Holy Rollers

Yesterday in my online news reading, I came across this story about a Detroit church.  Sunday featured a sermon on “God’s Bailout Plan”, and the altar was adorned with 3 SUVs.

Just as I was rolling my eyes at this, the thought occurred to me:  I could see something similar happening at my church.

Background:  I was raised Baptist, my husband Lutheran.  When we met, it quickly became apparent that he could never go Baptist (legalism on some things like drinking bothered him), while Lutheran was a step too far for me (I couldn’t get over infant baptism).  So, for months we visited church after church.  We used to get a big kick out of visiting two or even three churches on any given Sunday.

Finally, we found a church we both were happy with, mainly because of the excellent pastor.  He was more of a teacher than a pastor actually; each Sunday we were inspired and actually learned something.  I can’t imagine falling asleep during one of his sermons.  The church was smallish, about 150.

The years went by, and apparently more people were noticing the pastor because the church began to grow.  Today, we have over 1,000 each Sunday, and our dear little church has become that modern monstrosity, the megachurch.

The sermons are still good, but now tend to be themed around a television show or something else in pop culture.  We have drama skits aimed to “connect”.  And of course, the ubiquitous giant screen in the front which projects the words to the songs, because you know, looking it up in the hymnal is SO 1980.

Speaking of which, who even uses a hymnal anymore?  We are hip and “with it,” with a “worship band” complete with synthesizer, drums, and numerous guitars.  Organ?  Passe!

This all saddens me, and I frequently think that the place I feel oldest and most like life has passed me by is in church.  I feel much more worshipful when listening to, say, Mozart’s Requiem than singing a phrase like “I am a friend of God” over and over( and over.)  Give me the strains of a good Widor organ symphony over the acoustic guitar anytime, something more serious and dignified — yet I know that I’m in the minority.

It bothers me also that my kids are growing up with this as their construct for “what church is”.

So why are we still there?  It’s a good question.  One thing I’ve learned is that when you have kids, it becomes harder to just uproot and go to a new church.  We’ve visited some other churches, and even that is difficult, as churches tend to be so – well, evangelistic.  They’re just so happy to see a NEW FAMILY; it makes you feel bad to not return.  (This is a whole other post, but I find it highly interesting how welcoming churches are to families who visit, yet how invisible I was when visiting a church in my single days.  The contrast is striking).

We found a nearby church with wonderful classical music and hymns, yet the pastor was very ho-hum.

I suppose for now we are staying because the pastor is good, and that’s no small thing.  If he brings an SUV to the altar for the new year though, all bets are off.

4 thoughts on “Holy Rollers

  1. Oh, you hit on lots of great stuff right here. I’m Lutheran and I do feel that we are losing so much of our “culture” lately. Children today have no idea how to use a hymnal and when the lyrics are put on the screen, the kids don’t even have the benefit of seeing the notes. I’m not sure you are as far in the GiveMeSomeHymns Minority as you think you are. I believe many of us hunger for some theologically rich hymns from “back in the day.”
    (I have many Baptist friends and I’m dying to know what “flavor” was the middle ground for you and your Lutheran husband.)

  2. Since you posted on that post and this is right along the lines of what I found so awesome about Truro:

    I don’t mind most of the modern worship songs (its my generation, so I guess I grew up with it). However, coming from that liturgical background I have and being a member of a classical choir in high school, I love traditional music, too.

    My high school choir, though, was unique. I didn’t know it was at the time, but discovered it was in college. My director loved it when we had passion in the music. We’d sing Mendelssohn with all the passion we could muster. And made her cry, lol. So, I guess I saw that traditional can be done with passion. You don’t see many traditional church choirs putting in a lot of passion and they drive how the congregation sings their hymns. Its like they’re bored with the music they are singing.

    When churches mix the two in a healthy, balanced way, it opens the service up to reverent praise. The modern worship helps the congregation loosen up enough to feel the JOY of Christ and that its ok to rejoice (like David in the streets when the Ark entered Jerusalem). And then enter the more theologically meaty hymns – its amazing, truly and awesomely amazing, how profoundly different the hymns are when sung in a spirit of praise. And it hits you in a truly profound way that the hymns don’t when sung in stodgy tedium…or when simple worship songs are sung in reckless abandon.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing your thoughts.