Monday, January 28, 2008

On Worship -- the Personal

Ms. Kitty has posted a very good quotation from the Rev. Tom Schade about Worship. I liked it, especially the last paragraph:

My sense is that we have placed our focus on the community building purpose
of worship as primary, and down graded the personal to the secondary
priority. And the result is that the communities we build, and the worship
services that celebrate them, become arenas for people to play out their
needs regarding themselves in community: their need for power, their sense
of exclusion, their desire for self-expression etc. The result is an
inwardly focused community about being a community.
I really agree with that ... and then I thought, "but wait!"

(Edited before posting: The problem is that I then tried to anticipate how others whom I know would interpret the above. Always the first wrong step.)

... Because I also worry about some of our "personal" worship services. The ones that, as I joked on Ms. Kitty's blog, are the Omphaloskepsis Services. (omphaloskepsis: the study of one's navel.)

Now, if you've read this blog for more than 2 seconds, you know that I am certainly guilty of a heavy amount of navel-gazing myself. So, why do I shy away from it in a Worship service?

I think that it's a matter of "bad" navel-gazing services. The ones that I've walked away from feeling that they promoted a focus-on-self-to-the-exclusion-of-all-other.

I think some of the best Worship services I've participated in are the ones that have caused me to look inside, face some things about myself.

Aha! she says, thinking as she's writing. Perhaps that is the difference. The service that causes you to look inside and face things about yourself, versus the service that talks about how great you are, and how any problems that you have, come from the outside. The way you were raised. How others treat you.

This is ... still ... unformed. Still thinking. There's something ... on one hand, there are the personal worship experiences that allow me to learn more about myself, and to feel a connection with the rest of humanity.

And then there are the services that seem to encourage a self-centered feeling, with "me" as the center of the universe.

Ugh ... this is making my head hurt, and you are certainly welcome to just STOP READING NOW.

Because I'm not opposed to giving time to the self. The DRE-BFF and I had a talk last week, about how often our services are on Great Grand Issues, but if you talk to people, what causes them stress and fear are the personal, "small" things -- too many charges on their credit cards, too much weight on their body, too much clutter in their house. Not enough time. And we agreed that there need to be more messages helping people to negotiate all of this.

I feel like I'm looking at a painting, squinting, and saying, "I don't like it. But I don't know why."

(Apologies to both Revs Kitty and Tom for looking at the Mona Lisa and writing a review of the bit of gray fluff attached to the frame. But it's helping to clarify some stuff in my head.)

See ... omphaloskepsis, party of 1.


ms. kitty said...

Well, I do think that a bit of critical omphaloskepsis is a useful thing. How else can we tell whether we are on or off track, unless we look inward and check out our internal plumbline? It's when navel-gazing becomes our whole life and we don't do anything about what we discover that it's problematic. Isn't it? What do you think?

Earthbound Spirit said...

I could be wrong...but,
I think the looking inward & facing things is just the first step. Then comes the looking outward and applying what one has learned. Maybe that's what Ms. Kitty just wrote?

But - also - that (here is where I think Tom Schade is going) all that looking inward & then outward should not result in looking to get only our personal needs met by the community. We get our personal needs met, yes, but a church without a sense of being part of something greater or of having an outward mission is an omphalos-whosis centered church.

Lizard Eater said...

Still thinking on this, getting my thoughts in order. I think Rev. Sean's "We try to consciously offer many different kinds of sermons and services" is probably part of my point.

I will come back to this.

Comrade Kevin said...

Navel-gazing deprives a vast variety of different human and emotional responses. As religious liberal, would we want any uniform point of view to be taken out of any sermon? Wouldn't that be contrary to the very principles we hold dear in ourselves and in our freedom to worship as we choose?

Getting individuals to think communally and for the betterment of the community rather than for the betterment of self is a major challenge.