Tuesday, October 24, 2006

NEJ Great Leadership Event: Worship Thoughts

(Aside: this was intended to be posted on Saturday, but Blogger was being rather frustrating that day, and so I was unable to post it. So....imagine me on Saturday writing this as opposed to me on Tuesday).

Right. So I was a bit naive in thinking that I would actually have the time to do any serious blogging this week. One supervised ministry journal, one systematic paper, reading galore, 3/5 of a systematic midterm, a children's sermon, and a letter later, I'm spent for the week. My brain is jelly, and I'm looking forward to some mindless Neverwinter Nights gameplay.

Unfortunately, because I was so busy, I wasn't able to enjoy the Tipple-Vosburg lectures at Drew. For those of you who don't know, T-V is a huge lecture series with many distinguished speakers that's tied in with alumni reunions. They played around with chapel time a bit (which I was a bit miffed about, sure, sure, move chapel on Wednesday so it's during class so you can have someone give an academic lecture during normally scheudled chapel time...) and moved it on Thursday to the Baldwin Gym to accomodate both Drewids and those there for the T-V. Worship was...nice, nothing spectacular. Singing in the seminary choir was the best thing about it, for me.

Worship in the UMC tradition, I find, is consistently sub-par. I find that individual churches tend to do better with worship than bigger conferences do (although, I've visited more than a few churches that have terrible worship). Worship at the NEJ Great Leadership event borderlined disastrous for me at one point. On Friday evening, Zan Holmes preached this inspiring sermon and had the energy level up in that convention hall so high, I felt like the congregation could spontaneously burst forth into song at any moment. Instead of some rousing hymn, this sermon was followed by a responsive reading that would have been better placed elsewhere in the service, by a woman who told us to be enthusiastic in our reading. It felt like a helium balloon had just punctured. We then sang an odd, but up-beat arrangement of Standing on the Promises that I liked, but it just didn’t fit the overall character of the service. We then ended with a beautifully haunting and mysterious sung communion liturgy that was set in a minor key. But…it shouldn’t have been placed after Zan Holmes preaching!

Saturday morning’s service was a bit better constructed, although time constraints but a limit on how much we could do, I’m sure. Some songs that we sung I felt were cut short…and Jikelele (an African song that’s really laid-back and swingerish) together in a service with Montana (lyrics here, it’s an up-beat, dance-like song) didn’t fit for me.

I really feel like worship leaders in our conferences need some training when it comes to the overall energy of a worship service and how to manipulate that energy. They tend to be good when carrying an image through the entire service, but not so good about making the worship tie in together. For me, it’s far more satisfying to have a worship service that is consistent in its energy movement than one that is thematic but jumps from high to low. I don’t presume to be an expert in worship leadership by any means, but I’m speaking as one who enjoys a well put-together worship service.

1 comment:

David said...

My overall experience with UMC conference worship, at any level, is similar to yours. I've seen a few good services, and many, many internally inconsistent, odd, mediocre, or sometimes just "hard to believe this is worship" services.

I think part of the reason our local church worship is at least more internally consistent, if not always better, is because most of the time the local church pastor is also worship leader, chief worship planner, preacher, and celebrant--meaning one main aesthetic in conversation with the congregation makes most of the week-to-week changes that take place in worship.

I'm no expert, but I'd like to be one someday. I'm convinced a significant part of our service in the name of Christ is our worship as part of the Body of Christ... and too often we don't do that as well as we should--especially a conferences where our communication between participants is less in-depth than it should be.