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Or something like that…

This is an approximation of a phrase that I credit to John Van der Laar, a Methodist Minister and worship guru. I may have his words slightly muddled, but I am sure he says something to this effect, meaning that worship is all important to our relationship with God…

Now without engaging with him I cannot say how HE defines worship, but judging by a current seminary debate, worship for the seminarians is about how we sing and celebrate God amongst us. (I am open to hearing other points of view on this.)

Truth be told, I am not much of a singer… actually, I lie – I loathe singing … pits, pits, pits! I love music and I love to dance, I love to listen to (some kinds of) music and nothing moves me more than a beautiful song sung with gentleness and grace … I love house music and trance music and in fact have become a bit of an enigma to some of my fellow seminarians because I listen to Euphonik but have no gospel music in my music collection … what kind of umfundisi am I?

So let’s talk worship – what is it? What are we trying to do with worship and with this blog post I am hopefully opening a door to dialogue, because I know what I like and what I think worship is, but I am no expert and I am learning that my style and your style can be poles apart … as are our ways of connecting to God.

In order to contextualize this discussion though I want to share what has happened in the seminary over the last few days. Yesterday morning we spent chapel hour in the seminary gardens, we walked amongst the flowers and the dust, the beauty and the ashes, in the space below the chapel which is still growing into a fully-fledged garden/meditation space… we were invited to walk in this sacred space and look out for signs that God is with us – for me – bliss! Breath and green and air and space and silence … for me, strong elements of WORSHIP, connecting me to God!

Last night I had a dream, I was on my balcony garden (which in my dream was more established then it currently is) and when I moved the plants, there were hundreds of wires and plugs connecting to the electricity supply. Perhaps the dream is reminding me that I need to ‘connect’ with nature more, why? because that’s where I experience God. Some of my plants are with my mum and I am now more determined than ever to get them here to finish my tiny balcony garden which will be my power source and inspiration to connect with God and with the Spirit – that’s worship for me, that’s me and God, like tight, you know?

At the end of the chapel time in the garden, the Chaplain invited us to lift up our hands to nature and bless her rather than hold hands and bless one another like we usually do – I got little electric shocks up my arms as nature responded with ‘and God bless you’ – I felt so strong yesterday I was able to face anything – I was strengthened by my morning worship experience.

Then this morning we had a very different worship experience. It was called ‘contemporary worship’ (read: loud) and we were led by a group of powerful singers – Maria Callas and what’s ‘his tenor name’ have nothing on these guys and yet I have never been more uncomfortable or in pain as I was this morning. To me it felt like intense noise and I had to stop myself from walking out. It was screeching and wailing in a language completely foreign to me and I had to pray through the experience to stop my ears from bleeding and my head from exploding. I didn’t enjoy it at all.

Did others enjoy it? YES! Resoundingly yes! Many seminarians loved it and probably got set up for their day like I did yesterday… instead I have spent most of today feeling unbelievably irritated and aggressive. We sang songs this morning about stamping on demons, I feel like all we did was wake the sleeping demons and give them a spot in the limelight – friends, let me just say it – worship this morning hurt me … it really hurt me.

What to do?

Of course, we cannot please all people all the time but in our blended multicultural, multi-dimensional church this is exactly what we are trying to do. We are trying to make round pegs fit into square holes and its incredibly painful… we are trying to find a balance between east and west and well, um Africa, cos she’s an animal all her own. We sing songs in all language’s and some days it’s magnificent and it works, but some days it’s awful and just doesn’t, bear in mind we do this every single day … So I guess this is my question/s …

  • What is worship?
  • What is the purpose of worship?
  • Is worship supposed to be enjoyable or not really?
  • Is it possible to find a happy medium on how we celebrate God in our very diverse midst’s (am tempted to spell mists)?
  • Is blending us the best way to honor our God who created us uniquely and colourfully?

Please, help a girl out, I know my faith is not about my comfort, but surely, my expression of my faith should also strengthen me and fill me, not reduce me to a fractious, disoriented wreck …

What do you think?