Anonymous in Worship

I have begun leading worship at a new church.  It's a different experience for me. You couldn't ask for a nicer, more caring congregation.  They truly care about one another and are excited to grow as a church.

We are a new church plant, coming up on a life of a year in September.  We meet in a nursery/day care/school on Sunday mornings in Cary, NC at 9:30.  You should come.

One of the interesting things about the church though is its worship style.  A good word to describe the music style is...eclectic.  Perhaps more on that at a later date.

One of the interesting things about this church and its style is the integration of strict liturgy into a new church plant.

I grew up in a Baptist church, and mostly in a contemporary setting.  Admittedly, I know next to nothing about liturgy in the church. Except that the use of it is dying.

It was brought to my attention once that some individuals have visited the church and commented that they desired to be more anonymous in worship.  Passing the Peace ("Peace be with you" "And also with you") made them uncomfortable.  Reciting call and response and following along with those who know it by heart is intimidating.  Singing along to the hymns while seated so closely (we currently meet in a small room) to each other made them feel out of place.

I've mentioned this to several friends who also feel called to serve The Church.  I used to explain it like this, "People have commented that they'd like the service to be less participatory".  From each one I have received the same response: a look of bewilderment and confusion.  For those who are used to the traditional style of worship in church, participatory is what the church is.  Even in contemporary settings, we are called to participate in worship. (It is important to note as well, that this isn't the overwhelming feeling of the members of the congregation, rather just the voices of a select few who have visited)

I have been explaining it wrong to them.  Perhaps a better word to use would be...anonymous.  People (visitors in particular) often wish to be anonymous in worship.  At least at first.  This is especially true of the unchurched.

I believe that this is why the contemporary movement has been so well received.  It becomes easy to go to church(something people feel like is important) and feel it out, try it out, before jumping in.

The question becomes, is a traditional liturgical worship style something that is inviting to those who may not have come before?  Is it good to feel a little uncomfortable in worship? Is it ok to think that feeling too uncomfortable is wrong? How can a service be "seeker sensitive" yet still keep some of the traditions that have brought it to where it is? Should churches be concerned with being "seeker sensitive"?

There is a lot of people who would put their entire lives, beings, faiths, and more on the line to say that traditions should win out overall. I'll probably go to school with a lot of them in the coming days. Maybe they're right.  Maybe they're wrong.

And, if intentions are right (meaning it's not about what's "right" but rather about what's "authentic"), then the answer can be yes...and all of the questions.

Should the church be open to new people and their needs to blend in? Yes.

Should the church put it at the top of it's priority? Probably relatively high if it wants to grow.

Should worship be about a time of celebrating God's goodness together as the Body of Christ? I think so.

Should we be sensitive to new comers and welcome them regardless of anything? Without a doubt.

Should new church plants be made up of churched people from other congregations or completely unchurched folk? Both.

Can these two groups get along and worship in the same ways? I sure hope so.

Do you agree?  I don't know.

One thing is for sure in my mind. If joining a church is like joining a fraternity, something is decidedly wrong. The church ought to be (I think) open to anyone and everyone, no matter their background or creed, who is willing and excited to accept the grace that God has given them. Let us all have a chance to truly worship the one who gives us new life.

Have you ever been to a Catholic Mass? I hear it's difficult as a first timer.

Do you think that this traditional, liturgical, "high church" atmosphere has hurt the attendance of congregations that still practice it?

Do you think this is why Mega-Churches have been so successful when it comes to numbers?

How does the element of the sacraments play into the ritual of what most churches practice? How is this intimidating to the unchurched?