Maggi Dawn on Liturgy

by Richard on September 29, 2011

It’s not “the work of the people”, she says

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }


PamBG 09.29.11 at 9:32 pm

Maggie wrote:

“the work of the people” is easily misused to imply that anyone and everyone has the right to have worship be the way they like it. And while I’m absolutely subscribed to inclusivity in worship, the second you cross that line to say “worship is about me”, worship disintegrates into an unholy mess. It’s not about me, or about you. It’s not the work of the people, it’s work in service of God that benefits the people. It’s FOR the people, but not OF them.

And I totally agree.


Tony Buglass 09.30.11 at 9:58 am

It’s the work of the people insofar as it isn’t just the work of the priest/celebrant/minister/preacher. Too many passive audiences. I read the emphasis as work of the people as referring to the community of worship, of which I am only a part. It isn’t about ‘me’ it’s about ‘us’ in the presence of God. Surely anything which is focussed on “I want” is the antithesis of worship.


PamBG 09.30.11 at 10:47 pm

It’s the work of the people insofar as it isn’t just the work of the priest/celebrant/minister/preacher.

That’s what her article says, I think. Yay for participation by everyone, nix on the idea that worship is about consumer choice.


Pam 09.30.11 at 11:50 pm

“nix on the idea that worship is about consumer choice”
Why don’t we just walk into the nearest geographical church and worship?
Of course, we choose. We choose for many reasons. Which isn’t very flattering for us.
I’m pretty sure God is present in every church building, in every campfire in the countryside, in every dysfunctional home, in every place He’s needed.


Tony Buglass 10.01.11 at 12:05 am

“Of course, we choose. We choose for many reasons. Which isn’t very flattering for us.”

Depends. For some, the style style of worship practised in one tradition may be as much a turn-off as it is vital for others, while in the church down the road it’s the opposite. The kind of person who’d be at home in a Pentecostal rave-up would be lost or even completely untouched by high Catholic liturgy, and profoundly bored in a typical Protestant preaching service. It’s less about choice or prejudice, more about personality type leading to styles of spirituality.


Pam 10.01.11 at 12:24 am

I understand your point Tony.
But in that case it’s not ‘all about God’ it’s really ‘all about us’.


Bob Gilston 10.01.11 at 12:23 pm

“But in that case it’s not ‘all about God’ it’s really ‘all about us’.” When I find myself in an act of worship which is different from what I prefer, I really do try and engage and accept the worship for what it is and to worship God even though I’m not completely comfortable. However, I don’t want to feel guilty about worshipping where I prefer the style of worship.


Tony Buglass 10.01.11 at 8:57 pm

“But in that case it’s not ‘all about God’ it’s really ‘all about us’.”

Surely the point is that worship is about us AND God together. If it isn’t a conversation arising out of a relationship, what is it? Where’s the connection? And for their to be a connection, it has to be in a form or language which is amenable to us.

If I want to talk to the 7-yr-olds in our Brownie group, or the teenagers in my ATC squadron, or the preachers who attend our Bible study, I will choose a frame of language to meet with them at their level.

Isn’t that the point of the incarnation - God getting alongside us?


Tony Buglass 10.01.11 at 9:00 pm

For “And for their to be a connection…” read “and for there to be a connection…” I blame the heat, and the fact that I’ve just been transporting our son and all his goods and chattels to his university hall, which was a good distance from the nearest where we could park. And then I watched Dr Who. ‘Nuff said….


Pam 10.02.11 at 3:01 am

Gosh, this is difficult to explain. I agree the point of worship is about us AND God together. But I feel a little disquiet about the different preferences in worship styles e.g. Pentecostal rave-up, Catholic liturgy,etc. These seem to categorise people and divide more than unite. When we walk into church do we think “great, the hymns will be good today, they’re by such and such…” and “no bells and smells for me”. If so, then it’s “about us”.
I think really reaching people involves being our own personalities, and presenting an unchanging story.


