Sunday, November 18, 2007

More Worship Ramblings

It was a year ago that I began attending the church I currently call home. My ex and I were still living together but were planning the split. I was working a dead-end temp job and was too emotionally washed-out to seek any social life at all. We had been in town only five months. I went to this church one week and then jumped in feet first the next. I made a financial pledge, put my son into the Sunday School, met with the pastors, and have been attending faithfully ever since. This is how I do church. Whole hog. I've tried to be half-hearted about church, but it doesn't work for me.

That said, whole hog isn't working for me right now either. I think I jumped too quickly, too desperate for a community. The politically progressive stances worked for me. The small informal circle seemed like a place I could actually make friends. The weekly potluck seemed almost like having a social life of my own.

The thing is ... the worship doesn't really work for me. It's too informal, to be honest. I have to confess: the kids running in and out throughout the service irritate me. This from the pastor who spent her career convincing old ladies that it wasn't sacrilege to have active children in worship. Wow. Weird to have the shoe be on the other foot. I want to say to the offending parents, "Don't you realize that the rest of us are here to WORSHIP GOD??!!"

OK, OK, it's not that bad, really. I do still enjoy children in worship, acting like children. Just reasonably well-behaved children, at least most of the time, please.

And then there are the sermons. One issue is that there is a different preacher every week. I mean, seriously, in a year, there is only one person I've heard preach more than a handful of times and I don't like his sermons. Which is the other issue. Let me just say that these folks, with a couple of notable exceptions, would have a hard time in a Presbyterian homiletics class. Bless their hearts.

Geez, am I cranky or what?

Also, last year there was an adult Sunday School class while the kids had theirs. I went every week. Sometimes there were only two of us, but that was fine with me, as it allowed me to get to know other people. This year, they dropped the class. Did anybody ask my opinion? Me, the only person who was in the class every week last year? Umm, no. It wasn't like they had to buy curriculum or plan anything. We just got together and read a chapter of the Bible and discussed it.

So, I found myself beginning to dread worship. But having made the family commitment and having this deeply ingrained belief that my child should be in SS and worship every week, coupled with guilt over the fact that the poor child has had seven congregations to adjust to in his 9 years (Presbyterian, Quaker, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Quaker, non-denominational and now Baptist), I am very hesitant to start looking around for another church home.

And yet ... have I mentioned that my son HATES this church? Well, I think he actually kind of likes some of the adults there and he loves a good potluck as much as I do, but beyond that, he has not connected with one single child at this church. Not one.

So today I told him that maybe we could keep going to his SS, but try some different things out worship-wise and only go to our congretation a couple of times each month. I told him about Taize and said maybe we could go to Taize services sometimes and Quaker meetings sometimes and Episcopal services sometimes and that when we didn't go anywhere else that we could worship at home.

And tonight, that's what we did. We went to SS and then came home and had dinner and afterwards had our own worship. We began by putting on a CD of Gregorian chant and then going into the little room off our living room which I call my prayer room and lighting lots of candles and some incense. Then he read (by candlelight) from this tiny little Gideon Bible that he got at the State Fair, which he loves. It's King James, which makes me crazy, but he asked me to give him an assignment and he opened up and read it straight through, with all the "he spakes" and so on. When he finished, I read the same story (the shepherd and the lost sheep) from our Family Story Bible (by Ralph Milton, highly recommended for anyone with young children looking for a children's Bible that won't gross you out) and we discussed it. I asked him if he wanted to read a Psalm and he piped up, "What about the 23rd since it's about shepherds, too?" (He remembered!) So he read it, King James.

Suddenly he asked, "How many verses are in Psalm 119?" (He knows this is the longest Psalm, because that's the kind of Biblical information that will stick with him).
Me: "I'm not sure but it's well over 100."
Him, finding it: "176."
Me: "Why don't you read the last verse out loud?"
Him: "I have gone astray like a lost sheep. Seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandments."
How's that for fitting a theme?

