This Sunday, we’re kicking off a new series at The First Mennonite Church called Sensing God Through Our Worship. The series was created by Arlyn Friesen Epp of Mennonite Church Manitoba and explores how we might experience God through all 5 of our senses.
This Sunday, we’ll be looking at Sight!
For me personally, there are two sights that often come to mind for me when I think of God. The first is Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son.
Of course, I’ve been personally impacted by much of Henri Nouwen’s writings on this painting, and this image often reminds me of things such as God’s grace, mercy, love, acceptance, belonging, and redemption. The Son finds true healing, true self-worth, and true self-value in the intimate embrace of the Father.
When I think of seeing God in nature, my mind immediately jumps to a very special place for my wife and I, Vespers Point at Camp Hermosa in Goderich, ON.
Not only do you get incredible sunsets and a view of Lake Huron that constantly reminds you of the amazing things that God has made; but this is where people have been taking time to worship God every summer evening for over 80 years. Marriages have been proposed here. People have shared vulnerable, gut-wrenching stories of loss here. People have made their first decision to believe in God and follow Christ here. Families have been meeting here for several generations. This sight reminds me of a very sacred place on God’s good earth.
What sorts of sights connect you to God? Or make you feel like you are experiencing something of the divine?
Recently Vineland area pastors received an email from one of their number inviting them to click on a web site of a U.S. church consultant to read about “Nine rapid changes in worship services.” A major U.S. university had done a survey of worship patterns in a variety of church traditions since 2000, and was noting significant changes within the past decade. Here they are.
- Choirs are disappearing. From 1998 to 2007, the percentage of churches with choirs decreased from 54% to 44%. If that pace holds to this year, the percentage of churches with choirs is only 37%.
- Dress is more casual. In many churches, a man wearing a tie in a worship service is now among the few rather than the majority. While the degree of casual dress is contextual, the trend is crossing all geographic and demographic lines.
- Screens are pervasive. Most churches today have screens. And if they have hymnals, the hymnals are largely ignored and the congregants follow along on the screens.
- Preaching is longer.
- “Multi” is normative. Most congregants twenty years ago attended a Sunday morning worship service where no other Sunday morning alternatives were available. Today, most congregants attend a service that is part of numerous alternatives: multi-services; multi-campuses; multi-sites; and multi-venues.
- Attendees are more diverse. There has been a decrease in the number of all-white congregations.
- Conflict is not increasing. In spite of “worship wars,” overall church conflict has not increased over a 20-year period.
- More worship attendees are attending larger churches. Churches with an attendance of 400 and up now account for 90% of all worship attendees. Inversely, those churches with an attendance of under 400 only account for 10% of worship attendees.
- Sunday evening services are disappearing.
While the study focused on American churches, many of these trends are also visible across Canadian congregations.
How does worship at The First Mennonite Church compare with these trends?