We Will Wait...

Phill Mellstrom Worship Development Worker for the Church of Scotland, considers how we are creating space beyond the immediate in our times of gathered worship.

‘How long is forever?’ asked Alice.
‘Sometimes, just one second…’ replied the White Rabbit

This quote has been doing the rounds on Facebook and Pinterest. It doesn’t appear in the original Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, but is apparently in Tim Burton’s re-imagining of the famous story. Whether it is original or not, it captures for me the thought of forever (perhaps better put, ‘eternity’) and how we need to be present in each moment without the desire to rush on to the next. William Blake in his Auguries of Innocence captures this sense of presence -

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

These texts got me thinking about how we are creating space beyond the immediate in our times of gathered worship.

Often when I go to church and experience times of musical worship, I am amazed at how quickly we seem to weave between different thoughts and themes. Granted when a worship leader pulls together a bank of songs there is a common thread or ‘flow’ to what is being sung, but I confess to finding it more often than not, like entering into a whirlwind tour of clichés and closed metaphors. I am sure that I am not alone in hoping for a moment to breathe, a chance to let my imagination soar without feeling I have missed something, or perhaps as the quotes at the beginning eluded to; a chance to be present and ‘dwell’ in a thought, a feeling, a space where God inhabits.

There are many songs that seem to move so quickly through the verses that any themes or images are lost to the anthemic chorus, which seems very often the point of the song. This perhaps is an obvious statement to some, that the chorus would contain the main crux; but there is huge importance in the journey towards this point, rather than a cursory mention or illusion to something else that is then lost when the obligatory big chorus kicks in. There is an art, a beautiful craft in flowing through a verse into a chorus, as if led into a place of comforting familiarity or disconcerting tension or even a wide open space allowing room to breathe and listen and dream. There is a tendency to move us quickly to declaration or celebration, negating the need to remain in a thought or space and wait.

Perhaps we need to be more concerned with ideas of dwelling, being present in the moment and perhaps even perseverance comes in to it somewhere. There is a sense of the immediate that pervades such times of worship as those I have mentioned, a sense of God is here right now to deal with you and whatever is burdening you. The Holy Spirit present here has the power to change and shape whether in the immediate or in the wait. I believe that things happen immediately, as we ask God to work or make a difference in our lives. We have those times where instantly there is something tangibly different, but there are times when the waiting is required. There is so much richness and depth in the waiting, sometimes painful, sometimes (more often than not) unwanted.

As we wait, as we learn to be still, we find the spaces in between where God is. A habit that is essential to carry with us on our journeys of faith. We must as worship leaders be teaching this waiting, allowing people to dwell in the presence of God as a community of faith gathered to experience God together. Allowing people the chance to experience moments that grow us, shape us and challenge us. Teaching, experiencing and being blessed by worship disciplines that inform and deepen our journey as we seek to more and more acknowledge and respond to the presence of God in our everyday lives.

Phill Mellstrom is the Worship Development Worker for the Church of Scotland’s Mission and Discipleship Council. If you have any queries about resources or training options then you can contact him on 0131 225 5722 or by email.