RevGal is a site for women clergy and our sympathizers. They have a regular feature called Ask the Matriarch, where experienced pastors offer insight. This week's question was about contemporary and traditional worship music, and the congregants who hate it. The post and the comments are quite helpful. And I wanted to say this:
We are going though something related in our church (we're an independent church founded in the 80s, so, as you can guess, upbeat contemporary music has been the rule for our whole life. Other background - suburban, a few hundred people, multi-multi-mutli denominational plus unchurched.)
Recently, we decided that music (styles, skill levels, song choices) weren't the issue - we're digging into the dirt of Sundays, saying 'what is a large weekly gathering FOR anyway? What does it do well? What can be done better in homes and neighborhoods? What should the role of the gathering be in the life of the community? What words and actions are consistent with that, and what are muddying the waters for people?'
And what can you get from being wholly part of this community that you can't get anywhere else?
(That sounds like a marketing question, but it's not - it's just recognizing that people where we live have complete access to practically everything in the world 24 hours a day, endless choices, endless support for the religions of Consumerism and Individualism. And frankly, our church has told them, at least sometimes, that there's nothing terribly wrong with Individualism as a guiding philosophy, that it's not altogether incompatiable with following Christ.)
Some of the answers will seem obvious to you (clergywomen of RevGal), of course, and some are unbreakably rooted in the history and polity of denominations. But we have no denomination to reign us in - we have all of scripture, church history, and opinion to sift through. It's been a LONG time since we sat down and thought systematically about this question. The answers we choose could lead to new music, new liturgy, new ways of speaking, a new format (or some very old format...) and different people being involved.
Me, I am very wary about rushing to the finish line, and settling on something that feels 'safe' or logical and 'solves the problem'. That would be a huge relief, but I think God brought us out here for a reason, and I don't want to miss this chance to be really radically God's, instead of leaning on my own understanding.
We're getting very close to the edge of the cliff. Several times a day, I remind myself that it takes trust and a lot of discipline to fly.