Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Worship God in the Beauty of Holiness

"Worship God in the beauty of holiness." (Psalm 96:9)

Last Sunday we had our second community conversation about expected behavior during Sunday morning worship: How we can work together to create a space that invites people into God's welcome for all and at the same time recognizes that at 8 and 10 am on Sunday mornings we gather for a specific purpose ... together to "worship God in the beauty of holiness."

Several weeks ago, I invited attendees at our On The Table forum to talk to a wide variety of constituencies and ask them why they came on Sunday morning and what they thought reasonable standards of behavior were. (Read more about that conversation in this blogpost). What they reported included:

*Mostly people gather on Sunday mornings for worship, but -- particularly in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter -- people also come into the space for shelter.

*Different people worship differently -- and different people find different things distracting in worship. We need always to respect and grow from those differences.

*People of different ages and abilities are able to and, in fact, do engage in worship in different ways. Again ... grace is required.

After listening deeply to many different viewpoints, Amy and I have established these guidelines for our Sunday worship time:

In this sacred space, all are invited to “worship God in the beauty of holiness” (Ps 96:9) by together creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and joyful reverence.

Please join in congregational responses and singing with joy and enthusiasm. Look for opportunities to assist visitors and feel free to ask for help yourself. Enjoy the squeaks, hoots and impromptu dances that sometimes come from our youngest worshippers.

In addition, please keep conversation to the barest minimum, silence electronic devices, restrict your eating to the Eucharist and follow Jesus’ command to “stay awake” (realizing the preacher bears some responsibility there).

Please support one another by reminding each other of these “Rules of Respect*” for worship, recognizing that grace may be needed for young children, and that in all things we strive not to be bound by the law but by embodying the love of Christ that gives God greatest glory.

These will be printed in the bulletin and I will speak to them briefly before worship this Sunday. We ask that everyone support and hold one another accountable in living within these guidelines. If you truly feel unsafe reminding someone of these norms, we ask you to get a security guard. However, if you feel not so much unsafe as uncomfortable, we ask you to lean into that discomfort and have the loving conversation. We grow together in Christ by our willingness to have the loving, uncomfortable conversation.

We're going to try this for three months and see what we notice. What do you think?

*We call them Rules for Respect for worship because they are a version of our broader Rules for Respect for how we treat one another in community. Download and take a look at those by clicking here.