We had a serious technical glitch develop before worship the other day. Our choir often sings with accompaniment supplied by a CD played over a portable CD player, a process that works for us and our context. But yesterday, the choir director brought everything needed for the music except the actual CD, which put our special music at risk.
Because I am something of a techie, I got involved. Since we had copied the CD to have a working copy while the original remained safe, I just happened to have a copy of the CD on my phone. I began working to find a way to connect the phone to the CD player but the phone is too new and the CD player too old for them to be able to talk to each other. Eventually, we decided to put the mic from the PA system next to the phone speaker and work that way, a process that worked. We had our special music.
However, getting that going took 15 minutes or so and that meant that when I finally had things connected and knew how to make them work, it was within a few minutes of time to start. I looked around the sanctuary and realized that most people were already present and I hadn’t had a chance to talk to many of them. They were all engaged in their conversations with each other, some settled in their seats and others having conversations before they headed to their seats.
In the few minutes I had before it was time to start, I managed to get around and at least greet each person there–but I felt rushed and unsettled and extra stressed as I began the worship. I think the extra stress was partly because of the technical glitch that turned me into the choir accompanist for that service. But I also think more of the extra stress was the result of not having sufficient contact with the people gathering for worship before we began. I didn’t really have a sense of the gathering, who was experiencing what and what space they were in–it felt like I was blind and deaf, stepping into an unknown situation.
Well, that is something of an overstatement–but I was very much aware of the lack of a real sense of the congregation when I began worship. Fortunately, we are informal and flexible in worship and by time we reached the offering, I was getting into the worship process and once the choir had sung and I was off the hook for providing the music, I was pretty much back on track–and once the worship finished, I had a chance to talk and connect with the congregation.
People never rush out of our sanctuary after worship. We talk to each other, a lot. We don’t need to institute the process of greeting each other during the worship because it is already a part of our worship process–we talk to each other before and after the worship (and more than occasionally during the worship).
This is part of being the church. We worship as a community of people who are in relationship with each other, not as a group of unrelated individuals who come together because it is the most efficient way for the preacher to get the message across. We are a community and before we can effectively worship, we have to be aware of the community. After we worship, we need to take our leave of the community. And even during the worship, we need to recognize the community.
From my perspective, the level of conversation before and after worship is directly proportional to the health of the congregation. The more people who talk and the more people they talk to, the healthier the congregation and the more we are together helping each other worship and grow in faith. And the reality includes me as the pastor and preacher. I can’t be as effective leading worship and preaching if I don’t establish my connection with the congregation before and after we worship.
The technical glitch yesterday reminded me of that reality. And while I love solving technical glitches, I prefer them to happen at times when they don’t interfere with my time to connect with the people I am worshipping with. The church worships best when it worships as a community which has taken the time to be a community.
May the peace of God be with you.