“Be Thou My Vision” – written by Mary Elizabeth Byrne and Eleanor Henrietta Hull
“I am much more comfortable right there in the pew”
Lea Finder sheepishly said this on Sunday night at the Gathering, nearly as soon as she walked on stage. And it was one of those honest moments that hits you so hard you make this weird sort of “grunt of agreement” sound, and then you nod a lot—at least I did anyway. Then I thought…
“Am I much more comfortable here in the pew?”
While observing services at a local church, I noticed that there appears to be a lack of congregational participation through out the service. Other than singing or laughing at the pastor’s jokes about the Seinfeld clips he uses to relate to the sermon, there is an understood notion of “I stay here in my seat with my coffee, and I watch, listen, and sing. Boom.” So there is almost a learned sense of…
“I am much more comfortable here in this chair.”
During the Reformation era of the 16th century, Martin Luther challenged the ways of Catholic Europe. Interestingly, one of Luther’s many reforms had to do with congregational participation during the worship service. He proposed the adaptation of Gregorian chant, secular art music, and even popular tunes into strophic four-part harmony set in the vernacular German text. This encouraged the congregation to participate more by making the music more accessible to the people. These works were called chorales and are an example of balance between being led and singing all together.
Eventually, over time, this idea of creating accessible liturgy for the church by adapting forms of pop culture contributed to all sorts of different congregations reciting creeds, prayers, calls to worship, and other things together. The congregation became an active part of the service by accepting an invitation to join in worship with the body of Christ. Today, however, there is a natural lean towards pursuing individualism rather than togetherness. Perhaps we have forgotten the beauty and power brought on by the Reformation?
So often I go into a service with a terrible attitude. I am focused on trying to avoid that weird mom who talks a lot or that person I forgot to text back about helping out with the youth group. I just walk in, grab coffee, and go to my seat. This is such a limiting, comfortable way to approach worshipping as a body. I don’t even think about my brothers and sisters that surround me. I like my space.
It takes great faith to learn to get up out of the pew, as Lea confessed. It takes great faith to choose to add your voice to the hundreds of voices around you and throughout history and to believe your voice matters.
“Lord, here are my hands. They’re small, they’re small and
Here are my hands, they’re small and trembling.
Here are my dreams, they’re me protected,
Here are my dreams, so please be gentle now…”
~Aaron Niequist (A New Liturgy)
Lord, use us today for the good of your Kingdom. Guide our thoughts, words, and actions in every encounter we face, so that we may know you more and consider all other gains as loss. Let us grow tired from sitting comfortable, and give us the strength to stand up and join in with your body.