As a pastor, I sometimes get invited (or challenged) by strangers to casually weigh in on complex theological issues. And, sometimes I am asked whether I prefer contemporary or traditional music in worship. For years, my standard response was, “You know, if I had my druthers, we’d sing gospel bluegrass every Sunday.” Which seems to immediately disqualify me from either side of the “worship wars.”
Admittedly, I am a newcomer to Christian worship in anything other than a more traditional style. Faced with the challenge of planning non-traditional services, I went to the well of worship from conferences, camps and chapels past. From scribbled notes, fading memories and impressions of these experiences, I hope to design meaningful liturgy to share with the Church as a fragrant and sonorous offering to God.
An even greater resource I am discovering, however, is the Church itself.
You may have heard that the fancy word for worship, “Liturgy,” comes from the Greek idea of public service, or the work of the people. In this sense, worship is not so much a ministration of the clergy to–or on behalf of–the Church. It is a meeting between God and the people of God. It is call and response, mystery and wonder, loving initiative and thanksgiving.
Sharing new ways to engage in worship is the hope and inspiration behind Pick Up and Play, a gathering of praise and worship leaders from Moravian churches in Pennsylvania’s greater Lehigh Valley. Billed as a time for practice and play, pizza provided, BYOI (Bring Your Own Instrument), our first gathering at the Emmaus Moravian Church brought together around twenty musicians from six different parishes. We learned and shared music from each other’s repertoires; transposed, improvised and workshopped an original piece; and made plans to get together again.
Learning to be part of a worship team, seeking out collaborative, creative community and wanting to be in conversation with others about the practice of praise; these are the joyful labors we hope to encourage. And, we would encourage you wherever you are to look for others to explore and to offer new approaches to music and ministry together.
The Rev. Brian Dixon is pastor of Emmaus Moravian Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania.