Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter, yadda yadda

The Easter message at church was a bit on the bland side. Well, a lot on the bland side. In general the whole service felt a bit lackluster, as if everyone was just too tired to celebrate. Or maybe I just felt that way. The girls balked at going to the kids' church, even though I knew the big service would seem dull to them. Firecracker drooped onto my lap, and DramaQueen soon followed course, cuddling up to Dear Husband.

I've mentioned how annoyed and tiring I find the wall-to-wall noise of our church. The music is both a strength (for those who like that sort of contemporary music) and a grave weakness. I just don't think music that whips up an emotional breeze is truly moving. When an entire service focuses on the rousing up-beat worship songs, something is lost. Reflection, contemplation, rest. And one thing that annoys the living daylights out of me is the fact that the band plays a sort of elevator music during the prayer. See, we can't even have quiet for prayer. Ugh.

Our pastor is a nice guy, but I've given up hope of ever hearing anything that isn't aimed at the entry-level church goer. We are always and forever for the unchurched. Once you're churched you're supposed to find a group in which to deepen your faith. I want to be welcoming. That's great. But I would like sometime to hear a thought-provoking sermon or even, wait for it, a serious sermon. I'm not asking for a sermon like I once heard in which the pastor kept alternating between huge swaths of Greek and commentary. Or even the sort of hard-core expository preaching insisted upon by the denomination I work for. But I read sermons posted by RevGals, and nothing my pastor preaches comes close.

I also question this method for attracting the unchurched, as if they are going to be drawn to the blandest and safest church. What about those of us who are relatively sophisticated, culturally astute and engaged? Suspicious of the simplistic and vapid? If I were a new visitor to this church today, I would leave thinking that I had wondered into white-bread worship - pleasant enough but stripped of nutrients. The only reason I first joined was the quality of the preaching. You know it had to be good for me to put up with contemporary worship music in order to hear it. But that pastor left, and I've had time enough to see what the current one plans to do. I'm there out of loyalty to the members who supported us during the roughest hours, because of the congregational care pastor, because the congregation never hesitates to help the poor and hungry and ill. I feel guilty to be so dissatisfied. If I went to a different church, would it be any different really? If I went to an Episcopal church, would I get fed up with the liturgy and wish someone would show some effervescent energy?

But there was a moment during the offering that I thought was pretty powerful, as long as I avoided looking at the weird film footage of a very white Jesus and the stock photos of people in prayer that flashed on the video screen. A song that felt alive and real. I gather it is derived from a collection of odes from the early church. I found only one version on YouTube. It's pretty good, but our choir, which is quite large, really kicked it.

Another good thing - they had free jellybeans.


  1. Glad there were a few positives. I do wonder whether an occasional visit to a more contemplative style of church might be healthy for you - I totally get that loyalty to the lovely & loving people at your church is a big anchor, but you dont want to loyally starve you spirit.
    Sorry. Will stop vicaring at you now.

  2. Interestingly...this reminds me of a letter my brother once sent me. He was beginning his (now finished) doctoral work, to do with music and worship (since he's a musician and has mostly been the music guy in churches) and his struggle with the contemporary "praise song" thing and how it seemed emotionally manipulative and what did that say about true worship, etc etc. etc.

    'Course, that's one of the reasons I became Catholic...good music. (Admittedly, there are Catholic churches with similar issues ("folk mass"....shudder), but the funkiest we get at the Cathedral is the Taize service on Friday nights.

    I never have received a free jelly bean at church, though.

  3. I just can't believe you would post all of this. Sad ;(

    No pastor or church will ever be perfect... maybe you need to work on your attitude?

  4. Gee, anonymous. How about yours?

    Dearest Bad Alice,

    I wish sometimes you could come do church with me! But we are small and the music is, well, not contemporary. The music sorta isn't.

    We gave away jellybeans, too. =o)

  5. Anonymous: I wasn't aiming for nice and sweet. I was aiming for honest, without self-censure, which I do enough of on a regular basis to make me look for an outlet.