Clergy letter

WORSHIP AND LOVE

In recent weeks and months, with the changes that have happened to the morning service, there has, inevitably, been a lot of very impassioned discussion—and rightly so, because if you love God then you will surely care deeply about worship.

However, I have wondered at times whether there has been an element that has sometimes been missing from our discussions – and the best way I can illustrate what I mean is to put forward an imagined conversation,  between someone who values a more traditional style of worship and someone who much prefers an informal style.

Let’s call them Tom (T for traditional) and Ian (I for Informal):

 TOM: “Ian, I hear that you are really struggling with the worship at St.Mary’s at the moment because you find it too traditional for your taste – and that really grieves me. I want you to worship as best you can. Maybe we should just do it the way you want, if that would help you.”

IAN: “Wow! That is so kind of you, Tom. But, to be honest, I’ve been thinking much the same about you. I’ve heard that you’re struggling because you’re finding it not traditional enough and that really grieves me and I want to do whatever I can to help you worship as best you can.”

TOM: “We obviously want the same thing – for the services at St.Mary’s to be the very best they can, so how can we do that together? We are, after all, part of the same church family and we worship the same Heavenly Father. Surely there must be a way for us to work this out together, mustn’t there?”

Or, if I may put it in a more biblical way, as well as the call to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, the second most important command according to Jesus is for us ‘to love your neighbour as yourself’. And, as we have been reflecting over Easter, Jesus showed us what such love is meant to look like through his self-sacrificial love for us on the cross.

So, maybe the question for us is this: what does it mean for us to self-sacrificially love one another when it comes to our Sunday morning worship? What should that look like?

 I’m not saying that answering those questions will make all our differences go away. Nor do I think that having the sort of conversation that I imagine Tom and Ian having would always be easy. Particularly when it comes to something that we hold so dearly and value so highly as our times of worship, there are probably no easy answers as to how we can find a way forward whereby we don’t just split off into our different corners, but wrestle with what it means to be a church family, that values coming together to worship our heavenly Father.

But maybe it needs to start with us talking to each other – and not just those who agree with us.

So, if you find the informal parts of the service more difficult, have you tried talking with someone who really values those parts? And if you find the traditional parts of the service more difficult, have you tried talking with someone who treasures those parts?

I wonder what we’d find out what we don’t already know?

Stan Tomalin  <><