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Worship in the Postmodern Church
by Patrick Oden
09/01/06
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After work I stop by the grocery store to pick up some groceries and more importantly, some bread and wine for tonight’s gathering. Each week we rotate responsibilities. This week I am in charge of the Communion celebration. We are meeting at the house of a nice older couple who are gracious enough to also prepare the dinner.

When I walk in there are already about fifteen people sitting around in the living room, some on the couch, some on chairs, others on the floor. The delicious smell of roast chicken comes from the kitchen, as do the sounds of the few who were busy with dishes and cookware. Everyone greets me by name, and I return their greetings. Before I sit down, one of the men stands up and asks me quietly, “How are things?”

We had met a few days before to pray and talk about life. I had shared some of my struggles, knowing I couldn’t move forward on my own anymore.

“Better,” I say, because it is better, partly because I wasn’t holding it all in now.

We chat briefly, then sit down when one of the women begins to pray. It is a simple prayer, one of thanksgiving and praise, which leads into a time of singing and worship, accompanied by a guitar. Then we eat.

Over dinner we talk about last week’s large service. These happen every two weeks at a larger facility where all the various community groups can meet. Each service has a theme, generally following the Church calendar. Last week was Pentecost, and so the hall was filled with candles of all shapes, sizes, and scents. Fans were around to cause a steady breeze, making the various curtains and banners flutter. After some opening music the meeting became more diffuse. The area was bounded by curtains to make a large circle, around which were various kinds of ‘stations’.

The themes are always announced ahead of time so each person can make a contribution, sharing with everyone their conception. Some artists displayed paintings and sculpture, writers had poetry readings. Some are gifted in creating a ‘mood’ and so helped with the overall decoration. I brought a barrel and filled it with water, to drink or dab on their forehead, symbolizing the living water of the Spirit that cleanses and refreshes. Throughout the evening we prayed in groups, sang together and otherwise made the evening a virtual liturgical dance, in which various aspects, ancient and modern, interacted without a formal order.

We discuss our impressions and insights about that evening while we eat, and talk about other spiritual experiences we’ve had recently. After dinner I stand and pray over the bread and wine, breaking the bread as I say a prayer from an ancient Church Father. We all take and eat, then take and drink, sharing the bread and wine without interpretation, letting the mystery of meaning take shape in our souls. Then we return to the living room and begin to sing again, interspersing various prayers in between the songs. After a while of this, one of the men pulls out his Bible and some notes. Tonight we talk about the second chapter of Philippians, with one man leading but all of us participating.

After this conversation some others share about how they have helped out those in need, or they share how we can help out with needs they have learned about. Only rarely do our tithes go towards ourselves. Most of the money we collect goes towards helping people in the community, or to a charity, or to whatever seems the most worshipful use of the money each month. Our budget is enough to support a few full time leaders while leaving more than seventy percent for our flexible use. God has done so much in gathering us together it is our delight and honor to serve him through helping those who really need good news in their lives.

We finish the evening in prayer, praising God for his work and praying for his Spirit to continue to work in our midst. Then we go home, individually but not separated. God is great, and he is doing great things.

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