Tony Buglass 10.02.11 at 9:34 am

“But I feel a little disquiet about the different preferences in worship styles e.g. Pentecostal rave-up, Catholic liturgy,etc. These seem to categorise people and divide more than unite.”

Back in the ecumenical discussions a few decades ago it was common to hear reference to “the sin of our divisions.” That was intended to argue that our different denominations were wrong, and we should all unite into “the one coming Great Church” - which evangelicals immediately identified as the Whore of Revelation, or something like that. There were many united services, especially during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which all tended to be a ‘lowest common denominator’ liturgy - blending everything together in a way which was intended o include all and offend none, and succeeded only in losing the distinctive emphases of the different traditions. Thankfully, that passed, and people began to share each other’s special gifts, and learn to appreciate what they could receive from others - but also to treasure their own.

The ’sin of our divisions’ is not that we are different, but that we allow our differences to come between us, that we insist that others should be like us in order to be acceptable. No - let’s accept the diversity as a gift. There are some things I just can’t believe, and there are styles of worship which just don’t do it for me, but if they help my friends to come closer to God (and thus closer to folk like me who are also getting closer to God) I can live with the dissonances in order to find the harmony.


Bob Gilston 10.02.11 at 1:48 pm

“But what is worship? What ought to result from it? What is the point and peak and heart and center of it? Is it the offering we bring to God of praise and adoration, of thanksgiving and sacrifice, our praise, our sacrifice to Him? That has its place, not legitimate only, but imperative. And yet to put that in the foreground is to make the service fundamentally man-centered and subjective, which, face to face with God, is surely almost unthinkably unseemly. Or is the ideal we should hold before us that other extreme, so ardently pressed on us these days, that, face to face with the Lord God Almighty, High and Holy, it is for us to forget ourselves and, leaving behind our petty little human joys and needs and sins and risings above thanksgiving and petition and confession, to lose ourselves in an awed adoration of God’s naked and essential being, blessing and praising Him, not even for what he has done for us, and been for us, but for what, in Himself, He is.”
A.J.Gossip “Experience Worketh Hope”

Interestingly, our preacher highlighted the fact that we sometimes lose the sense of awe of God because of our Methodist simplistic church architecture and style of worship. When we go into the highly ornate churches of Bavaria we may get a greater sense of being in awe. But what came out of our worship this morning was the need for humility, of not being self-centred, but God-centred.

I don’t think that my preference for a particular style of worship causes my worship to be about me, but hopefully it reflects who I am and in God’s presence who I might be.


PamBG 10.02.11 at 4:09 pm

When I came here to the US, I headed straight for the nearest Methodist church and I believe that I tried very hard to make it work. About a year later, I got challenged by a friend about why I was attending a church that didn’t help me grow spiritually and I changed churches. I’m still learning to be a part of this new church. According to one study that I know about, it takes about two years for new attendees to start feeling like they are part of a congregation and I’m still very much in that stage although I can tell that my new congregation is nourishing me.

I wonder what suggestions Pam might have as to how I could have / should have adjusted my attitude in order to be spiritually fed by the first church?


Pam 10.03.11 at 12:28 am

Thanks for those three comments. All three had much food for thought. And I agree with lots of what you’ve all said.
Pam BG, I think in order to be spiritually fed we do have to feel comfortable and loved and maybe expectations/attitudes have to be adjusted to return those feelings. I don’t totally agree with all the theology of my church but I do feel comfortable and loved, more important in my opinion.


PamBG 10.03.11 at 11:13 am

I certainly didn’t feel comfortable or respected. I’ve had enough of the concept of love as “I love you so much, I need you to accept my ideas about God and I’m going to keep ‘challenging’ you until you do.” I understand that people believe this to be loving. I don’t think it is.


Pam 10.03.11 at 11:35 am

I’ve never been pressured about “accepting” doctrine. Our minister spoke about homosexuality in his sermon last Sunday and I didn’t agree with all he said. And he knows it. That doesn’t mean we can’t respect each other and show ‘love’.


