Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Thoughts on worship...

So, I ran a half marathon last weekend. More on that when I have some pictures to share. For now, though, I'm reading Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor. It's brilliant, as most of her writing is. Anyway, I just read this paragraph about worship and I think it captures some of the thoughts and meditations I've been having for the past 6 months or so:

If this terrific mystery is not apparent to most people sitting in the pews, then there are at least two things wrong. One is that worship has become too tame, and the other is that those who come have stopped bringing their own fire. The two may even be related, but neither is easily solved, nor am I sure that many people want them to be. Tame worship is easier to agree on than any other kind, and bringing fire requires a lot more energy than simply showing up. When life is pretty good and church is pleasant enough, who needs resurrection?
Wow! "Tame worship is easier to agree on than any other kind, and bringing fire requires a lot more energy than simply showing up." Do we who plan worship settle for "tame worship?" Do the masses who come to worship bring fire or simply show up? Who needs resurrection indeed? Powerful thoughts and a powerful question.


mark said...

BBT nails it here Alan..

it's funny..i've realized that as long we stay true formulaic expectations (either mainline, evangelical, pentecostal, etc.) we can do worship as poorly and pitiful as possible and people won't say a dang word..we will just away unchanged and for the most part happy..

try to untame it though..try to push the edges in order to be faithful..and you better dang do everything right..if one word is mispronounced, one candle fails to light or one chord missed, people will be all over you and pointing to those examples as why "new ways of worship" fail..

its amazing..perhaps indeed the two aspects BBT mentions are related..alt worship, experiential services, etc., require active participation..require engagement of multiple senses..requires that the fire be brought..

i've been reading into pragmatism a little..and for that line of thought, the road to novelty only begins when instability is brought to our rest. in general, we as humans hate this. We have to be "goaded" into exiting restful states to do the hard work of dialogue leading to novelty..perhaps getting our states of "rest" disturbed is a reason the evangelist is still needed?




Stushie said...

There could be another reason - theological elitism - perhaps the churches are too tame for Barabar because she thinks she has outgrown being amongst the commoners in the pews. I guess ivory towers can do that to you.

Alan Bancroft said...

Stushie-why so much anger and hate? I find your tone to be pretty rude. I feel like I can hear the sharp syllables as you say "theological elitism." Having just finished the book that this quote comes from, I think it's totally inaccurate to say that Barbara Brown Taylor feels as if she has somehow "outgrown" the "commoners in the pews." I think she's simply raising some questions about what worship is about and what most church going folks really expect from worship. Why is it theological elitism to call for folks to bring fire to worship and for us to expect wild things to happen in the midst of worship? Help me understand why you seem to have responded so strongly to her words.

NoVA Dad said...

I ran across your blog while searching for some comments about Barbara Brown Taylor, and have really enjoyed reading it. I think you will really enjoy "Leaving Church" (if you haven't already finished it); it was the first BBT book that I had read, and I did a review of it on my blog last year ( It really is an amazing book, and I have since enjoyed further exploring her work. I am currently working my way through the discernment process which may end up in some aspect of the ministry, and BBT’s story is certainly something that I will carry with me for quite a while. I hope you find/found it to be a great read!!

Stushie said...

I liked BBT and read her books when she was nominated as one of the best preachers of the year.

People in the pews do not lead academic lives. they struggle hard and come to church to find God...but if the theologians are too lazy to stay in church because it's too hard for them, then we should stop reading their books.

BBT is going down the individual elitist path of her own making. The trouble is too many ex-seminarians longing for a cloistered community instead of church, warts and all, are buying into this individualism.

Maybe BBT should offer here ministerial services to a small struggling church...