was coming next, not to be mentally scrambling to stay ahead of what was happening. Only after I got comfortable and confident enough to preside was I able to "relax" and pay attention to what I was doing and what God was doing in the liturgy. Now I can sing an unfamiliar hymn, say, and not be distracted by what I have to do after, where I stand, what page to be on, and so forth.

The "Vacation Sunday" reversed that perspective again. Suddenly I was off-balance and on unfamiliar territory again. But it did give me some insight into those folks who have never become comfortable, who think that the liturgy is at fault, which was the point of the previous post. The liturgy qua liturgy is not somehow flawed at all. If there is a problem, it is our perception and reception of it.


  1. -C said...

    I appreciate your reflections here, too.
    But I always get a little nervous when the words "comfort" and "liturgy" are used in the same sentence.

    The liturgy is not for our comfort. If we change the liturgy and make it into something which comforts us, what we have left is less than the liturgy. When I change so that I become too comfortable with the liturgy, then I am not worshipping.

    Yet in my own experience of worship, I find that I am at once both comforted and convicted.

    It's an oxymoron, I guess.

  2. Dixie said...

    But it did give me some insight into those folks who have never become comfortable, who think that the liturgy is at fault...

    You know...I don't think people would be uncomfortable with the liturgy if they hadn't, in some way or another, been exposed to other forms of protestant, non-liturgical worship. People who never before have seen or attended a Christian service, for example, come to the Orthodox Church and don't bat an eye at the liturgy. It doesn't bother them or prevent them from engagement.

    But when someone has been exposed to services which are nothing more than a few songs and an hour long sermon, or a lot of screaming and writhing on the floor and jumping up and down, falling over and tongue talking or the whole contemporary praise type of service...then, I think it becomes easier to see how the liturgy becomes a problem for them. It ain't the same. I ain't what they are accustomed to.

    But, of course, as you state, the problem isn't the liturgy.

    The problem is partially rooted in how Christian worship has been changed and adapted to the thousands of different (mis)understandings of Christianity out there.

    The bottom line is we don't alter the way we worship to make the seeker comfortable...we help the seeker become comfortable with Christian worship. Eventually those guys who take all those surveys and adjust their worship accordingly...will figure this out.

  3. Christopher D. Hall said...

    I hear what you're saying. But I think if you've ever participated as a leader, when you're "on" you may know what I mean. Perhaps I should have used the word "familiar" instead of comfortable, as in: familiar enough to hear and receive and not just worry about what comes next and what do and if you're doing it right and where are you going to find the next page, and oops! my hymnal is in the wrong place and uh-oh, I forgot to mark that proper and oh-no! I marked the proper but I just turned past it and now I'm flipping pages like crazy to find it and now I'm panicking which makes it harder to find the right page, and oh! Did I just miss a response because I'm thinking about all these things and not the here and now...

    It took me years to loose this mindset and be able to be in the present, to be hearing and receiving and not distracted like a neurotic Martha. That's what I meant.

    Again, I believe pastors and priests will know what I'm talking about in this. Maybe not. Maybe I'm just more neurotic, type-A and paranoid than most. That's probable, actually.

  4. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Dixie--you just said much better than I did. Thanks

  5. Rev. Benjamin Harju said...


    I know what you mean. It was a great day when I realized I felt at home leading the liturgy.