I was tempted to entitle this “Contemporary Worship,” but I like the phrase a colleague of mine uses better: “Worship in Our Time.” The thinking is, any worship in our time could be defined as contemporary worship. What does it mean to worship in our time?
I don’t think it means to entertain people. Conversely, it doesn’t mean to bore people, either. The fact of the matter is that some people are “bored” by what I think is exciting. When it comes to worship, I love high church liturgy, I love traditional hymns, and I love Bach fugues and toccatas on a pipe organ. But it isn’t about me – it’s about the worship of God. And in the words of the 150th Psalm, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” That includes using tambourine, harp, pipe, string – and our voices.
So our church went out on faith this evening; while our morning worship services reflected traditional worship in a United Methodist Church, our evening worship took on a “Contemporary Evensong” look, with old and new hymnody being sung within the context of several scripture readings and opportunity for prayer, concerns, and thanksgivings. Our church’s youth director took the lead, and in playing and singing alongside of him I found my musical abilities were taxed to their limits. A good crowd came to worship, some out of curiosity, some out of church loyalty, and a few new folks who were drawn to a United Methodist Church “doing something different.” I began the service feeling nervous and uncomfortable – most definitely out of my comfort zone. When the service ended, I found it to flow with the Spirit. The older folks in the congregation were overjoyed to see younger folks. I needed the challenge. Above all of these things – God was worshiped.
When the pipe organ was introduced in Europe hundreds of years ago, people thought it was of the devil! When pianos started being placed in American churches, it was thought to be blasphemous as pianos were thought of as saloon instruments. When guitars began appearing in churches, they too were thought to be instruments of Satan, playing impure music that would most certainly lead us all astray. Yet all l of these arguments basically call the writer of the 150th Psalm a liar!
Singing a new song unto the Lord isn’t a new idea; a hymn doesn’t have to be 200 years old to be a good one. I need to remind myself of that.