The Joy of One Service (& Two!)
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.” – Psalm 100:4
What a joy it has been to come together for one combined worship service over the past two months! When the consistory made the decision last June to try just one service for the month of July, we had no idea what to expect. I called it the one-month summer experiment, realizing that there could very well be some “push back”. After all, there were very good reasons we went to a two-service format in the first place back in September of 2006
Having been gone for two weeks during my annual vacation during the month of July, it was a little bit difficult to ascertain exactly how people were feeling about the combined service. But it didn’t take long after I returned to learn that folks were really enjoying being together. The energy of having one fuller sanctuary instead of two sparsely attended worship services was a blessing to most, and gave people a greater vibrancy about worship. The blending of musical styles was also being received well.
Sensing the positive response, I invited our consistory members to consider extending the one service format through Labor Day weekend. Returning to two services already in August seemed premature. Plus, we knew that summer attendance would continue to be a bit lower than average, given peoples’ tendency to take vacations and weekends away during the month of August. Consistory unanimously approved extending the one service schedule through Labor Day weekend. And, I am so glad they did!
The joys and benefits of coming together for one service have been numerous. Having more people in worship has added energy to our worship services. It’s been great to reconnect with people from the “other service” who we might not normally see on a Sunday morning. And, being together in one sanctuary for worship reminds us that we are a vibrant church. Whereas attendance at two services might be sparse on a particular Sunday, the combined total is still a good number to create and sustain a viable church – which we are!
But a top blessing for me in having one service is that it helps us develop an appreciation of a worship and a musical style that may not be our own. Truth be told, we all have differing tastes for music, and often these fall along generational lines. And, that’s okay. God made us diverse and different in our likes, dislikes, and preferences. Being together in one service helps us transcend these preferences and reminds us that worship is about God, and not us. We discover that “other” styles are no less valid or biblical than our own preference. We’ve all had to “bend” a little these past two months in accommodation of our fellow brothers and sisters. And, that’s a great lesson in humility and love for each other as a church family.
But having said this, it’s now time to move forward again with our regular two-service format. In listening to your comments these past two months, I am convinced there is still a need for two services at Grace Church. In fact, our mission demands it. Two services allows people to chose a style that most freely allows them to worship God best and without distraction. Having a time option is a huge blessing for Sunday schedules in flux. Two services allows space in the sanctuary for growth. It’s nice to feel good about being together in one service, but we must also think about the people who are not yet a part of our worshipping community, and how best to reach them. And, that’s why having two distinct services is a great ministry of Grace Church. Thankfully, Grace Church is much broader than a mere one-hour worship service on Sunday, and our unity runs much deeper than all being together in the same room!
Together in Mission,
Pastor Dave Van Netten