My denomination is gearing up for the final push of preparations for our World Conference, which takes place April 10-17 this year. It’s a major event, comprising both legislative and worship activities.
Between this Conference and our last one three years ago, we have undergone some major downsizing due to the economy, and so we are more short-handed in the planning and implementation than we have been in the past. We also have a number of folks for whom this is their first Conference and so they’re learning just what goes into making an event of this nature function smoothly. And…this year, the Conference format is significantly different from past events.
I do understand all of that, and I can work with that. But there’s one issue that’s really come to the forefront for me this year–and it’s something that unfortunately I see far too often in our regular Sunday morning services as well…
I guess in a lot of ways it can be summed up in this question: What is meant when we talk about preparing for worship?
We have a lot of ministers who are bivocational…self-supporting. We also have a ministerial setup that involves many people in our congregations. They’re not lay ministers, because they are ordained individuals. But any congregation will have a number of people who bring various aspects of ministry both on Sunday morning and during the week.
So…back to the idea of preparation.
Some understand that preparation needs to begin far in advance of the Sunday on which they are asked to participate…that, in fact, everything you do is part of that preparation. However, if you preach, you don’t wait until Saturday night to begin preparing the sermon! The most effective (who may or may not necessarily be the best public speakers) read the scripture, let it mull around in their minds, study other resources and, in general, do everything they can to be as prepared as possible–and then are willing to also let God’s Spirit breathe life into what they have prepared.
My frustration comes when we don’t seem to be willing to recognize that same need for the musicians who are asked to provide ministry! Far too often, the musician doesn’t get an order of service until a day or two before they’re playing.
Yes, some of us are able to play any of the hymns in our hymnal–as well as much other music. But in order for us to be as prepared as we would like–and to allow God’s Spirit to breathe through our music ministry–we also need time to prepare…the same kind of time required for effective sermon preparation.
There are sometimes situations that require us to step in at the last minute…but those should be the exception, not the routine.
God will meet us…but God also expects us to make preparation, and to not come rushing and panting into worship, frantically opening music (or scriptures) to come up with “something appropriate”. When will we understand the opportunities and blessings that are available if we prepare? and be willing to commit ourselves truly to that preparation?