One of my favorite songs is “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” I can’t tell you how true that first verse of the song has been for me in time past. The song goes on to share with us a day in the life of someone that does not include the inside of a church on Sunday. This person narrates their life and what they see as they walk off a hangover and try to shake that alone feeling brought on by it being Sunday morning.
Since about Easter 2002 I have attended Sunday worship almost every weekend. After a quick calculation there have been over 500 Sundays this last decade. I may have missed about 100 of them. So, in the lamb’s book of life I probably got a “B.” I am cool with a “B.” That’s passing, right?
My point is that I have been to and lead a lot of Sunday Worship. In my role as a minister I have been part of many special worship services as well. I have worshipped in foreign countries, delivered impromptu sermons on top of half build damns, and broken bread and celebrated the Table in the dark with grape juice and a stale bread roll.
I am also a huge fan of beautiful liturgy that is fabulously performed by well-practiced presiders and liturgists. I love the beauty and pageantry of rite and ritual that connects yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I was trained by the late, great Reverend Dr. Stanley Robertson Hall to be an innovator as I stood on the shoulders of those saints that came before me. It was impressed upon me that beauty matters in worship. Beauty matters in worship, as it is a reminder of the goodness of God.
It seems ever since I have become part of church leadership there have been conversations in conference rooms everywhere about how to get younger folks in to the pews of the church. This conversation has reached beyond city, State, denomination, and congregational size. This conversation “how to get youth in to the pews”, is at the root and desire of so many in the church.
Contemporary worship, removal of pews, evening service times, and a tiding up or liberation of orthodoxy have all been offered as solutions to this dilemma. I personally have spent years trying to “reframe” the question of “How do we get young folks in the pews?” to “How do we connect and build relationships with young folks?” There have been wonderful success stories about congregations letting go and supporting younger leaders as they set out to be the church in today’s context.
These faith communities become beacons in the night to others that hunger for change. Unfortunately, I have seen more horror stories of congregations holding on to power and hope that the church of yesterday will indeed return and desperately act to get young folks in to church roles in the same fashion tires are rotated on a car.
For me the tire rotation church model is ugly. There is no beauty for me in car maintenance. I am not in denial that maintenance of ones vehicle is not important. It is. Just ask those that call up Click and Clack every week.
I am not in to being treated like a part on a car. I want to be engaged as a part of the car. I want shared importance. I want my gifts to be realized and share them with my community. I want worship to engage me and feed me. I want worship that reflects the value I find in Gods fearfully and wonderfully made world.
In most of the 400 or so Sunday worship service I have attended in the last decade I have not felt engaged on any level. In fact, I attended most of them as an obligation to someone or something. I am not saying I have been left with a massive void in the wake of Sunday worship. I am saying that Sunday worship does not speak to me. That is the honest truth. I am a minster and have lead worship in a spiritually dry way.
In my experience the conversations about connecting, growing, or being in relationship with young folks is varied and dynamic. There is one idol that has always been held on to, Sunday worship. We dare not give up Sunday worship as a church. Without Sunday worship we would all stagger around the streets Sunday morning, shaking off hangovers and wearing dirty shirts.
I wonder if Sunday morning worship has not become an idol too big to succeed. I know a lot of folks will push back on me and I fully expect that. I am at a point n my faith that I am willing to let it all go. I am willing to let go of Sunday worship as a defining part of my Christianity.
Imagine a church that gathers as a flash mob in public and performs acts of celebration, mourning, joy, service, and organized for these events in our homes and in public space. We are transparent, welcoming, collaborative, diverse, and decentralized. It is everything the church seems to not be these days. But this idea will never work in a system that delivers highest praise to a static geography of Sunday worship.
Too many Millennials and Gen Xers work erratic schedules or are engaged in the community in other ways that demand their attention. The church has insisted that in order to belong to the Body one must at the very least show up on Sunday and a few other staggered events on the church grounds. When will the church, the gospel, the Christ be liberated in to the fluid moving of the Spirit we witness at Pentecost in Acts?
I am ready and willing to let go of the idol of Sunday worship. I am ready for a new truth, a truth that shall set me free. As one of my favorite artists Fritz Scholder famously said, It ain’t ugly if it’s the truth.” And the truth is, it’s time for a new beauty to arrive.