Sunday Church Service

Elle writes about a recent worship service at her site:

It was a hot Sunday morning and the room was full. During the service a woman got up to give an item. She sat in front of the congregation and sang a song that she had written on a piece of paper that she was holding. All that accompanied her song was the soft humming that came from some in the congregation as we sat swaying and listening to her musical offering. When she was finished we clapped and a song struck out as we sang her back to her seat.

Then as we sang another song a group of men made their way to the front to offer their music. They sang a song from the hymnal in great harmony. I followed along as my mom pointed out which one they were singing from. When they finished, we again bursted out into song. This song lifted people from their seats. The Spirit took some from their chairs and moved them into the aisle. I was on the end of our row witnessing a little girl dancing in the aisle. Then a woman joined her. Then two other women and a man danced their way to join in the joyous event in the aisle. I beamed and danced watching and singing. One of the women noticed and invited me to join their circle. I instantly jumped in and joined their stomping, dancing, singing, and shouting as we praised God with the voices and energy of the congregation.

It was loud. People were singing as loud as they could. One woman we were dancing with had a whistle she was blowing. Others were clapping. People were using their books as drums to hit and make loud praise. Women (including myself) shouted and cheered as we sang and danced.

Church lasted three hours on that hot Sunday. But I did not notice. The Spirit took hold of that Sunday and it was holy, full of praise and joy, restoration and peace. 

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A Concert for God

DSC01229Joe shares about a choir concert in September which was different from choir concerts he knows from home:

Today, it is Heritage day, a South African holiday that celebrates the many different cultures in the country. My community church’s youth choir (which I am now a member of) put on a concert for the community. After rehearsing for over five hours yesterday, learning at least 25 songs, in which 20 were in Tswana, we performed them today.

All morning I was freaking out due to many reasons. Particularly the fact that I knew almost none of the songs/words to the songs and would probably look like a fool but on top of that I would be the only caucasian in the choir, meaning I ASSUMED that all eyes would be on me, which turned out to be not true.

We were supposed to meet at 8:30 this morning to rehearse for the concert that started at ten. The choir arrived between 9:30 and 10:00 and we began to rehearse. A few people trickled in to the sanctuary, but no more than 15, and sat down scattered around in the pews. At 11:00 our director told everyone to go and change and get ready for the concert. We all arrived back 30 minutes later and began to sing. I was very confused to what was going on. I turned to Chilies, a friend in the choir, and asked him, “Is this the concert?” in a very naive and clueless manner. He replied, but only with a giant grin and a nod of his head. I was baffled. I had never been to or performed at a concert where there was no more than 20 audience members in attendance.

Regardless of what my mind was telling me and wrestling with, we performed five songs. After we went and sat in the seats around the front of the church, and listened as members of the choir performed other songs, including mixed sextets, trios, soloists and flat out comedic performances in which someone would mock the director. This same process of performing five songs then listening to other “acts,” went on for at least five hours, providing some very funny and moving performances. They tried to get me to beatbox or sing, but I turned them down. I do not think they are quite ready for my sick beats or my rendition of “And I am Telling You” by Jennifer Hudson yet, but in due time. ;)

As the concert came to a close, I was still struggling with the fact that this was a considered a concert. Who was it for? You can’t really call this a concert. Why spend hours preparing for virtually no one to hear you?

As we concluded our director turned and looked at us and said. “Friends, this concert was a true success.” I could feel myself catching a laugh and almost saying, “Really?” He continued, “God is pleased. We came together today to give God a concert, and we did. We chose today to magnify his name, and we did. This was true worship, and God is pleased.” Silence, except for the sound of my jaw hitting the floor. I was amazed at this concept of concert. All this time I was so concerned with being worried about the music, worried about the audience, worried about the meaning of a “concert,” when really the answer was so simple. This new type of concert opened my eyes to a wonderful revelation today. God loves concerts too.

Listen Deeply

DSC01020Jen writes about listening deeply in her new place:

Heerlikste Jesus, sterke Wereldheerser, koning op die hemeltroon, lof, dank en ere aan U, o Here, my hart se vreug mi siel se kroon….

You catch that? No? Me either. While I’m in the process of learning Afrikaans, everyday conversation is still way beyond me.

In case you were wondering, that was the first verse of the hymn “Beautiful Savior.” All of our church services are almost completely in Afrikaans. At first I was a little frustrated with the fact because it meant I had no idea what was going on for a good deal of the service. I have to take cues from everyone around me about when to stand up, sit down, sing, or when something else happens. Having no access to what was going on was tough until I began to listen to the messages behind the words.

Unplanned harmonies ring throughout the crowded chapel as people from all different walks of life come together to create one beautiful song of worship. I may not understand what the words mean but just listening to the sound of so many voices coming together as one speaks volumes about how God can bring people together in peace. The joy on people’s faces as they sing and greet one another speaks more than their words could say.

In some ways the language barrier has been a blessing.—it is forcing me to think with my heart instead of my head for once. Without the easiness of communication through language I have to listen deeply to intent rather than content to understand. Yet in slowing down enough to do so I feel like I am looking at church and life in a way I never have before: in paying attention to the very real joy and peace and community that church is meant to be all about.