Ellen Andrusia reported a fun conversation with her five year old grand-daughter, Ellie, who visited our worship service with her grandmother, and then asked, “Why do people raise their hands in your church?” Ellen answered, “They are worshiping the Lord.” To which Ellie replied, “That also means touchdown!”
Isn’t it funny how what we’ve been exposed to shapes our perceptions? Football as a grid for understanding worship – how American is that?! And it’s not just children who bring a grid with them to worship. We all bring our interpretive frameworks.
I was reminded of this Sunday, when we had a lot of guests with us for Rowan Keyser’s baptism. Some of them, coming from more reserved traditions, were surprised by how many “touchdowns” we score here at St. Giles! And there were some other stadium trappings – clapping, and a few shouts – that caught their attention.
Our “Contemporary” service tends to be more expressive than our “Traditional” service. However, as Presbyterian services typically go, our Traditional service is also more expressive than people expect. That service scores some touchdowns too! Of course, if our guests come from a Pentecostal church, they’ll find even our Contemporary service to be pretty buttoned down. We all have our grids.
So which is the right way to worship – expressive or reflective, standard Presbyterian or St. Giles or Pentecostal? Wrong question. For the One we worship delights in the variety of expression. And we all do well to learn from each other, so that we might make his praise all the more glorious.