PamBG 10.03.11 at 5:39 pm

Other people in the congregation can have different theology from me. That’s not pressure.

I was being ‘challenged’ to convert hospital patients of other faiths to Christianity by two prominent lay families. It’s not only illegal and against professional standards for a hospital Chaplain to do that, but I also personally believe it’s emotionally abusive to attempt to convert a vulnerable individual. No one spoke up when they heard this going on. Not even the assistant pastor who was retired and really had nothing to lose. Everyone was so worried about being ‘diplomatic’ with these families who behaved with propriety but were stealth bullies.

This was not the single reason I left but it was most certainly the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I suppose that if I was really emotionally mature, I wouldn’t have minded being ‘challenged’ like that on a regular basis.


Tony Buglass 10.04.11 at 12:44 am

“I suppose that if I was really emotionally mature, I wouldn’t have minded being ‘challenged’ like that on a regular basis.”

Everyone has their limits. There’s a difference between being challenged and being in the wrong place. Personally, I reckon I’m fortunate in being able to worship on a pretty wide spectrum between charismatic and Anglican/liturgical. However, the further out from my own ‘centre’ I get, the more mental reservations I find I’m making. When the reservations outweigh the affirmations, I know I’ve gone too far and need to move back.

If I’m being pressured and bullied into conforming to something I either wish to question or know I don’t believe, then that may be a sign I need to move on. I suspect it’s less to do with my emotional maturity and more to do with theirs. We’re all children of one age or another, but some tend to be more childish than childlike.


Pam 10.04.11 at 2:34 am

Sorry I didn’t get back to you last night Pam. I was watching Slovaj Zizek on ABC-TV’s Q&A - what a treat! He’s twitchy but terrific.

Here’s my Joke of the Week for you:

Father O’Malley answers the phone.
“Hello Father O’Malley. This is John Smithers of the Taxation Office. Can you help us with an inquiry regarding one of your parishioners?”
“I can.”
“Do you know a Ted Houlihan?”
“I do.”
“Is he a member of your congregation?”
“He is.”
“Did he donate $10,000 to your church?”
“He will.”


PamBG 10.04.11 at 5:30 pm

Tony, I was actually being sarcastic, but I agree with you.

Pam, sometimes all-or-nothing thinking is profoundly unhelpful. Other people sometimes have good reasons for doing things that go against the principles I hold and it’s not always character fault or a moral or ethical problem. The joke deflects the issue, so I address it.

I think Maggie has a point which I’d phrase as “Why don’t we Christians be authentic to who we are and let’s not worry about the people who say they don’t want to come to church because it’s boring. They probably are just fishing for excuses, so let’s not bend too far to accommodate them.”

I applaud the congregation that can hold diversity of belief within it. I think that’s healthy. It’s why I chose my current congregation and why I chose the Methodist congregation in London that launched me out into ministry by their challenge and encouragement.


Bob Gilston 10.04.11 at 10:02 pm

PamBG - You’re right, but it was a good joke.


Pam 10.04.11 at 10:36 pm

Hi Pam,

Look, a major fault with me is that I laugh at my own jokes! And Bob, my husband (Catholic) can supply me with endless jokes about the Pope.

Re: your paragraph starting “I think Maggie has a point…”
I have a friend, a close one, who works with me at an op shop. She was brought up in the church but, like many, now finds nothing appealing enough to walk through a church door to worship. But she often initiates a conversation about faith and said to me once “you have a deep faith”. Which almost made me fall over. I continue to invite her to events at our church and she continues to say no, but I will continue to invite. I will bend as far as she wants me to and I’ll share my frustrations and challenges with her. She has to make the commitment of course. But she’s my friend whether atheist, agnostic or devout Christian. She’s valuable to me and I know she’s priceless to God.
I would say my congregation is not particularly “diverse in belief” but just “diverse”. As I said, what I like about my congregation, and minister, is their acceptance.


PamBG 10.06.11 at 9:50 pm

Thank you, Pam. I have no problem with you attending your church.

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