I’ve been thinking about worship in the rural church lately(since I preach weekly, of course, but also because of a couple projects I’m working on). Worship is one the strangest zones to inhabit. The disagreements over music, sermons, the color of the bulletin, the order of worship, and everything else all flair from time to time. A lot of work and study has gone helping churches craft worship.
However, two things I think are distinctive to rural communities are the announcements and the prayer time, and are often misunderstood in theological education spaces. Not that all churches don’t have those, but that rural churches treat them differently. Often in seminary or other training programs we are taught to keep the focus of the worship on God or the message of the service, or something like that. This leads to pastors trying do away with spoken prayer requests and announcements. They are relegated to the bulletin and prayer request slips handed to the pastor.
But I want to suggest both the times for announcements and vocal prayer requests crucial parts of the rural worship service. Announcements ranging from “Bible Study on Tuesday” to “free cantaloupes on the back Tom’s truck” are important communications. The announcement time at the church is an act of worship. It brings the life of the church and community into the worship space. Whether it’s Girl Scout Cookies, the church down the road’s barbecue fundraiser, or celebrating a 90th birthday, these things matter to the community enough to mention them in worship. This is also a reminder that the worship service serves multiple purposes including community connections.
This is also true for prayer requests. I feel like worship classes keep teaching us to limit people lifting up prayers and stories and testimonies. The reality is, if people have names and situations they want to lift up, let them. If it’s something you think is gossip, ask yourself why is that person sharing it? What’s the deeper concern that they brought it to the body of the church? Let them lift up surgeries, sickness, and needs. Let testimonies happen. If they are happening, that means the Holy Spirit is MOVING IN YOUR CHURCH. People understand that sometimes Mrs. Jones talks too much or that you’re never sure what Mr. Thompson might talk about (made up names, don’t @ me).
‘ve heard of churches where the council/vestry/board meetings happening worship.
Unless there is actual harm happening (and if you’re not sure if it’s harm, ask someone) let the Spirit work.
Moreover, I continue to believe that if we need to cut something from the service for time’s sake, it’s that middle ten minutes of the sermon.
One thought on “On Rural Worship: Let People Talk”
But Jonathan, if I cut the middle ten minutes of my sermon it’d only be 5 minutes long!
Seriously though, one of the things that I did at a previous appointment was to introduce a floating mic during prayer requests. and to make sure that the prayer requesters had a microphone. One of the things that I inherited was that if a name was mentioned during requests, it was expected that the pastor write it down and add it to the prayer list… and that was outside of my capacity (in hearing and spelling and not knowing confidentiality concerns ). But once I had everyone hearing, it met their needs.
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