Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

It's the time of year that the hospital labs of which I'm medical director are doing a lot of "inspection prep"--whether it's an actual lab inspection or the "interim year" where we do the "mock inspection." One of the things we all get kind of obsessive-compulsive about is putting warning labels on everything that needs one--and maybe even on some things that don't.

This year has been a year of amazing discoveries for me both as a worshiper and as a leader of worship as a licensed worship leader and as a lay preacher in my diocese, the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. Part of this experience has actually been to have the "street cred" from my lay credentials to do some supply work this spring and summer in another denomination (the Presbyterians of northeast Missouri seem perfectly ok with the "Rent-an-Episcopalian-lay worship leader/preacher" plan in their non-Communion services.)

But with this opportunity has come some really difficult and paradoxical thoughts.

Don't get me wrong. I find worshiping from the pew in my home church to be a dynamic, exciting experience. I find LEADING worship in the various ways I've been allowed to likewise be exciting and dynamic but in a different way. But...I've also learned this...

Liturgy ought to come with warning labels.

In the wrong hands as a worship leader, this is dangerous stuff. Maybe that is both the good and bad of it. In the "good," it is renewing, life changing, growing. But without careful attention to what it is, it's dangerous and destructive.

I think over the next few months I'm going to seek out the occasional "warning label" to illustrate these concepts and post over them.

What I am learning in my new forays into "leading worship" is that the above warning label is really important, and that in some ways, the framework of our liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer (and the liturgy in other mainline liturgical churches) is a built in "protective device" against our own egos if we are called to lead worship, either as a lay or ordained person.

In short, a person truly needs to be grounded before being in charge of a liturgical service.

I discovered this partly by accident, when leading Sunday worship for the Presbyterians. Everyone was "up." It made me feel "up." I came away from worship feeling "up" for two hours. Now, I've felt up at my home church many times. But I wasn't leading it. when it was happening. Oh, as a lay preacher in my home church, I know when I've managed a good homily. When I lead Morning Prayer one Wednesday a month, at most there are six or seven people there. It's hard for a half dozen people to be "up" at 7:30 a.m.

So this sustained feeling of "up" was new for me as a worship leader. I thought about how the people seemed pleased in their worship, and how I enjoyed leading them. Then it hit me...if a person wasn't grounded in the thought that this is about people enjoying being in the presence of God, a needy person could think THEY had something to do with this euphoria. The leader of worship might begin, over time feeling it was what "they" were doing that created this state, not God. The leader might become addicted to the euphoria. Then, as with all addictions, when you don't quite get the "buzz" you used might become more and more needy. Over time, it might turn from you serving the parish to the parish serving you.

That was when I realized, for the first time, there was a danger in leading worship. It meant that I should never let "it" be responsible to make me feel better. If it does, great. If it doesn't, well, ideally I might have helped someone else enjoy THEIR worship better by simply staying out of the way of the liturgy. I realized "that feeling" can never be about "me" in my head.

People are vulnerable during worship. They desire the presence of God. The leader is vulnerable. He or she desires to please the worshipers. There is a lot of projecting going back and forth there. But the bottom line, whether one is leading worship or in the pews, it's about God--not the person blocking the view of the altar in the funny clothes!


Amen to this! Amen! It is very dangerous indeed.

Makes church more fun when you think you're doing something dangerous, doesn't it?



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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