Ever dream of being lost? Or confused? Distraught? Inconsequential and dispensable? Join the club.
It’s my first Sunday back from a sabbatical. I am returning to the pulpit of the large church with the great music program. I love this church and am glad to be home.
It’s Sunday morning just before worship. I’m running VERY late. My robe is in the office up several flights of stairs but I can’t remember exactly where. It’s just “up”. The robed Choir – the best in the city – is coming down the stairs while I’m trying to go up the stairs to find my robe in the lost office. No one in the Choir acknowledges my presence. They are in a rush down to the Chapel.
I walk into the Chancel. The Chapel is fairly full. Attendance is good. I take my normal seat as their Pastor, prepare myself for the Call to Worship that will follow the Choir’s Choral Introit. Three Choir members dressed as animals crawl out onto the front of the Chancel and start to sing. I realize then that there is no Order of Worship. Instead there is a music program.
(The music program has always been a thing of controversy. A great blessing with the highest standards and exquisite classical musical taste, but it is also criticized for drawing attention to itself and demanding disproportionate financial resources from the church budget. I am a big supporter of the music program, but have also worked to maintain its rightful place in worship and within the broader life of the church.)
I am confused and annoyed that this appears to be a music program stuck into the hour of Morning Worship. This is NOT worship. The congregation and I have been blind-sided. It is not what anyone in the congregation expected. It is performance, not worship.
Two members of the congregation who love music but who care more about the integrity of worship get up and head for the doors.
More people – five or six at a time – are getting up and leaving. Disgust is emptying the place.
I am no longer in the Chancel. I am in the rear balcony pleading with those who are leaving.
“This is not worship! This is something else. I’m sorry. This has to stop!” But the few people who remain are heading for the exits.
The Director of Music is deeply distressed. He’s gone too far, and he knows it. Finally…he knows it. So do some of the members of the Choir. What to do? Call them together quickly right now…but newer members of the Choir whose faces and names I don’t recognize are heading down the stairs for the doors. They don’t like conflict and, I suppose, feel hurt and unappreciated, like their Director.
I realize that I had returned from sabbatical without giving the church office an Order for Worship in time to meet the deadline for printing. I am disappointed with myself and upset with the Director of Music. I’m feeling lost. Alone. Invisible. Clearly dispensable. My first day back from sabbatical there has been no welcome, no acknowledgement. I have lost all of the control that, over the years, has kept the Music Program, its Director, and its critics from killing each other in ecclesiastical warfare, and, from the looks of it, everyone and everything I have worked for is…lost.