Yesterday was the last Sunday in our “Sanctuary on Sabbatical” worship series. After four weeks of worshiping in the Plaza Room sitting around round tables in a participatory style of gathering, we will return to the sanctuary this Sunday to resume “normality.”
This idea for summer worship emerged out of several conversations with my clergy group during a retreat last May, and as much as I was excited about it and found the worship ministry team excited too there was fear in me about this “shaking things up” idea . I wondered what it would feel like to worship in a different space. I wondered how the congregation would respond to the intentional change. I wondered how preaching without a manuscript and notes only would feel, and could I really do it? I wondered what first time visitors would think and if they would be scared away by what one member called “coffee hour church.”
Yet, unless I just haven’t heard– there haven’t been too many complaints. Several folks have expressed how much they like the “close feel” of the service and how they liked how personal and engaging the sermon and music was.
I would love to hear from others about what you thought of worship this July. This is what I am thinking, though:
1. I delighted in having the personal interaction with the congregation during the sermons. Instead of going through a manuscript and wondering at times what the congregation was thinking, during the past several weeks there would be times when I would stop and ask questions and actually get to hear what the gathered community thought. Loved it!
2. With that said, my love of a manuscript has grown. As good as it was to have spontaneous responses, I look forward to getting back to having words carefully chosen. Manuscript preaching is simply my style. But as I go back to my style, I hope to incorporate a type of sermon delivery that makes space for more causal moments from time to time.
3. It was beautiful to hear Ken, our music director lead us through moments of singing that felt more worshipful than I’ve experienced at Washington Plaza in a long time. I look forward to the congregation singing more response songs such as “Hear Our Prayer O Lord” (which we sang every week) in the future.
4. I felt closer to my church family, their needs and prayers throughout the month. There’s something about sitting close to people in worship– you begin to realize that this “following Christ” thing is not something you are doing alone.
5. Communion was served every week, and I’m still processing how I felt about it. My goal was to offer a teachable moment between the spiritual food of communion and the physical food that we eat together each week as we gather for lunch. I’m not sure I found a way to make this connection explicit and I’m unclear if anyone in the congregation found meaning in the greater frequency of taking communion.
6. To my surprise over the past four weeks, there have been fewer people saying for lunch after the service than usual. Maybe it is because folks have gotten their “fellowship fix” during the course of the service or maybe it is summer and folks just have other places to go. The lack of people sticking around for lunch after worship has been a disappointment.
7. I will be glad not to worry so much about the room set-up. As is the case with many small churches, the pastor and a few others do a lot of the work when anything new is attempted. It took a lot of time on Sunday mornings to transform the Plaza Room (where we normally host classes and meals) into a worship space. A few of us did a lot of the work, and this always brings cause for concern and exhaustion afterwards.
So, will we do it again next summer? I hope so. All in all, it was a refreshing break, a good sabbath even with the challenges. But, see you on Sunday UPSTAIRS!