Try It on for Size

“If your doin’ doesn’t dance with your sayin’, you haven’t chosen life.”

One of my spiritual mentors, Rev. Cecil Williams of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco wrote this quote in his book I’m Alive. When I first read these words during my career as a professional dancer, I was hit hard with the metaphor of dancing life with integrity. At that time, my inklings about using my artistry in worship became full-blown dreams, and it wasn’t long before I enrolled in seminary.

These words stuck with me as I earned a PhD in worship and ethics. I believe that what we do in worship matters deeply. I believe that we must “practice what we preach” through the actions of our worship. Worship must be a time when we truly embody what we proclaim. In other words, we don’t just talk about hope, peace, reconciliation, and right relationship; we come together in worship to “try it on for size.” Do we look and act like what we believe? If we really believe in the priesthood of all believers, do we see all worshipers actively engaged””serving, proclaiming, praising, and praying””not just watching the “professionals” do it? The way Jesus gathered a great diversity of people at tables was his way of showing how to be a neighbor. We are called to follow his example in worship and then to go out into the world and do likewise.

Here are some ideas to “try on for size”:

1) If you usually receive communion individually at a rail or by intinction, try inviting people to serve one another in small groupings or in a circle, depending on the size of your church.

2) A few weeks before a series, invite people to a “fill in the blank” such as “I see hope in ___________,” and then fashion these into Affirmations of Hope for each week of the series.

3) If prayers are always “pastoral,” try inviting lay persons to pray each week of a worship series (they could be written out if this is more comfortable for folks).

As you work together to learn about and enhance your church’s worship, I hope that you will include as part of your conversation the importance of sharing the deepest things we know, actively engaging in worship together as the Body of Christ, and modeling what it is to live in the “kin-dom”–the diverse family of God. Amazing things will transpire!