over at the ministers' chat, with many chiming in about Tom Schade's post about worship and its meaning. It's a good conversation and very useful to our collegial and theological life.
I have had some more thoughts about it. I haven't yet offered my take on Tom's statement, needing time to consider it. I'm not a master of the quick response; I'll never be able to preach without a manuscript, I'm afraid---I need the time to make sure I know what I'm saying!
But some questions are rolling around in my head:
Is there a difference between the liturgy/worship experience that men plan and conduct and the liturgy/worship experience that women plan and conduct? Tom is speaking from his niche as a longtime male minister. How does his conviction of what is essential in worship compare/contrast with the conviction of a female minister? I would love to attend a service and see for myself what "church" feels like in Worcester. My experience is that worship planned and conducted by women is different from that conducted by men. What does this mean? Should it be this way? Are men being served well in congregations pastored by women? And are women being served well in congregations pastored by men? Does it matter what gender the minister is?
Is there a difference between the liturgy/worship experience in New England/East coast cities and the liturgy/worship experience in the Western U.S.? Tom is speaking from his niche as an urban New England minister. How does his understanding of who his congregation is compare/contrast with the understanding of a Western U.S. or Canadian minister? Does urban vs. rural have an impact on liturgy and worship?
Does this feel like an essay test? No, no, scratch that, it wasn't really one of the questions.
But these questions for me are important. I see glimmerings of what I do here on Whidbey and what I have experienced in other Western congregations, in what Tom espouses. I love church that is formal, structured, high quality. I also only find it in big urban churches. Is that bad? Should my little worship team strive for a big-city experience?
I keep coming back to the ancient idea of "where two or three are gathered together in the name of the holy" being a sacred time. It doesn't say anything about high quality or good speakers. It does imply that the whole point is to acknowledge and revere what is holy.
So it seems to me that, even when the music is stumbling and amateur, even when the speaker is verbose and dull, even when the order of service isn't printed on time, even when the ushers forget to follow the normal procedures of taking the offering, even when the worship leader leaves out some important liturgical piece, there is value in coming together in the name of the holy.
I think Tom and I agree on this point. He gets there in a more orderly fashion, perhaps, but I think we both get there.