One of the things I enjoy about coming to St. Andrew's Abbey is that nobody knows me here. That may sound strange. But hear me out. They recognize me, to be sure. I am here a lot. But they don't know that I am a pastor. They know that I am not a Catholic (that is obvious by the way I stumble through the liturgy at Mass, and that I don't receive Communion), but they know little else. At one time, one of the monks was my spiritual director, so I suppose years ago the word got around that I was some spiritually-deprived Methodist preacher who came here to be filled up! But they don't know me now. And I like it that way.
Why? Because one of the hardest things about my "work" is that I am always "on"; I am always "The Pastor" whenever I am at church, or around church people, or even away from church people at civic functions. The mayor of Chino knows me so well he called me "Pastor Glen Hah-worth"! Being incognito allows me to be just me, and not to play any roles with people. When I am here, I seldom talk with anyone. Small talk is something I find difficult and distasteful, so when I don't HAVE to do it, I don't. Everyone here thinks I am on a "silent retreat" so they have learned not to engage me in conversation. That is a rare gift, since most people assume that if you are not talking, there is something "wrong" with you, so they will do whatever they can to get you to talk. I hate it! Just let me be! And that is why I am here, just to BE.
It refreshes me. It recharges me. I am an extreme introvert. Most people expect me to be an extravert, and so when I don't glad-hand, and chat it up, people get their feelings hurt. So I push myself. But unlike for an extravert who is charged-up by engaging other people, for the most part it drains me. Another reason for my sabbatical! If you are reading this, and you're a church member of mine, please hear me clearly: it isn't that I don't like you, or am mad at you. The reason I don't always greet you and engage you is that it is hard for me, and I need to preserve my energy. Don't take it personally!
I love the Benedictine liturgy, the daily offices, the chanting… all of it. It soothes my soul and draws me into God's heart. It is absolutely non-emotional, but the solemnity requires it. I love almost all forms of worship (I haven't gotten into the head-banging kind, yet). I love hymns and written prayers, I love praise songs and spontaneous prophesies (in tongues or in English), I love big church choirs (and small ones) and powerful worship bands. I love gentle homilies (if I can hear them), and awesome sermons preached with vim and vigor. I love the "smells and bells" as well as the "faints and yells"!
It is all liturgy.
I know. "High church" people don't like the praise choruses and informality and intimacy of the more "low church" style. Conversely, the "low church" worshippers don't like the formal liturgy of the "high church". But it is all liturgy. In one, the liturgy is written down and known by the congregation. In the other, the liturgy is memorized and known by the congregation. High church knows what's coming, and when. Low church knows what's coming, and when (after the third song (which is a really slow and worshipful song which was proceeded by a couple of up-beat praise songs), the worship leader prays for a bit as the band sneaks off the "stage" and the announcement lady comes up, ready to begin "The Welcome" right after the worship leader says, "I just pray this, Father, Lord, in Jesus' powerful name. AMEN!") It's all liturgy. And it's all good.
Christians need to get over their judgmentalism of other Christians and their forms of worship. Hear this: just because you don't "get it" or "it's not your style" doesn't mean that God is not pleased or honored. Get over yourself! Worship is not about you.
At the same time, I am aware that we need to adapt worship at times to draw new believers in. But we need to be careful not to bend so far over that we forget that worship is not about the new believers, either. It is always about God. What honors God? What pleases Him? That's what we should strive for in our worship.
So quite being so snobby, both of you!
Tomorrow is my last day here at St. Andrew's. (insert sad face) I am looking forward to what God does in me!