Next, I read a prayer from Edward Hays' "Prayers for the Domestic Church" and we added our own thanksgivings. About this time the dog wandered in, so I found the blessing of the pets in Hays' book and read that, too. We then offered intercessions for several people. I told him how the Quakers speak of "holding people in the light" and how I picture the person I'm praying for in my mind's eye and see them completely surrounded by a warm white light. So we did that in silence for a few minutes until he cleared his throat to let me know he was done with the holding part. (Says he, "I don't want to hold them there too long. They might have to use the bathroom or something. Besides, I was beginning to get bored.")

I suggested we sing a hymn or two. He picked "Deep and Wide," complete with gestures and leaving out words. I picked "Jesus, Remember Me," from Taize. We, or rather I, sang it through about 8 times.

Him: "Does it really go on that long?"
Me: "In a real Taize service it would go on much longer."
Him -- dumbstruck: "Why?"

Finally, we ended with a simple benediction (Me: "Go in peace to love and serve our God." Him (with a little prompting): "Thanks be to God!") and the ringing of my small Tibetan singing bowl.

We agreed that we would do this again, that we'd begin and end each time with familiar words and that it would be his job to sing the bowl.

Now if we could just figure out how to blow out all the candles without setting off the smoke detector.


Diane said...

I think if more people had "their own" church in their home, corporate worship would become more meaningful, as well.

I think children should be in worship, as well. a fine line between allowing them to be children but also giving them some boundaries, and expecting them to participate at their level.

I love your worship musings...

pj said...

Oh my goodness, LJ, this was a hoot! First of all, I love the way you write and I kind of wish you'd get back to ministering, because you're obviously great at sermons.

And I love your son, sight-unseen. He's a blessing.

Speaking of children, the religion thing is beginning to be an issue in my house too. My son, who is very happy to be both Jewish and Christian, has no idea what either of those things mean. "Everybody knows that Jesus was a magic guy who came back from the dead," he announces one day. He must have been talking to some little school chums. Hmmm. Think I'll spare your comments page and post about this at my own blog. :)


Diane said...

btw, I too wish you could get back to preaching... you obviously are so good at it.


more cows than people said...

i loved this. your son's comments on holding in the light, hilarious.

i am sad that you are feeling disconnected from your church community, but happy that you are having sacred moments at home.

and yeah, i love the kid too!

Jane R said...

Oh, lovely. And what a kid! He's got a good MomPastor, too :-)

Thanksgiving hugs,

mompriest said...

lj, I am sorry that the church community is not holding you in the way you need to be held. If you were a member of my church, and I the pastor, I'd want to know this. So often I feel like I am floundering and trying to guess what people want/need. And often I don't even get responses when I ask...or I get a passive, "It's fine..."...sigh...

And, yes. Love kids. But there has to be some degree of understanding sacred space, even for little ones, and that it is different than a playground or a living room.

Well, I hope you find what you need in worship... but also the home worship with your son is lovely.

Max Rainey said...

My darling, you have been tagged!

yours in the struggle,

ps your son's compassion for the bladders of others is inspiring.
i have, once or twice in this life, suffered through someone else's need to minister to me while desperately struggling to keep the pee from running down my leg...

Cecilia said...

This was just wonderful... your worship time together sounds just perfect.

Blessings in your discernment.

jledmiston said...

Wonderful post.
I find myself changing in terms of what "does it" for me in worship, etc. and find that I need to be fed too. (Duh.)

Our focus has increasingly been that worship is to appeal to people who don't do church. Outward rather than inward focussed. But the truth is that we need to be fed too.

Eileen said...

Ok..I loved this.

And now I totally want a singing bowl. Totally.

(((LJ, Son of LJ)))

And PJ - My kids GO to church and Sunday school, and they often come up with some outrageous interpretations of what they have been exposed to...hee hee!