Sunday, April 23, 2006

Easter Reflections

Now that a week has gone by, I feel like maybe I can put into words some of my thoughts and feelings regarding attending an Easter morning service at Church of the Resurrection. I have to visit a variety of worship services for my worship class this semester, and after visiting COR for an anaysis of their space I thought it would be good for me to attend a worship service. I've never really had a "mega-church" experience, and I don't know why it struck me to go on Easter morning, but I went to their 9 am service which got out in plenty of time for me to get to my "regular" 10:45 service at Trinity.

The first thing that struck me upon arrival at COR was the sheer number of people - it was quite an amazing operation just to facilitate parking for everyone! We walked into the atrium/gathering space and there was quite a crowd milling about since the previous service was still going. I browsed in the book store and coffee shop before just standing in a kind of line that had formed to make our way into the sactuary once the others filed out. I walked in and found a single seat on the end of a row about halfway back and sat down to look through the worship bulletin. Right off the bat, I thought it was very odd that there wasn't a typical order of worship laid out. Granted, not all churches do it the same way, but I'm used to there being something that tells you what the scripture and songs are going to be that day and there wasn't anything like that. There were, however, notes and an outline of the sermon and a printed version of the scripture reading for the day.

The other big thing that struck me was the way the people didn't really seem to have to do anything - they were invited to sing, but not using hymnals - the words were printed on the big video screens on either side of the altar area. I guess there's something to be said for getting people to look up rather than down at their books in front of them, but if they were actively singing along, I couldn't hear them - not even the person standing next to me. I didn't want to be obvious about looking around so I didn't really look to see how many people were singing, but I did see some mouths moving - just couldn't hear anything. Acoustic problem I guess. Even when the congregation was invited to pray, it was strange. The first time was when the minister (not Adam Hamilton, who only seems to preach) said "pray with me" and then turned around so that she had her back to the congregation and knelt on a kneeler in front of the altar table. She then said a prayer and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be watching her or praying the words with her or what. Then a little later we were asked to join in the Lord's prayer, which once again had the words on the video screens - and this time it made sense to me since many of the people at COR aren't familiar with it.

And I think that's where I finally landed - that COR wasn't for me, but it wasn't meant to be. It's targeting a specific population of people and I do not fit that demographic, and that's fine. I can get into the quality vs. quantity debate, but the fact is that this church is doing something that a lot of other churches don't - cater to those who are foreign to the concept. It's growing by leaps and bounds, and I have no idea why that's the case, but these people seem to be getting some sort of need met there. Perhaps it will be just the first step on their faith journey and they will eventually find another church home that goes a little deeper if/when they are ready for it or perhaps they will stay comfortable in the basic level that seems to be offered there. Of course, I've only been the one time, so I have no idea how involved people can get over time there, and this all only my opinion and general impression.

I was not comfortable there - for a variety of reasons. I don't like the affluence and abundance of material items that seems to be so prevalent there. I wasn't wearing the latest fashion or driving an SUV. I didn't need to words to the Lord's Prayer put on a screen and I didn't someone to pray on my behalf because I didn't know how to do it. I did, however, love the music - the choir and the orchestra were very good and ending with the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah put me in a wonderful mood for the rest of the day. I sang along with gusto and don't think anybody noticed or cared. :) I still have to write a paper about the service for my class, and that will be a much more detailed analysis, but this is plenty for now.


Marcia Philbrick said...

Unlike you, I enjoy the experience of worship at COR. I am a member of a small rural church and serve on the council. I am also a "cyber member" of COR since I watch the sermons weekly. Like you, I had the privilege of attending the 9 am service on Easter morning. Like those around me, I joined in singing the opening songs. The energy from those songs -- especially Christ the Lord Is Arisen Today -- was very moving.

I agree that COR leaves out a lot of the traditional aspects of worship. However, they don't water down the message. Having watched the sermons and read the daily readings for the past year, I feel that my faith has grown by leaps and bounds. I only wish that I could participate in one of their small groups or one of their Bible study groups.

My local church has had a projector and powerpoint presentations for about 2 years. At first, I was like you and did not see the need for the presentations. However, after observing the congregation on a Sunday when we did not have the song lyrics on the screen, I became a big "fan" of the presentations. It was obvious that families with young children struggled to sing because they couldn't hold their hymnal and handle their children at the same time. Even though they haven't admitted it, I believe those who need bifocals prefer the words on the screen versus trying to hold a hymnal and read the lyrics. I also believe that the photographs and art work used in those presentations helps focus me spiritually.

Perhaps you need to read The Present Future by Reggie McNeal

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