Word of the Week

Let Us Worship

The more I am in the rhythm of the life of Washington Plaza, the more I realize how our Sunday morning worship service IS the central focus of what we do.

It's not because we aren't involved in community ministry and missions. It is not because we don't care about administrative tasks that are essential to our being. And, it's not because we aren't spending our time in small groups fellowshiping together in a way that makes us stronger disciples of our faith.

But, because worship is what grounds who we are and gives us purpose for everything else.  In worship, I believe we find the guiding principles and practices that inform the rest of our life together.

For, it's the time we hear scripture, and pray together after sharing our joys and sorrows, as well as have reason to reconcile with one another when we disagree (and we often do).  Most of all, it is the time when we receive our challenge to go forth and live a more purposeful life throughout the week.  Worship is the time when we live into the "already but not yet" reality of our lives in Christ.

For these reasons and many more, I look forward to how worship will shape us each Sunday.

But, simimuatanously, I miss worship every time that I go into the pulpit to lead it.

Why is this, you might wonder? Don't I practically live at the church? (Yes, it is true) How could I of all people possibly miss worship?

If you haven't realized this already, it is important to know that the experience of being a worshipper is completely different from leading worship. Even if you are well prepared as a pastor and there are moments here and there when you lose yourself in the liturgy as lay leadership plays a prominent role or as hymns are sung, it just isn't the same.

Remember that I (like most clergy in other churches) sit up on the altar as I lead. It is very difficult if near impossible to step out of your  role while you are in charge of a service and experience God in a personal way when everyone is taking their cues from you.

Yet, this past week, I had the opportunity to be a worshipper and I can't tell you how refreshing it was!

Thanks to the invitation of a colleague and friend who was preaching, I traveled to Richmond, Virginia to attend St. Paul's Episcopal Church's Lenten lunch series. The Lenten Lunch is a yearly practice and GIFT from the kind folks at St. Paul's. A featured preacher is invited each week of Lent to conduct a 30 minute worship service followed by a homemade lunch.

On 12:30 pm on Friday afternoon, I was sitting in the pews, singing hymns and praying the Lord's prayer on my knees alongside the downtown Richmond lunch crowd. I couldn't help but be moved by the beauty in this simple service.

I had forgotten, you see, how important corporate experiences with God truly are.

I can't tell you how moving it was to hear good preaching that I was not responsible for in a worship space with integrity.

Most of all, I had missed deeply the opportunity to connect with God in the company of others with the pressure taken off of me to "be the pastor."

Yet, of course, the whole time, I was thinking about the sermon that I would preach in a couple of days and also about the ways our worship space at Washington Plaza could be enhanced (for you can never really turn your preacher brain off).

 But, it didn't matter. In those moments in St. Paul's, I was just Elizabeth the worshipper connecting with a God and with a faith that meant so much to me. Best of all, no one really knew I was Reverend and I could just be still and know that God was and is God. And, this spoke peace to my tired soul.

This type of meaningful worshipful moments are what I hope most for the people of Washington Plaza. Moments where worship means more than coming in and going out, more than seeing your friends and getting your weekly hug, and most of all that it means more than hearing me talk or anything else. What I hope you will experience in our space is the living God! If this happens more times than not, then I know we have been faithful as a congregation.

I'll keep looking forward opportunities to experience the warm hospitality of worship like I did last week at St. Paul's, and I hope that you'll continue to provide me spaces of time away from the walls of the church to find nourishment for  all the tasks ahead.

I know it is Monday, but get excited already. For Sunday is coming when it will be time for us to worship together again.