Thursday, March 5, 2015

Worship Styles

I have long thought that the differences between our 8:45 and 10:45 services are destructive to our sense of being a single congregation. It is telling that we now continue to have two principal services in the summer, whereas we used to combine them into one, as fewer people attend. I believe that two services are necessary now because people from the later service would not like the style of the earlier one, and people from the early service would not know what to do in a traditional Episcopal Church service.

I have criticized aspects of the 8:45 service in the past—see “A Heretical Creed,” for example—but I have not tackled the issue of different worship “styles” at different services. Although our services are not as different from one another as at some churches, I do think we are creating more problems than we are solving.

Jonathan Aigne, in his blog Ponder Anew, has written an essay strongly criticizing the notion that churches should offer services in different styles. His essay is “11 Reasons to Stop Offering Different Worship Styles.” Here’s a sample of Aigne’s criticism of having distinctly different services:
It often segregates members by age. I think this is one of the most tragic points. Children and youth need to worship with their parents and their parent’s parents. The elderly, likewise, need to worship with the young. Usually, different services are offered with the assumption that the contemporary is to hook non-believers and young people, and the traditional is the old-time favorites hour for the older folks. Of course, one day we will all join the heavenly choir, and something tells me we’re not going to have a smorgasbord of corporate worship options to attend. We’ll join in singing the unending hymn, even if we don’t like the tune, even if there are no projection screens, even if the seating doesn’t perfectly mold to each individual backside. Perhaps we should start practicing now.
And this is one of my favorite points in “11 Reasons”:
It is distinctively seeker-sensitive instead of missional. Corporate worship is not about evangelism. That’s a fundamental misunderstanding over a century in the making. Evangelism may be a byproduct of worship gatherings, but it can’t be the main thing, or you can’t really call it a worship service. The kingdom mission begins when we are sent out into the world.
Read the whole essay and see what you think.

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