Diverse Worship Styles Within the EMC

Why do we choose what we do? The EMC needs to be comfortable with many styles.

Credit: DesignPics Credit: DesignPics

by Terry M. Smith

At Christmas, Jesus will be praised within many worship styles. That’s great.

The EMC has increasingly diverse worship styles. As variety develops, are we thinking about why we choose what we do?

Certainly, the exuberance of some churches, expressing cultural or Pentecostal influences, can be contrasted with a quieter style elsewhere; and the formal liturgy of Fort Garry EMC differs from the relaxed style of the Endeavour Fellowship Chapel. We can expect even more of a range in the future.

Many shifts in worship styles have occurred in the EMC. Just ask elderly members. For instance, early Kleine Gemeinde (now EMC) ministers opposed four-part singing because, they said, it moved from unity and simplicity in Christ. Later, four-part singing became a mark of Mennonite spirituality.

Today four-part singing is considered by some people to be “old school.” PowerPoint, choruses, and praise bands are in. (Generations ago some First Nations communities had drums taken by missionaries; today some non-Native churches use a complete set.)

Does diversity in worship styles surprise us? There are variations in worship among Anabaptist churches around the world, charismatic and formally liturgical being only two. A one-style-fits-all form of worship is too limiting within the Anabaptist communion and the EMC.

To reach out, our conference—not every individual—is wise to become comfortable with many worship styles, including charismatic and formally liturgical. St. Margaret’s Anglican Church, as John Longhurst tells us, has been called the fastest growing Mennonite church in Winnipeg. Accurate or not, it challenges us to examine what we do in some locations.

Our larger churches need not keep dual services identical in format; varied styles reach a broader cross-section of society.

The Board of Church Ministries has developed a Worship Committee. This is more than a spot for musicians and singers. The committee will assist churches to look at their worship theology reflected, partly, within their order of service. Worship educates; and, in turn, education helps us in worship.

What are some possible issues and questions? These are my thoughts.

All EMC churches have a liturgy, an order of worship that is effective on some level. What enters, or doesn’t, into your church’s liturgy? How is this decided?

How is Scripture used, how much is used, how well read is it? Contact professors Patrick Friesen (SBC) and Christine Longhurst (CMU) for their analysis of the use of Scripture in evangelical church services.

What’s the difference between entertainment and worship? If worship leaders and a sound system overpower the congregation’s voices, where does leading stop and performing start?

terry-smith

Terry M. Smith

Canadian middle-class white evangelicals have advantages of race, location, wealth, and power. Why are few current Christian songs about change, social justice, and peace in God’s world?

In reaching inactive mainliners might a pastoral prayer, use of the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed, a prayer of confession and an assurance of pardon, and a benediction each play a part? Ah, but these are my thoughts.

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