Sunday, April 28, 2013

Thinking about Worship at a Symphony Concert

Last night, we went to hear the Broward Symphony Orchestra--what a great concert!  As I sat there, I thought about the lessons we church folks can learn from an orchestra concert.

I was impressed that the conductor gave us some background information about the music before the first half of the concert.  It helped me enjoy the music more.  In fact, I'd have loved to have know more in terms of music theory--what was Wagner hoping to evoke in me as a listener with the choices that he made?

I thought about all the new people who wander through the doors of our churches.  Are we good at helping them navigate?  And then, once they've been navigating for a service, or two or three, are we good at giving them background and helping them understand why we do the things we do?  It's so easy for people to lose their way and to come under the influence of strange religious figures on the airwaves.

We want a God we can control, but that's not how it works.  As I thought about the soaring music and the way I was affected, I tried to make a metaphor for God and the universe and the ways I sometimes sense it all working in harmony, but more often I feel like there's more going on than I can grasp, and I wish I had taken more music classes.

When we reassembled ourselves after Intermission, we got less of an introduction, and I missed it.  My spouse pointed out that we'd gotten the introduction because the concert began with the conductor alone, playing a beautiful piece by Liszt.  After she played, the piano had to be moved, and the orchestra had to get in place. 

But after Intermission, she didn't have time to fill, so she said, "Of course, we all know what this symphony is about."

I thought, no, I'd be willing to bet there are only 10 people in the audience who know.  But away we went.  It was thrilling.

But as the concert went on, I found it harder to stay focused, to pay attention. I wonder how many people have a similar experience in our worship services.  Those of us who plan worship services probably think they're quite participatory, but often, they're not.  The congregation sits passively, taking it all in--and by the end, we're detached.

As the concert progressed, I longed to touch the instruments.  I wanted to be part of the experience, not an observer.

As a congregation, how can we let more people touch the instruments?  I've been in some churches where the congregation doesn't even sing anymore.  How did we let that happen?

As an audience member, I'd make more effort to get to concerts if I got to participate somehow, even if it was just in being told what to expect as the music progressed.  We might be surprised if included more people every Sunday.  People might come back, if only to see what would happen with each new Sunday.

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