A note from
Rev. Rob Warren
Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda. Once reformed, always reforming.... and if your eyes didn't glaze over just now, then the previous ministers haven't been doing their jobs (I'm kidding). The phrase has fallen in and out of use in the church for centuries now, and it is meant to be a challenge to both the conservative and the liberal impulses the church might express through the years. But only if it includes the oft-ignored phrases, "in accordance with God's Word" and "lead by the Holy Spirit." Because that is the only way that it can challenge those who wish to preserve our history and those who wish to change based on current thought. It constantly seeks to maintain the "roots" of what has been grown while still growing. I'm told that this idea is much like the growth of a tree--in order to be healthy, a stable root system must expand while it grows its limbs.
This same idea can also be applied to church growth, that a healthy church seeks to grow deeper in discipleship while growing into the world around it (the trunk gets thicker, too--i.e., growing membership). It works for businesses, to adapt to the needs of the clients while maintaining the principles upon which it was founded. Governments, we the people... I think you have the idea. The notion is to challenge what has been, in light of what is now, to become what we will be. But for goodness’ sake and, in the case of churches, for "God's" sake, change for the sake of change is seldom helpful.
In that spirit, there are going to be some changes in worship starting THIS WEEK--changes that focus more on the "roots" than the branches and the leaves. You may recall, when we first began holding worship in the sanctuary again (it hasn't been that long), the services were about 20-30 minutes and many parts of worship were missing (the most obvious: the choir, passing offering plates, sharing communion elements, etc.) and not-so-obvious ones as well (shared readings, liturgists, etc.); in fact, most of those services were "live" versions of the ones that had been pre-recorded and "released" online at pre-determined times. But then, as a flower bends to the sun, we slowly turned more toward additional elements in new ways. We began leaving the sanctuary to sing in the parking lot (which was never rained out by the way). We began celebrating communion with pre-packaged wafers and cups. The choir began singing...
Starting this week, there are going to be a few more changes. Singing outside was a good idea that suffered a bit in execution. For starters, mobility difficulties made it a bit more difficult for some than others, there was a constant worry about rain, and frankly, as the new pastor, I didn't get a chance to look most people in the eyes because I was fooling with the camera/tripod and it really gave a sense of "two endings" to the service. One after the prayers of the people/Lord's Prayer (which doesn't bother me because I used to worship where the end of the service was "sermon-song-blessing-bye") and one after we sang outside and did a blessing (which spread everyone out). So, the first change is that we will no longer be leaving the sanctuary before worship ends--the choir will sing the final hymn and I will be at the end of the walkway after church to bless people on their way (like it was when we first returned).
Now the other "get to our roots" addition to worship will be an inclusion of a statement of faith each week. Most weeks, this will be the Apostle's Creed. We will begin with the "...sitteth on the right hand..." version that is familiar to most of us, and we will occasionally use the Book of Common Worship version (adopted last century) or other creeds/portions of confessions in our worship service. As a member of the church rightfully pointed out, in the past few years our historical confessions have lost their visibility within the church. We will also look forward to including other parts of the service (offering, doxology, congregational singing, use of liturgists etc.) as our situation continues to allow us to reform, in accordance with God's Word and as we are led by the Holy Spirit.
Now, I know that this does not please everyone, so I offer this...
I miss the communion table. I miss standing behind it, breaking the bread, pouring the juice, blessing the trays and having the elders distribute the elements within the congregation. To me, this is a "shared table" experience. The cups we pick up on the way into the sanctuary? I don't hate them, because they allow us to still share in a way, but my fingernails are always too short to get the wafer out without first opening the cup. Then I try to be delicate opening the wafer without spilling the juice. If you've noticed, when it comes to that part in worship, I've already pulled the top layer of film off the plastic so I don't fumble so much. I doubt seriously that the quality of the wafer is affected by the extra 20 minutes of air. It doesn't "feel" right to me. At some point the feast of forgiveness became a lunchable. BUT I also know this: right now we have a couple of choices. We can continue to do communion this way, or not share communion at all. So, until the day when it is safe having a "common" plate and trays that can be passed from person to person, I'll keep ordering them.
But I will only order them 100 at a time (the minimum order) because every time we use them, I still hope that next month our circumstances may have changed to allow us to return to our roots... because, just like I believe in semper reformonda, I also believe in that old Greek saying, "anne den sou aresei aux caerus, perimene pende lepta, t allaksei." (Αν δεν σου αρέσει ο καιρός, περίμενε πέντε λεπτά, θα αλλάξει) which loosely translates, "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes; it'll change."
God bless you.