By Caenisha Warren
The idea of church shopping does not sit well with me. It is not a familiar practice given my upbringing under an African American pastor who has shepherded his present congregation for 47 years. I think that we should execute choice of worship through the way in which we live – the many ways that our lives make manifest who we are as the body of Christ. This is worship and so yes! to Michelle’s exclamation that “Justice and worship must connect.”
I agree that we are burdened with consumerist tendencies that say if you don’t like it, go find what you do like. However, there is much more, as Cathy points out: “We’re not supposed to approach church like the buffet line, …to satisfy our whims or preferences…NOT THE POINT. Rather, we’re called to participate in something bigger than ourselves. To…embrace the other broken people seeking God’s mercy on either side of us in the pew, and out in the world.”
This need to church shop may be the manifestation of the way in which we have become accustomed to live out our communion, in chase of a perfection we cannot achieve by ourselves. In truth, we look for belonging in the church, but our belonging can sometimes be defined as a kind of bonding that holds unnecessary boundaries. We bond over similarities and sameness and then shop accordingly. Yet, the unique quality of the church is the bond we carry because of our differences. A connection outside our boundaries.
I don’t go to church for its perfection. The church, as in the people, we are imperfect. We separate over difference, we hurt over pride and prejudice, we struggle over discomfort, and we even disagree over worship. Yet as a church, it is our belonging that is being uniquely created and especially connected as different image bearers of God; which is never more complete as when we are together in our difference.
Geila speaks of a specific kind of connection in describing her value of hymns. “In a time when I struggled with what felt like a self-promoting praise chorus, I found joy in a shared language that reached across generations. Being able to sing a song … sung in congregations across the country, across the world found a sense of connectedness…” It is this greater connection that helped me to value traditions like the Eucharist. Connected to the body both, past and present and future, both spiritually and physically in our participation. No matter how it is lived out and practiced, prayer is another of those things that connects us as a body through generations and cultures.
What is the idea of worship anyway? It can be thought of broadly, as in how I live. Or similar to a student program I advise, their tag says “worship through service”. And also, worship is often coupled “praise and worship.” Presently I attend a church which is coming away from a dominant mono-cultural worship as it has grown in diverse cultural expressions over the years. And yet, every once and awhile, I am drawn “home” to my grandfather’s church, to the sounds and spirit of the black church, for the connection that it brings me to – of a history of worship that has shaped and formed a part of who I am, of saints who have reared me in prayer, of relationships and family, and of difference. However lived out and expressed, worship carries this connection to God and to others.