Worship And Community -- By: Marva J. Dawn

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 09:2 (Spring 2000)
Article: Worship And Community
Author: Marva J. Dawn

Worship And Community

Marva J. Dawn

Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
Worship the Lord in holy splendor

Psalm 29:2

The verbs in this verse are all plural. We are always called to ascribe the glory to the Lord together and to worship in the holy splendor of God’s community. Do the people in our churches realize that almost all of the verbs that instruct God’s people in the Bible are plural, with the exception of those in Timothy, Titus, and Philemon—letters written specifically to those three men? How much difference it would make in our conversations about worship and in our being Church if we really understood that we are in this together!

However, we live in a society bereft of genuine community. Yes, I know that we all participate in lots of groups and activities—soccer or baseball parents, the exercise club, neighborhood block parties, various associations related to our work and our children’s schools, Internet groups and chat rooms, craft guilds and trade unions, societies for our hobbies, and our churches. But would the members of any of these organizations die for one another? Do we really live our lives in common? Lack of time and too much space between us prevent us from actually investing our lives in each other.

The problems of community spiral with struggles over worship. Unless there is an intentional effort to counteract the anti-communal temptations of our times, worship will contribute to the decline of the church as Body by fostering destructive battles over taste or narcissistic private comfort.

Dangers To Community In Worship

In our fragmented and alienated, individualistic and competitive society, many people wonder if the Christian church is any different. Congregations and denominations seem constantly to be fighting within or against each other; strangers who visit a worship service often are not welcomed or even acknowledged by anyone. Sometimes churches designate particular individuals to be the “greeters” in order to be hospitable, but that practice often militates against a genuine hospitality on the part of all the members of the parish.

Darrell Guder and his team from the Gospel and Our Culture Network critique contemporary images of community that exhibit what Parker Palmer calls an “ideology of intimacy.”1 Such images emphasize

sameness, closeness, warmth, and comfort. Difference, distance, conflict, and sacrifice are alien to this approach and therefore are to be avoided at all costs. Modern communities maintain ...

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