I was typically the Sunday morning worship leader in my evangelical days. I did it often enough to attend workshops to learn how to plan worship.
I was taught to begin with songs that were fast and exciting. Once the people were engaged and really singing then I was instructed to shift to more meaningful and slow songs that touch the heart. If you have a good lighting person at this point they will start to turn down the lights.
If you do all this right hands begin to go up. When the song begins to play out, it's time for prayer or a powerful scripture that fits the coming message. Then, just before the sermon, you hit the people with another fast exciting song that gets the people ready for the message. After the sermon you have a slow dramtic ballad that moves hearts to respond. You end with a fun song everyone knows so people will walk away with a smile on their face feeling happy.
If something goes wrong with the video screens, the lighting or the sound system you might find the worst result of all.
The last thing we wanted in worship was silence. Silence meant we had made a mistake. Silence meant we had lost control of the mood, the flow of worship, and the people's thoughts. Silence was bad. Unplanned silence was thought to be a disaster.
We are a bit more comfortable with silence in the Episcopal Church, but we still have a lot of work to do. I wonder why in our culture we fear silence? Maybe we have grown so accustomed to chaos, to noise and to constant distraction that it has become our regular state. When the noise stops, we don't know what to do. We crave constant distraction and noise. Maybe because in silence we have to face ourselves? Maybe there is a bigger reason?
The constant witness of scripture – from Genesis to Revelation – is that in Silence we meet God. A powerful example of this is Elijah's encounter with God on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19). In the Gospels Peter, James and John found themselves on the same mountain where they saw Christ transfigured.
Lent can be about giving something up we think we can’t live without. Lent can also be a time when we take on something new that will help us grow and pull us out of our comfort zone. If you are still searching for something to give up or take on in Lent I would suggest finding a way to give up noise and distraction and take on times of Silence.
See you in Church,
Fr. Tom +