This past week I ended up in a rock and roll church service. Trust me, this was really not my intent. There was a guy with long hair wearing torn skinny jeans who sipped a lot of water from his steel water bottle during the extemporaneous prayers; there was some guitar soloing. There were some admonitions to “lift it up” and there were various moments of hand-waving. Whenever the band came on the lights went down. Lucy liked that part, and she also liked dancing to the music—after I removed her to what I hoped was a safer distance for her ears.
I don’t like rock and roll church services very much. I don’t like stages in church, I don’t like “lifting it up”, and I’m really not a fan of beginning a service without invoking the name of the Holy Trinity or even pausing for a few seconds of silence. I don’t want to hear three praise songs in a row, and I don’t want to be a spectator at worship. That’s why I like liturgical services. They are participatory, with moments of quiet and moments of song, structured, and most importantly, have a lot of safeguards against any pastoral tomfoolery or liturgical skullduggery that might get in the heads of people like me.
So why was I there? All the Lutheran churches forgot to mention on their websites that they were changing their worship times for New Year’s Day. Lucy and I got all dressed up and managed to take a grand tour of Gwinnett County, sweeping by every Lutheran church as it remained resolutely closed to visitors. I noticed a Methodist church at a red light—and I swooped into the parking lot and there I worshipped in a very strange environment. But I still worshipped. And it seemed like a great place—if you ever find yourself, as I did, in Snellville, Georgia on a Sunday morning and you want to go to church, I recommend the Snellville United Methodist Church. Only one service, it turns out, is rock and roll.
But I thought a lot about church that morning and I thought, if we really believe that the Gospel is life-saving and world-redeeming, why on earth do I feel so grumpy about this? I felt as if all the churches I saw or tried to see were making deals with the world: we’ll play music of the moment, we’ll reschedule our worship, we’ll carry on as if church is important maybe, or relevant even. But you’ll not get the sense that this is life and redemption.
I hope, I pray, that OSA can be a place where you can feel that. Because that is what church is all about: it’s about the life saving, world redeeming, peace passing understanding, light in the darkness, universe creating, chaos ordering God who comes to us in Jesus Christ. And, even in rock and roll services, that God shows up for us.
The Reverend John Flack