Tuesday, June 06, 2006

From Nomads to Pilgrims

From chapter 6 of From Nomads to Pilgrims – stories from practicing congregations, edited by Diana Butler Bass and Joseph Stewart-Sicking. This chapter by Eric Elnes. Published by Alban Institute 2006

One day I was driving home from church listening to music on my car’s CD player. As I continued to puzzle over our lack of youth involvement, a ‘plum fell from heaven,’ as the Buddhists say. The ‘plum’ took the form of an inner observation: ‘Eric, this happens every week. You pull into church, turning off the rock or jazz on your CD player, then go inside and offer what you have to offer. Afterward, you pull away from church, turning back on your rock or jazz, and that’s where it stays all week long.’

‘Yes,’ I thought, ‘that’s pretty accurate.’

Another ‘plum’ fell, taking the form of a question: ‘Does the music you listen to all week long move you spiritually?’

‘Yes, definitely,’ I responded. ‘If it didn’t, I wouldn’t be listening to it all week.’

A final ‘plum’ fell, which I experienced more like a hand grenade: ‘If you’re listening to this music all week long, and if it’s moving you spiritually like you say, then why is there a firewall around worship? Why aren’t you bringing it into the sanctuary, especially when your congregation isn’t listening to ‘church music’ during the week either?’

I had no idea why music or, for that matter, any number of other elements from everyday life were held at bay at the doors of the sanctuary. Frankly, I never seriously considered it a problem before. I am a child of traditional, mainline Protestantism. So-called traditional worship makes sense to me. I relate to the hymns, the liturgy, the sermon. Yet as much as I love these things, I must admit that neither I nor the majority of my congregation listens to ‘traditional’ worship music during the rest of the week, nor do we have much interest in reciting responsive readings or listening to more sermons outside Sunday mornings.

I thought about all the complaining we ministers and academics do about how good church folks in the mainline church don’t seem to bring Sunday morning into the rest of the week. Could it be that the problem is not the failure of our laity to bring Sunday morning forward to Monday afternoon, but the failure of church leaders to bring Monday into Sunday?
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