Church Performance

“Now you are the Body of Christ and individually members of it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:27

Dear People of St. David’s,

I pray that you and yours are well and are finding some way to enter more deeply into the life in Christ this Lent. We have opportunities to draw close to God and to offer our lives to God every day, of course, but there’s a sweetness to a season when all of us are answering that call to come to God and to be touched by God. Perhaps it’s strength in numbers, but whatever it is I encourage you to allow this season of Lent to help you grow in faith and in the love of God.

Last Sunday was an incredible moment in our common life as we were able to relax the protocols and gather together for worship and fellowship, and ministry. It’s been a long time since we heard one another pray out loud, sing out loud, and see one another’s beautiful faces. I thank God for the change and pray that we are out of these strange and most challenging of times.

As we worshiped together and talked with one another, I began to reflect on some aspects of the year just past. In particular I thought of the move to livestream and even no one in the room, except for a couple of clergy, a musician, and a singer. Though we were worshiping together in the manner allowed, it wasn’t the same and it sparked some interesting emails and phone conversations about worship on the screen and church as performance. On a weekly basis I had emails or real-time conversations about the performance of church:

“Well, I liked the anthem this week, but thought it was better last week.”
“I thought your sermon was good, but wondered if you could have kept it shorter. Maurice is really good at short sermons.”
“Would it be possible to change some of the camera angles so we could see the flowers, the organist, the congregation, the communion table? I really like it when they zoom in on Emily and Liz as they are presiding over the Holy Communion.”

And I am not immune. Early on, when we were recording the entire service, I was watching and worshiping from home, just like you, and I found myself critiquing my sermon – talking too fast or too slow, not smiling enough, etc. I even have a selfie somewhere of me drinking coffee at home while I’m preaching on the screen behind me (What’s with my hair?).

I know that commenting on the performance part of church is a common occurrence all the time and it can be helpful for making our shared experience better or more effective. But “church performance” is not about the little things that go into the worship. Church performance is about us sharing our gifts and acting as the church – the word liturgy means “the work of the people” – and that is much more than worship.

As we are opening up, it’s time for all of us to step up and carry out our part in making St. David’s this church on a mission. All of us are called and all of us are needed to be St. David’s: from being in the pew on Sunday, to singing in the choirs, to joining in the fellowship, to helping with the after school program, to teaching Sunday school, to being an acolyte, to entering more deeply into our remarkable outreach programs and partnerships, to paying attention to our spiritual lives in any number of Sunday and weekly offerings. That’s “church performance” – that’s being the Body of Christ at St. David’s. This is how we can grow in our faith and help others grow in their faith, even as we are making an important difference in the life of the world.

So, let’s ask God to awaken our souls and take up our former ministry or take on a new ministry. God has given us the gifts. Our community and the world are waiting for us.

See you in Church.

Grace and Peace,
The Rev. W. Frank Allen