Sunday Mornings

We have visited our new church twice now, last Sunday and again today.  It is a small church– on a normal Sunday, I believe they have about a dozen adults and just as many children.  But here’s the thing: so far, I have had two of the most powerful worship experiences at this church, with these people, than I have had in a long time, at churches much bigger than this one.  Perhaps this says more about me than it does any particular church, about the readiness of my heart to enter into worship, my attitude and participation.

But two things strike me about worship at Highland Park. They are not innovative, earth-shattering, brand new ideas to make worship more relevant in the 21st century.  They are not high-tech strategies.  Yet they have drawn me into the Presence of God and have bonded me with my new church family very powerfully.  Anxious to know what they are?  ….a ten-minute greeting time and a sharing and prayer time… that’s it… that’s all.

I have never been in a church that allows such a long time for greeting.  I am enjoying the fact that I’m getting to know people during that time.  I hear about their job and their kids and a little about their week before moving on, and I get to share more about myself in that time as well.  The extended time allows us to get beyond the perfunctory “hello, good morning, how are ya” .  It starts a relationship, really, or serves to nurture one that is already there… so key for the health of the Body.

I was a little apprehensive about the open sharing that preceeds the congregational prayer time. I figured it would end up amounting to people, one after the other, getting up on their proverbial soap-boxes, ranting and raving about random topics. I was so wrong!!  Jayne, the pastor, opens the sharing time by simply saying, “Where have you seen God at work this week?”  What a difference that simple, guiding question makes!  As we reflect on our days, that question changes our perspective and teaches us to keep our eyes open for God.  I have heard some wonderful stories, miraculous yet ordinary stories. I love it.  It changes me.

Later addition to this post: The actualy prayer time intrigues me as well. I am used to a “congregational prayer” that is done by someone at a microphone up front, usually a written prayer, prepared and delivered in a poised and professional manner.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  But at Highland Park, the CONGREGATION does the congregational prayer! Imagine that! The pastor opens the prayer and then waits… people pray as they are willing… and then she closes.  I wonder, do we breed a culture of “pew sitting” and “Sunday performance” when we have professionals or lay-leaders doing all the worship for the people?  Is Highland Park actually ahead of the game a little bit, in that the people do some of the work of worship?  I appreciate the real-life aspect of worship here.

I’m really pumped to see what God has in store for our family and our new little church this year! I’m not so much thinking about the numbers of people, or even the songs I’ll find for worship. I’m thinking about where we’ll see God at work in our lives… because isn’t that more important, anyway?


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mike
    Apr 13, 2008 @ 18:47:02

    That sharing time sounds amazing! I would have shared your apprehension, probably not surprising since we spent a good bit of time in the same congregation at about the time we were forming our adult perspectives on these things…. The guiding question seems so simple, so easy…yet it seems so innovative, too. I really got tired of the various soapboxes that you’re describing–particularly when the “sharing” involved issues better suited for a congregational meeting, and barely that.

    I hope this experience continues to be so positive for you!


  2. Jennifer Hershberger
    Apr 15, 2008 @ 08:18:52

    This sounds absolutley AWESOME! What in the WORLD does God have in store for you?!?!?
    I’m learning, too, that the only need for a church to have true worship is keeping their eyes on Jesus. All else is God’s responsibility and falls into place when the focus is fixed and unwavering. We are here to worship and serve the Lord! And when the church stands united, worshipping one Savior, one Lord, one King, ANYTHING can happen!

    So happy and excited for you!!


  3. creechal
    Apr 30, 2008 @ 16:07:21

    I guess I’ve been lucky in that none of the churches I have attended as an adult have had the negative type of sharing you write about here. If the congregational sharing time was open, almost always the people who spoke talked about their experiences of God that week or their prayer needs. Few if any used it as a soapbox.

    At my current church, the greeting time takes place after we have been ushered into worship through music, scripture, and readings. It’s not a greeting time in the “hey, how are you doing?” style, but more a true “Passing of the Peace.” Not long ago, I was at a Bible study where we talked about the tradition of passing the Peace of Christ, and it made me think about that in the context of worship. Sure, I don’t get a chance to learn about my neighbors in that short period of time, but through the act of shaking hands and saying “Peace be with you,” we recognize the Christ in everyone.

    After the service is over, visitors in particular are encouraged to join the congregation for coffee and munchies, and most of the regulars make it a point to stick around and talk to newcomers, whether or not they go to the basement for food & drink.


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