Tuesday, August 08, 2006,2:35 PM
Communal worship
So I’ve been thinking about worship as a communal act. In scripture we are told that true worship involves loosing the chains of injustice, setting the oppressed free, to feed the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless (Isaiah 58). All of those things are done in community. But in our churches we are so focused on worship as singing that it has come to be an individual act. Yes singing to God is a form of worship, but perhaps we go to far when we make the worship time just about us personally connecting to God.

What got me thinking about this was what happened at church this past Sunday. There was the regular worship song selections led by the band and pretty much only by the band since the powerpoint was off the whole morning. We had a great sermon about the life Christ has called us to, but what stood out was what occurred after the regular church service ended. After most people had left, the band started jamming and ended up playing a great rendition of Sweet Home Alabama. It was obvious that the people in the band were enjoying themselves as were those of us just standing around. We were clapping and dancing and cheering them on. There was an energy in the room as we all experienced something that we all really enjoyed. We were a community at that moment – participating in a mutual experience and enjoying it for what it was.

I’ve felt that same energy a few other times before. Strangely enough it has been among groups of strangers. I felt it at the Bristol Renaissance Faire when at the close of the day the crowds gatherer into the drum circle and dance to the beat of the drums. It is a wild, tribal, pagany gathering – buts it’s alive and full of energy as we dance as one entity full of the joie de vivre. Similarly I’ve felt that same energy in a crowd of 5000 at the National Youthworkers Convention as caught up in singing with the David Crowder Band the joy overflowed into dancing.

Some may say it’s a mob mentality – a large group of people being swept up into some communal mind. It happens at concerts all the time. But I think there is something deeper there as people are moved to express the energy and joy that is welling up inside of them alongside others. It is community experiencing joy together and having no choice but to let it loose. Too often we fear what others think instead of encouraging them to give into the joy that God fills us with. To me that is worship. To share joy with others. Be that through energetic displays of passion or through helping those who need help. Something big and wondrous can happen when we join others in worship – when it moves past just us and involves all of God’s children.

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posted by Julie at 2:35 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 8/09/2006 09:07:00 AM, Blogger gerbmom

    I’ve noticed that too - strangely enough at band practice back when I used to do vocals. Our practice sessions truly ended up being the worship sessions – we just let loose and had fun with each other and God. It was my favorite time of the week. It was heartfelt and healing. One Sunday morning our pastor wanted to talk to us. He said several people had mentioned to him that he might want to check out the band at practice because we were a whole different entity then. He was told we had joy, exuberance, passion – all the rest. So he just wanted to ask us to let that flow into Sunday morning where that was never seen. Right. First of all, you can’t demand that it happen. Second of all, we would have all been out on our ears. Most people wouldn’t have understood, or tried to understand and we would have been judged.
    We never got to find out. We had issues after that that broke up the team. Sadly. And obviously I moved on. Now it is a shell – a reined in, defeated, going through the motions shell…..
    But I really learned what it meant to deep down truly worship during those times. Energy? Mob mentality? All I know is it was God at work using our talents and passions to allow us to fully worship him with no reservations, in a way that could never have happened individually.

  • At 8/12/2006 12:39:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    I wonder too if it's easier to worship if there isn't an "audience". Maybe that's why Julie experiences this kind of thing more often among "strangers" or why your band was better during "practice" than during the "real thing". Maybe it's easier to really worship when it's just about enjoyment and not about performance.

  • At 8/14/2006 12:26:00 PM, Blogger gerbmom

    And that would also be why I found it easy to worship when I went to Willow with Dana. No one knew me, no one was watching me, no one was judging me.
    And that was incredibly healing. I really think that was what enabled me to move on....

  • At 8/20/2006 03:15:00 PM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    I wonder if it comes together out of having sufficient opportunities to erupt. Also, the times I've experienced have had spontaneity but also there's been an underlying level of competence. Someone was good enough to give a lead, and the rest of us could follow along depending on that underlying competence to carry us above our own abilities.

    I love those type of things. I'd love to find some way to build that kind of thing into our DNA as a church. But it's such a high, that the danger is in highjacking people's emotions - they think the high is our spiritual life, not the everyday.

  • At 8/22/2006 09:08:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    exactly Char, but it is nice to have the highs from time to time

  • At 8/24/2006 10:19:00 AM, Blogger Sue Densmore

    I happened by your blog, and enjoyed reading this post. SO, of course, I had to put in my two cents.

    I think that another important part of having that true communal worship experience is that the community needs to be taught what it is. I mean, leading by example is great, but what gerbmom said about people not understanding is also true.

    So maybe, to achieve a better communal experience in worship, or maybe an experience that actually is communal rather than individual, we have to get the whole community on the same page.

    Don't know if that resonates with anyone.

  • At 8/26/2006 10:03:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    welcome sue... your right it helps to have people on the same page. when people come to church expecting different things or understanding worship or the purpose of church differently then its hard to be a community. so those moments when something common to all (like a popular song) binds us together, a deeper sense of community is reached.


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