the worship experiment, uk: week 12

All Souls Langham Place
27 December, 9:30am

While in London, I decided to attend the church where John Stott was the Rector for 25 years, and has now been Rector Emeritus for 30 years.

All Souls has a beautiful and unique facility. It is not a typical European cathedral. The sanctuary is square, with balconies on three sides. There is a large, flat stage at the front. The stage is a deep red wood. The second level has gold pillars all around, and there is a large painting of Christ on the wall at the front. They have a 16x9 screen which comes down in front of the painting, with plasma TVs all around the sides and under the balconies, so they are visible at all angles. There is a large gray pulpit at the front, very contemporary and either metal or marble—symbolic of their commitment to the Scriptures.

The service I attended had a different combination of musicians: piano, organ, bass, flute, trombone, acoustic guitar and two male vocalists. The music director conducted everything, including the vocalists, and every song had a long introduction (not necessarily by the music director). Unfortunately, I had a difficult time worshiping during the music. The major hindrance was that one of the vocalists had an aura that made me uncomfortable. It was like being back in music school around some of the vocalists. It’s hard to explain, but it was in his demeanor and confidence. It may have been simply that he was a classical musician and knows how to perform in classical venues but doesn’t know how to translate that into a worship setting. I don’t mean that a worship setting is a performance, but as a musician you need to learn how to take what you know about stage presence and translate that into different settings. I was reminded how important it is to always be aware of what I'm communicating non-verbally and how I can be a help or hindrance to someone's ability to worship.

Another reason it was difficult to focus that morning was one of the song choices. There were some regular Christmas songs and a lot of Christmas tunes with different words; but the doozy was that they took “Jingle Bells” and put new words to it. They called it a “children’s song,” but still …

As many of the other Anglican services I’ve attended, the songs were interspersed with prayers, readings, a “family focus” and notices (announcements). The offering was taken more formally than at other churches. After it was taken, it was brought forward and placed on the altar during one of the songs. I actually like that occasionally. It makes the act of worshiping through giving more about thanksgiving for what God has given us.

The sermon was on “The Names for Christmas,” from Isaiah 9:6. During a time of greeting one another, I was greeted by a man next to me, who asked me my name, where I was from, why I was in London, etc. He made me feel welcome. The music director also came up and shook hands. I think he recognized I was new, which was impressive in a large congregation (I don’t know the exact number, but I would say the sanctuary seats at least 800, and they have 3 morning services and 1 evening service).

1 comment:

Jgw29 said...

I have been around a few people like that. Whether they realize the fact, they feel like they are much better than the audience and the aura comes out. Kind of I'm The Greatest. You take them at their level. They will not stoop to the level of the average person.

In my own opinion FAKE is written all over. It is hard to get anything out of such a Performance. Actions speak much louder than words.