Saturday, 23 February 2013


Involved in role play this weekend in a training situation has raised again, for me, how much of a role we play every day in ministry. And particularly in worship.
Given the stresses and strains and demands of a week in the parish how does one, first of all, faithfully carve out and ring fence time to prepare worship? And then, how does one lay aside the weariness and exhaustion of the week, to "perform" in worship.
At the risk of being accused of incongruity or of shallowness, I feel the need to explore these pressures on worship that simply come with the territory.
I am aware that one can only be oneself and that that is whom God calls into worship. But do our congregations really want to see the worn down, bedraggled worship leader at the main weekly diet of worship? While God might be happy to welcome the person beneath the cassock, isn't it true that our congregations expect and demand the shiny, polished up version? And so,though our pastoral encounters invariably influence our preaching and our energy levels affect our preparation and performance, we put on our best act for our Sunday congregations.
And while we encourage other worshipers to "come as they are" to an all-embracing God, we daren't allow ourselves that luxury.
It's not a case of feeling the need to cheer folk up in worship or even lift their spirits. We're happy to affirm that there is room for everyone, happy, sad, faithful or struggling but do they really want or need to see how we feel on every occasion, especially those times that find us grappling with life ? Do we want our congregations to be more concerned about us than about the love of God that is encountered in worship?
There are times to share our vulnerability but perhaps not in worship.
So what does that say about our authenticity?
Is it OK, in the interests of helping others worship, indeed, is it necessary to put on a front and "do our stuff"? Is God honoured by such leadership? And aren't there moments in our "performance" when God surprises us and somehow authenticates the show of strength that we put on? Our efforts, offered sincerely and often at a cost are offerings of love for God and for our congregation. And no act of love is ever wasted. This I believe - enough to continue to carry on performing.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Amy+ said...

I had a bit of this speculation last week - although not much I could do about it at the time. Had been to a tennis tournament with 14yo who kept winning. Had to go directly to church to lead worship (not preach) and celebrate. I was wearing sweat pants, t-shirt, tennis shoes and was sunburned. I did put on makeup and brush my hair before donning alb, stole and chasuble. I felt shallow for applying makeup, but I didn't want people to worry about the sunburn. I actually though about apologizing at an appropriate time but then didn't. I didn't want the attn to shift to me and my needs/appearance/etc. I ducked out asap afterwards. It did not feel good to be celebrating "not at my shiny best" - although no negative feedback from the congregation. I don't plan to let it happen again. Next time I will take a spare set of clothes at least. The rub in all of this is that for the Saturday evening service, the people are very casual - whatever they've been wearing all day. It bothered me though for all the reasons you list.
So no answers here...but same ponderings.

Sacred Cow said...

A supervisor of mine in my training regularly reminder me, "persona, Jane". he wasn't suggesting that we be false or inauthentic, rather that we had a job to do and we had to be professional. You're right, Liz, the congregation don't need our bedraggled and broken selves in the pulpit on a Sunday morning, at least, not every week! We have a responsibility to enable an encounter with God, not get in the way by displaying our naked vulnerabilities. There are other more appropriate times for that. I don't think that makes us inauthentic, just responsible.

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