Article in Stretton Focus November 2020
Opening and Questioning
Worship is not there because God demands it: it is there for man. If the lockdown did nothing else, it showed us that the world still goes around without collective worship. The world doesn’t fall apart if praise, confession, absolution, sacraments, ceremony and all their trappings do not happen. Man needs them, not God.
So, what is worship all about and how must it change after six months of not meeting?
Rituals and ceremonies are not central to a reformed church. Fellowship is more important, and a context of learning is valued. Reform implies review and change, readiness to take on fresh ideas, listening to the fellowship, being modern in approach. Each reformed church sees things differently and makes its own local decisions.
Our world is changing. Change is now so fast that what was modern two years ago is not modern today. Habits are hard to break and we tend to look back nostalgically. We have to accept limitations, worship without singing, distancing, and a context of continuing uncertainty. So how do we develop our worship in ways which take our fellowship forward?
An obvious question is to ask how we fit God in. We remember from Luke (Ch17 v21) that “the kingdom of God is within you”. Paul tells us that the word of God is not written with ink on paper, it’s written by the Spirit on the human heart (2 Corinthians 3:3). One of the non-canonical gospels (Philip) adds: “if you are not resurrected in life, you will receive nothing when you are dead”. Ancient wisdom says to us that we must explore ourselves and our lives.
As a church we say we are “open, inclusive, questioning”. These values come to the fore at a time when we must manage risk. We must not trap the past although we can respect it. The coming months will be an adventure of faith as we find new questions. Being unable to sing does not mean we cannot explore music. After listening to a reading, we may develop our understanding together rather than through a traditional sermon. Prayer can be personal within shared silence and it becomes more powerful when shared.
So, remember that worship is about man – the kingdom of God is within you.