12-UMC 2

In our 9:15 AM contemporary service…we want worship to be a place where you can feel welcome and comfortable being yourself—not worrying how others perceive you. The music is led by a worship band, featuring a mixture of hymns and modern worship songs. This service usually runs about 50 minutes, and is focused on the discussion of relevant topics in the message as well as orientation towards active involvement in our community.

April 21, 2019 915 AM Easter Sunday

This is a large church in the center of a quaint historic town. It’s easily walkable for folks who live in the community. The beautifully updated building features a Starbucks-like coffee and bagel station right inside the main doors at the back of the sanctuary. Very cool. The greeter offers the refreshments to me and says I could take them into the sanctuary. Normally, the early service is held downstairs somewhere, but because of an Easter breakfast, it’s in the sanctuary this morning. I decline the goodies and take my seat in one of the pews near the back of the seating that is not blocked off by ropes. My guess is they do that so the sparse crowd will fill in pews towards the front and the worship will feel more crowded or more intimate.

There is an eight person praise band with electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards and piano, two different sets of drums and two lead singers. They start the service by asking us to stand and sing with them. Two large screens flash the words to the contemporary music. The music is nice but once again, it feels like we’re at a small concert. I’m not sure anyone is actually participating. I can only hear myself singing from the congregation. The lead singer has a beautiful voice, so it seems a shame to try to add mine. But I remember the words of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, who said: “Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.” At least I am singing lustily.

After two songs, the acoustic guitar man sings a solo. We continue standing for his solo. Finally, we attempt one more song as a group, which falls woefully short of the “lustily” standard.

We are asked to greet one another, which we do without moving too far from our seats. Then, the pastor reads the scripture from a piece of paper. Call me old fashioned, but I always think it’s important to read scripture from the Bible. Actually hold the Bible. It’s important. Even better, ask everyone to open their pew Bibles to the page of the scripture and read along with you. I just think it’s good practice.

Then after a few announcements, the pastor gives a really good twenty-five minute sermon. When he finishes, the worship ends. That’s it. No formal liturgy of any kind; no prayers of the people, no offering, no congregational response to the Word or act of faith or anything that asks me, the worshipper, for anything.

The later worship is apparently very different than this one, and I would like to try that one sometime. But this one, which tries to appeal to the seekers, the young or the non-traditionalists, just doesn’t seem to stimulate any of those appetites.

I left the church feeling sorry for those who lead this worship service. It’s my home denomination and I know what they’re trying to do. It just needs serious reflection and adjustments to make it an authentic worship time.

Other than the usher at the main door, and the greeting time, no one else spoke to me. Unfortunately, this church FAILED the WELCOME TEST.

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