Some of you will remember the series I did on worship a while back. I explored a lot of different aspects of worship, from very practical to semi-theological vantages. And this past Sunday I was guest worship leader* for a local Vineyard. In fact my friend Tim was guest speaker and it was interesting the role the worship in song played in that service.
I had a wonderful backup musician, Nathan, playing djembe with me. We did a simple guitar/djembe combo for the music. That's the second time I've worked with Nathan and he is very nice to work with. In Hosanna's liturgy, the open with the singing but I had a sense in the prayer room that God was standing in front of the congregation with his arms stretched towards them - a sense of blessing. So I strummed a chord to get their attention, called the people to order and then prayed into that over them. Then we launched into our worship set. I punctuated it with the days reading from Revelation, however I'm not sure anyone but me knew it was the lectional verse. And we started very up and moved into some fairly intimate worship. I usually like to bring the congregation back to an up place before the next part of the liturgy (announcements in this case). But I had a sense we were going to rest for a while in intimate worship singing my friend Andy Winmill's song I Want To Be.
There was a word of encouragement spontaneously shared from the congregation and we moved into the song I thought we'd use for outro singing: Lord, Come Now. That one modulates a bit and I started it in G, so I had to distance myself from the mic on the chorus (such fun). And we finished up with some ad lib stuff based around the chorus from The Wall (not Pink Floyd). A nice place to end and 5 minutes early (I like to be on time).
So the pastor, Jimmy, got up and had some short announcements. But then one of the elders got up and shared his heart on some stuff the church has been going through. It was good, but long and heavy. During that time I'm praying for Tim because I didn't know if he knew this was on the agenda. Turns out he did, but it was an interesting space to start speaking from. So sensing this Tim asked me to come do another song - it was interesting how this made the shift that was needed. Roger the elder was basically calling the Church to turn to God in this time, and Tim would do the same in his message, but sometimes you need to transition and that is where worship in song can really help. So I came up with Nathan and we re-did a song from early in our opening set: More Than Anything. It was a new song, but being simple I noticed a high degree of congregational participation before, making it an obvious choice. It was really nice and this also allowed me to pull out Dwell for the outro worship (which it turned out fit beautifully with Tim's message).
The worship in song was weaved all through the service. I think that is so important for this congregation. When we are faced with difficult times, that is when we need the comfort that comes from God's presence. And singing is one of the easiest ways to mediate that presence. Well, at least in this church - they love to engage with worship. I think that is one the things I like best about going there to lead, I am always blessed by how much the congregation just wants to abandon themselves to worship.
When we are planning worship for our liturgies (services), one of the most important things is to be flexible. It is important to have that stability of structure, but some of the most important moments happen when we break out of the structure just a bit and make room for something fresh to happen. I've seen this in the celebration of the Eucharist where there is this sense to add or shift things just a bit, and those become so special and intimate times. Without the structure it is easy to get caught up in muddling through, but the structure gives us room to break out and open ourselves up to recognizing God in whole new ways.
Thanks Hosanna for letting me come share my gifts with you. I think I get the better deal cause I always walk away blessed.
*note: I am primarily referring to worship in song in this post.