Welcome to St. John's, Spalding
The 2nd letter to all in the Parish from Bishop Rob Gillion, who has been licensed as an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Lincoln and is half time Interim Priest in Charge of our parish of St John's.
Reflections on All Age Worship
On the first Sunday of July we had the first All Age Worship Service at 10.00am since my arrival. We received a very positive response from all who were there and this article is one of encouragement. It really was a team effort.
The theme was ‘Songs of Praise.’ A box had been placed at the back of the Church for a couple of Sundays before and everyone was invited to place the name of a hymn or song they loved, and a comment as to why they loved it. One of our church children gave me a whole list of songs she sang at school! The choir of St John the Baptist School encouraged by our Principle, Paul Reid, joined us and sang their favourite hymn beautifully. Our congregation was truly an all age gathering ranging from 5-90yrs including a number of residents of St John’s Care Home. Added to this Norva, who is on the staff of the Home, sang during the Communion singing in the style as Whitney Houston! So uplifting.
Everything was included on the TV screens around the church carefully prepared by our IT expert Lawrence with hard copies available for those who requested them.
There was a presentation by our Assistant Priest, Rev Pat, for the children, followed by a master class for the children in making musical instruments led by Hillary. This was followed by a medley of traditional and modern hymns and songs accompanied by our organist (and clavinova player) Chris. At the end of the service the youngsters accompanied us on the instruments making a really ‘joyful noise unto the Lord’ before having refreshments. Our spirits were lifted which was visible in the faces of all who attended.
The strap line for this style of worship is ‘Expect the Unexpected!’
Aspirations of different generations
In the world generations tend to polarise and can lead each generation to thinks that theirs is the only one that matters, often inventing its own culture and music to reflect its identity, which can set it apart from the previous generations.
In the kingdom of heaven, though, we are called to unity across all of the divides: national, cultural, denominational, generational. Where the world tends towards enmity and separation, we are called towards love and reconciliation. Surely that should be reflected in our times of praise and worship together? There are bound to be musical tastes and preferences of style which differ in the church, but if we "prefer one another in love", then there should be something for everyone in our times of worship. Music is one of the most powerful aids to worship and when we can sing with one voice, it does something spiritually powerful and demonstrates that we really are one body in Christ.
A key aim is to present music and the Word which crosses the boundaries between different ages, and do so in a context which says that everyone matters and therefore should be included in our times of all-age worship.
I suggest, that in our enthusiasm to embrace new styles of worship, we shouldn't neglect the rich heritage of existing hymns and styles. We want to value and include children and youth in our worship, but we should value and include older generations too. It's not a question of compromising and trying to placate all the different ages and preferences we find in the church, but rather a question of saying that every single person is valuable and therefore should be included in what we do together.
I suggest that all age worship can be compared to a family meal time, where there is something for everyone. I love this comparison, because conceptually it leaves room for the separate times of worship that we can enjoy. For example, larger adult celebrations are likened to an adult dinner party, and children-only times of worship are likened to a kids' party. There's nothing wrong with these occasions - they're wonderful, but we also need the family meal to regularly express our togetherness, and ensure a healthy diet for everyone.
Practically, where does all this lead? In my experience, successful times of worship with all ages present depends not so much on the practical details of what is done, but on the attitude of heart of those leading, and those participating. If we are prepared to let go of our preferences and prejudices, and ask God to give us his heart and mind to see one another as he sees us, then the release of love that will surely result may give us a taste of heaven in our worship.
I do hope others will join us on the first Sunday in the month ( and of course on other Sundays) but especially as we unite together as the Family of God with our focus on our faith in Jesus and strengthened through the Holy Spirit.
A prayer for All Age Worship
We have come together as the family of God
in our Father's presence
to offer him praise and thanksgiving,
to hear and receive his holy word,
to bring before him the needs of the world,
to ask his forgiveness of our sins,
and to seek his grace, that through his Son Jesus Christ
we may give ourselves to his service. Amen
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