Last night we were having dinner with some friends and the topic of churches came up. They have tried a number of churches in Jackson. They like our church. They have felt the Spirit of God amongst this part of God’s family. They have been welcomed and embraced. They have discovered that PCJH is not just a “friendly” church but a church where they can make friends, something most people visiting churches ultimately desire.
What struck me in our conversation was the comment that they have visited many churches during their travels…a hundred +. They have visited churches of all styles and sizes. They watch a number of religious services on television and have had some occasion to visit those churches to see if what they see is what really takes places or if it is just a show.
Most of us by choice or circumstance do not do that. I can’t. I work Sundays for the most part. The majority of people seem to find a church home where they can
† find hope in a despair-filled world,
† find healing for the hurts of their body and their soul,
† make some friends,
† find a pastor/preacher with whom they can relate,
† be stimulated in their spiritual growth (not always agreeing),
† have something to help the kids learn about Jesus and Christian values,
† participate in a style of worship with which they are comfortable,
† be part of something that transforms and transcends them, and
† be offered avenues for Christian service.
When people find a place that meets these needs they tend to settle in to that community and enjoy the spiritual journey…often for a lifetime. Part of that ‘finding’ is the finding of a worship style that works. Folks who have moved here from other places (and most of us have) and have had a positive worship experience in those other places often want PCJH to incorporate the things they miss from their former church home. What a compliment to their former congregation’s ministry. Folks who have been a part of PCJH and have moved away often find it difficult to replace their experience. What a compliment to us. Styles of worship and congregational life are important.
A worship style of whatever ilk is called a liturgy. The Online Etymology Dictionary gives this definition of the word:
…from leito- “public” (from laos “people;” cf. leiton “public hall,” leite “priestess;” see lay (adj.)) + -ergos “that works,” from ergon “work” (see urge (v.)). Meaning “collective formulas for the conduct of divine service in Christian churches” is from the 1590s.
The simple emphasis underlined in the definition is that a liturgy is the work of the people as they collectively worship God. Every church follows a liturgy. Our ‘collective formula’ centers around our Mission Statement of Gather to love God, Grow to know and follow Jesus, and Go to make a difference in our community and world. We follow what is called a blended style of worship, i.e., taking some of the traditional elements of the past and blending them with some elements of the present to assist all God’s people in worship. This formula ‘works’ for most people who make PCJH their church home. It becomes part of the way by which our needs are met and the transforming work of God’s presence takes place.
However, what has happened in America over the past 30+ years is that the models many denominational churches have historically followed (including Blended Worship) are not resonating in a new era of Christian worship and minsitry. Seeking after God has not stopped. Most people in America see themselves as being spiritual and wanting that spirituality to grow and deepen. They will even pursue that growth in spiritual life within a group of people (church) if they feel the group is authentic. As a result new formulas for worship are being created. These new styles are working for a new group of people.
Because this is true it is important for us to experience those styles for two reasons:
1) to understand what is working to reach a new generation of Christians;
2) To see what we can learn (and possibly blend into our experience) as we worship in a style that others have developed.
This year on our 5th Sunday worships we will be exploring other worship styles. This Sunday, April 29th, the Cheyenne Hills Worship Band from Cheyenne, Wyoming will be leading us in worship. This style of worship is what many of the fastest growing, young adult reaching congregations use. The 25 to 45 age group is the target in this style. Music is one of their languages. The avenue for the work of worship will be simple: Music, Prayer, Sermon. Come and check it out. Get into this style of worshiping God and see how it feels to you.
On July 29 we will be experiencing what is called the Emergent Church Model. This is the style of church Pastor Ben participated in while in Seattle. He will be organizing and leading this experience on our behalf.
On September 30 we will be experiencing Taize Worship. A portion of this Wikipedia article gives a brief introduction to a style of worship and service which is reaching many young people in Europe.
The Taizé Community is an ecumenical monastic order in Taizé, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France that has a strong devotion to peace and justice through prayer and meditation. It was founded in 1940 by Brother Roger Schutz, a Protestant.
The community has become one of the world’s most important sites of Christian pilgrimage. Over 100,000 young people from around the world make pilgrimages to Taizé each year for prayer, Bible study, sharing, and communal work. Through the community’s ecumenical outlook, they are encouraged to live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation.
The community, though Western European in origin, has sought to include people and traditions worldwide. They have sought to demonstrate this in the music and prayers where songs are sung in many languages, and have included chants and icons from the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
It is my prayer and that of the Worship team that these experiences will deepen our worship experience at PCJH. We also pray that it will be a wonderful opportunity for our three worshiping communities: Wednesday Evening; 8 AM; and 10:15 AM to join together as one body and share a time of worship. Please put these dates on your calendars and make every effort to attend, invite friends, and participate in the work of God’s people in worship.