I’ve always been curious about how other churches run their worship services. Do they have have the same order? Do they include things that we exclude? Do they sing the same songs? Sadly, it seems that there’s not much variety in denominations or styles in this region, so there doesn’t seem to be much point in trying out the different churches. Probably because we’ve sworn never to knowingly visit nor attend a complementarian church ever again and those churches are a dime a dozen out here.
It scares me how possessive people can get about worship; ‘This and only this kind of music is proper, that kind or those songs are improper.’ or ‘Absolutely nothing is more important than the culmination of worship, which is x not y and certainly not z.’ I keep on getting in the conversations about worship where it’s adherents are set on liturgy and the Eucharist as the culmination of worship. That’s true for denominations that put the Eucharist / Lord’s Supper / Communion at the end of their order of worship (liturgy.) My denomination doesn’t do that, for us the culmination of worship is the preaching of the word, it’s very nearly the last thing we do in our order of worship (liturgy.) For us, Communion comes in towards the middle of the service. Come to think of it, I’ve never been to a church that put worship (music) as the culmination of worship (the last thing on the order of worship a.k.a., the liturgy.) Sure, there’s usually final hymn, but that’s more of a closing song than it is a worship song. (The difference between a song with a reference to leaving and a song about praising God’s majesty.)
When it comes right down to it, I guess I feel somewhat annoyed with the idea that there are people out there who hate everything about how my church does worship. One of the sayings that bothers me most is: “There’s a right way to worship God and a wrong way to worship God …” Nobody out there ever seems to think that their way of worshiping God might not be the right one. If there is one right way, then theirs is most certainly it every single time. Which is why we’re so polarized about styles and preferences and traditions. We have been for centuries.
For nearly a hundred years, pretty much every worshiper in every denomination in England followed the liturgy laid down in the Book of Common Prayer. When it was updated in 1662, some believers found that they just couldn’t agree with it. These were the early non-conformists (and dissenters) nearly two thousand of them were ejected from the church in one day. Ever since there has been disagreement about forms and order of worship, of liturgy and tradition. The odds aren’t good that this will be the year that every church on the face on the of this planet reconciles their differences and unites to form the one true expression of worship, everywhere.
The only difference is that this battle is no longer just Anglican vs Protestant, but in each and every denomination fighting among itself and down to its individual churches. It’s almost as if, for some churches, they look around and wonder where everybody’s gone. They remember that the pews were more full than they were empty, that there more people of all ages, and the halls were noisier with people laughing and talking over each other. Then one day they look around and realize that the pews are almost entirely empty, that there’s fewer people and only people around their age, and the halls have become disturbingly quiet. At that point they’re willing to change, but they lack the resources and the people to make it happen. Or they could do what some churches have done, create two services, one traditional and one contemporary but never will the two halves of the church form a whole congregation. Or they could try a blended service, but too much attention to hymns might not pack in younger people who might perceive it to be a bait and switch tactic; “Come for our blended service! We sing brand new songs!” Only to realize that they have to endure three hymns before they get to one brand new song. It’s better to do 50/50 than to show favoritism.
Still, we all have different ideas about what the most important part of worship; Eucharist, Preaching of the Word, Music, and I don’t think it’ll be anytime soon when two of those camps see the light and switch the one true expression of worship (as if such a thing exists). In centuries of fighting over worship styles, it hasn’t worked out that way yet and it might not at all. I get it, the way my church does worship isn’t right for you. The way your church does worship, might not necessarily be right for me even if it is the oldest, most traditional form of worship or the newest least traditional form of worship. I just think that it’s time that we stop calling each other names for challenging our narrow views of worship. Music is music, in all it’s forms. Preaching is from the same source material, in all it’s languages. Communion, Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, same idea in all it’s variations. Worship doesn’t have to be fighting to have it your way.