When I first came to The Village, I felt a bit awkward around “the service.” I didn’t recognize the music, and was unfamiliar with the rhythms. I was a bit out of place. But I had been invited to the church to listen to Layne play in the band, so I felt a pull to stay and engage with what was happening around me. I could tell that the other people who were singing along were Villagers for a while, since the music wasn’t the music you learned as a kid. So despite the awkwardness, I made the assumption that the other people around me were only a few chapters ahead of me in the narrative that was “the service.”
And so I decided to STAY in the service each time. Now that we have our own building and there are other places to go when service is happening, it’s easy to choose to move around a bit. But I’ve realized that there is a more full value in remaining in the sanctuary; it is indeed a sacred place. To remain is to honor what others have to offer. It is powerful to watch as my community takes Holy Communion. It is beautiful to watch someone cry at the healing chair, to watch people cry over someone in the healing chair, to be the one who cries in the healing chair. I get to be a participant and also an observer in this dance that happens in the sanctuary.
Leaving the service gives me the power to choose when, perhaps, God is inviting other conversations. But it also takes that power away from God who may be planning those conversation that could be happening within the service. (But I also tell myself it’s ok to go to the bathroom if I need to, or take care of immediate needs if necessary. And I’m also aware of the anxiety that often accompanies being in a big room with lots of people. It’s OK to step out.) It’s easy to make my way to the bathroom, have a superficial conversation about how the kitchen cook is making it smell good in the church, or check my phone for an unimportant change in some far off place. And yet this fills a longing in me to engage. And right back in the sanctuary is where a deep engagement can occur.
So I believe that we have designed the rhythms of “the service” to allow for something sacred to happen, to give God the power to create something really awesome. Singing hymns and songs, watching the 3-8 year olds say the Apostle’s Creed or The Lord’s Prayer, journaling through the sermon, and singing more songs is a way I can more fully open my heart to God’s interaction with my life. I don’t want to miss Rod’s offering of God’s Blessing.
I am not bound by the service; it is not a mandatory part of my membership. But now that I realize that I am receiving a full offering of God’s provision, I have a freedom to gather, a freedom to worship, and a freedom to be. So I encourage you to remain in the service, to stay when you feel an urge to leave, to engage when you have an inkling to look down or disengage. And I pray that God will respond with a sweetness, a deep richness of experience, and a goodness that you long for.