Worship should always include
festival, mystery and rationality
By Paula R. Kincaid, The Layman, July 30, 2009
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. – The Rev. Jim McCall turned his focus to worship during his mission study at the 104th New Wilmington Mission Conference July 18-25 in New Wilmington, Pa.
He said churches everywhere were struggling to accept various forms of worship – whether it should be contemporary, traditional or blended.
He first discussed three previous crises in worship:
- The Old Testament prophets. McCall read Amos 5:21-24 and said that the problem Amos was talking about was hypocrisy. The worship was offensive to God because people came to the temple to worship but did not translate their experience of God into the rest of their life.
- Jesus’ attitude toward the temple cult. Jesus called those who transacted business in the temple a den of thieves.
- The Reformation. The problem was the idolatry of Mass.
McCall said that many people today think that we are experiencing is a fourth crisis in worship – contemporary vs. traditional vs. blended. McCall said he liked to highlight the Chinese character for crisis that has both the character for danger and the character for opportunity.
“Today, some see snare drums in the sanctuary as a danger, while others see opportunity,” he said.
He said that churches around the world are trying to minister to older folks who faithfully give and faithfully attend, but they are also trying to attract a younger crowd.
“Churches are putting massive efforts into reaching out to this younger group,” he said. “And some younger groups don’t have ‘church experience’ so they don’t know the language. I think it is essential to put the Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s Prayer in the bulletin.”
McCall said he didn’t like the terms “contemporary” and “traditional.” Every service has tradition in that the worship includes songs, a sermon and prayer. Every service should also be contemporary in that “we should use Scripture in a way that affects our lives.”
He also mentioned “seeker services,” usually held at a time other than Sundays, in which “We try to reach out to those who don’t know the language. That should be our goal every Sunday.”
“We can’t throw away so much that has nurtured the church for 2,000 years,” said McCall. “We have to find that balance. So what do we do with this crisis?”
McCall said there are three elements that should be included in any type service – whatever the form: festival, mystery and rationality.
- Festival. He said there should be a “note of joy as a part of worship, … we can be pretty serious in worship.” He said all five senses should be used. Worshipers should see the cross, the banners, the Words of God. They should hear the songs and the Scripture. As for smell, he mentioned flowers in the church or possibly incense. Then comes taste. “I like to use really good bread for communion,” he said, “and the grape juice shouldn’t be the cheap kind.” And touch comes when worshipers pass the peace. “Some don’t like that,” he said. “I say get over it. We are part of a community. Festival, he said is a huge part of worship.
- Mystery. “Worship has to be mysterious, because God is mysterious,” he said. In worship, McCall said, “ we need times of silence … throw a little silence in parts of the service, to give people time to reflect”
- Rationality. He said we must tell God’s story in worship. “Making the Gospel boring is a sin,” he said. “The gospel is never boring.” He said in some churches, worshipers feel they must leave the brain at the door because the worship is all heart, or it may be the other way around. It is really important to find a balance.
Worship can’t just be emotional, he said. “It has to be able to be translated into our life. Worship should feed people when they face cancer. It should feed people when they lose their job. … Sometimes our worship is so shallow we give them smaller faith.”