Forests and Trees

James went back and played in the church band yesterday and made some observations about his experience.

His comments on the issue of ‘social capital’ in church life are insightful and worth reading.

As one who regularly heads back to ordinary churches I often find myself wondering why it is that we do certain things and at times find myself bemused by the activities like ‘turn to the person next to you’ etc.

That said there are elements of regular church life that I find valuable – I quite like sitting still and listening while someone speaks to me – and I doubt there is any such thing as the perfect gathering.

The point is more that its very hard to see our own idiosyncrasies from the inside, but when an outsider comes in they notice them.

Reminds me of the story of the guy who went to a charismatic church for the first time and when asked of his impression said, “Well… I liked the karaoke, but what was with all those nazi salutes while we were singing?!”

May you find a community expression of church that resonates deeply with your own spirit and with those of the people you are involved silent hill

14 thoughts on “Forests and Trees

  1. Bemused by. I relate to that. I wonder if perchance it has anything to do with what that “other” might see in me that I’d prefer not to see. I have a similar reaction to “Let’s separate into smaller groups to discuss our insights.” I feel vulnerable. Unprepared. Most likely to embarrass myself.

  2. You said: May you find a community expression of church that resonates deeply with your own spirit and with those of the people you are involved with.

    Thanks for wishing such a blessing on us all.

  3. As someone who writes/composes the Bulletin every week AND does the announcements the comments James makes about announcements (which also underlines a lot of what we do when we do church) resonates with me. I too am bemused that I write the stuff I then end up ‘highlighting’ in the announcements – perhaps I should just say ‘as you came in this morning you would have received your Bulletin – now read it!!’. Save a lot of time and effort!!

    Cheers – and if it makes us think a bit about why we do what we do then that’s a good thing.

  4. I think some of what is done on modern day “low church” protestant circles are just vestiges of the small ‘c’ catholic liturgical tradition (eg “turn to the person next to you..” strikes me as the remaining vestiges of the “sign of peace”) which in turn has its roots in the synagogue tradition, now reinterpreted through Christ.

    However, when you wrench such rites, symbols and actions away from their historical roots and their liturgical setting, and place them out of context in a service which is not understood as liturgy, nor has a liturgical form, it is hardly surprising one begins to question why we do certain things.

    This can also happen in liturgical churches too(don’t ask a Catholic about their “liturgy wars”) but again, much of that too is because people have forgotten the historical roots of the liturgy and the purpose which it serves.

  5. I reckon if we just weeded out everything cringey, we’d be laughin’.

    For example:

    1. singing songs in ’rounds’

    2. pansy songs like ‘joy is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart’

    3. err, most singing anyway (makes church too feminine.. so is it any wonder most blokes never turn up?)

    4. shoving the offering bag/ plate under people’s noses

    5. The already-mentioned ‘turn to the person next to you’

    6. Pompous lingo, eg. “let us all be up-standing”

    Well there’s enough there to stir the pot along a bit.. probably 😉

  6. ‘… if you would like to partake…’

    Partake? When was the last time you ‘partaked’ in something?

    Or is it partakerise?

    Or partooken?

    Or par-sout?

    Or par-snip?

  7. We’ve talked about the ‘turn to the person next to you’ and I’ve decided to keep doing it (not every week) for one simple reason – things loosen up when we do it. It’s an effective way of helping people engage in our context.

    Hamo, your story about the guy who made the nazi comment. I wonder if that’s an opportunity to explain some of the things behind what we do as Christians. Biblical worship (liturgy) is a physical event and we draw on those ancient practices when we worship that way (maybe cultural, but maybe we can learn a few things from other cultures!). I guess if you’re aiming for a seeker targeted service it’s an issue, but our aim is to lead people in worship of God so I’m more worried about their heart towards him. This is always the wrestle we do in translating the biblical worldview into our world. Dunno if we’re right, but that’s where we are.

    I agree some of the songs we sing suck. Maybe a lot. But again, I wonder if there’s a discipleship element here.

    OK, we’re probably on different pages and that’s what I love about the body of Christ – diversity. Let your hearts be set on Christ, that’s ultimately the key.

  8. Having been in the same church for 20 years I have seen lots. Ive watched people come and go, Ive seen new people come in (not new christians just church swappers) very enthusiastic about this wonderful new church they have found and then one day you turn around and they are gone.

    Its kind of like a production line , sometimes I think why do I come here when there are so many other things I could be doing, sometimes I come out feeling emptier than when I went in. I find myself looking around wondering “whats everybody thinking”. (that could be scarey).

    As far as songs go “joy is the flag” doesnt do much for me either, I actually find that songs like “great is thy faithfulness ” and some of the other old hymns speak more about Christ than some of the more modern songs we sing.

    But hey thats me.

  9. Pingback: Ecclesial Dreamer… » Constructive criticism…

  10. I quite like singing in rounds!

    And I especially love turning to the person next to you, when the saying is something like “The Peace of God with you”…

    I’m happy to drop the Nazi salute, though.

  11. Right on, Toddy: “partake” is right up there on the list of pompous churchy prattle!

    We once had a service leader here who would drop straight into a ‘holy’ tone of voice and start using KJV language as soon as he stepped up the front. It was awful.

    I have a theory: people who try to ‘holify’ the proceedings are possibly trying to cover for something. I have seen these types a number of times now, and in most cases there was blistering immaturity (if not outright sin) not far beneath the surface…

  12. I was at a old country church to preach once, and after had sung 2 or 3 choruses, the old codger got up, replaced the leader and said, right, lets enter into a time of worship, and lead us in some old hymn.

  13. Righto Steph – I’ll bite.

    Why is this ‘interesting’?

    It’s just that ‘interesting’ is a ‘fascinating’ word that says ‘exactly’ what you want it to say without ‘others’ necessarily knowing what you ‘intend’…

    (sorry Steph – just feeling cheeky! I’m being curious, that’s all.)



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