Monday, 14 March 2011

Was it a good service?

What makes a good act of worship? I ask that partly because we had two contrasting services yesterday at Wesley Hall, and I'm sat here reflecting on them, wondering which was the 'best'.

The first was a full service: a baptism of the daughter of a couple in our church, who'd brought family and friends along to share with them, as well as Holy Communion. There must have been getting on for 100 people there, of all ages. The worship was uplifting: contemporary in the main, with traditional hymns alongside; well-lead musically by our worship band (led by the mother of the girl I baptised); the singing in turn boisterous and reflective; the sermon (I'm told) was helpful, appropriate, relevant and humorous. Many of our regulars would wish for such a worship experience every week if they could (but the vagaries of the Methodist preaching plan often militate against this). It was about 1 hour 40 minutes, but that didn't seem to bother most of those who were there, who stayed behind for drinks, christening cake and chats long after the service ended: indeed we had to hustle people out of the church to make way for the Korean Church who use the building after us.

The second service was a much smaller affair. Once a month we hold a Prayer service in the evening, and yesterday evening 6 of us gathered. We worshipped God in song and speech, accompanied by a single guitar; we listened to the words of scripture; but most of our time was spent in intercession for God's world, God's church and God's vision for us as a congregation of God's people.

Which was the better act of worship? How does one judge, and should one judge? We often fall into the trap of thinking that worship, to be 'good', has to move us, affect us, change us, or challenge us - always focusing on us as the focus of that worship, as if it was there primarily for our benefit. But it is worship of God, for God. Or should be. Whether it is 'humble prayer' or 'fervent praise'; whether it is 'a thousand tongues' singing our 'great Redeemer's praise', or humbly acknowledging that 'Lord we are few'; if it is offered purely and simply for the glory of God, and God is pleased with it, then surely, despite any aesthetic assessment of our own, it has been good to praise our God.