Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Random Thought on Church Inspired by NYC

When I was in New York City, I had the privilege of being removed, albeit temporarily, from things I have grown accustomed to normally. By being removed and able to experience differences, I am better able to evaluate more clearly areas where I have become accustomed and desensitized. Aside from the major challenge offered to my regular diet (which was a good thing), attending two different churches has allowed my to reflect on my own church and some of the differences.

On the positive side, I really appreciate the general depth of the preaching at Covenant. This is made possible not only by a great pastor, but also by a generally Biblically literate and dedicated congregation. This is not to say that the sermons are exegetical lectures or theological treatises, but that the general content and tone of the sermons are more substantial than most evangelical churches. My pastor is able to balance in a way I have rarely encountered in person or in reading solid exegesis with a relevant and sensitive application based on the text to the congregation. This is by far what I most appreciate about my church and what I will desperately miss when I move on.

Another aspect that has surprised me in how it has stuck in my mind is age distribution in church. Covenant is a mixed congregation age-wise, there are a lot of ages represented, but not a lot of any particular age group. The churches I attended in NYC tended to be on the young side, with most of the congregation at Emmanuel and Redeemer being roughly my age or a little older. I knew this from the last time I visited the city, but now it is striking me how much I miss having others closer to my age who show a mature dedication to their faith and to the church. I am not saying that there are no young adults exhibiting this in Rochester, but it is rare and it is something I really realized that I long for here. Seeing older friends with this commitment and perspective is great, but it is not the same as seeing it among others of your own age group and general life situation.

One final observation concerns music. Emmanuel’s worship tended towards the modern, but with a fair representation of some solid hymns- many with updated tunes. I noticed that these modern adaptations of the hymns came from Redeemer. Two thoughts have been running in my mind the past couple weeks concerning music. The first is how much I like the content of hymns, but am not as much a fan of many of their tunes and their traditional accompaniment. Hearing solid words with a more easy to follow melody and more pleasant instrumentation is something I really liked about the churches in New York. I try to say style is irrelevant, but I am realizing that it is a bigger factor than I want to admit. Now, the musical portion of worship is something I generally bear, but in New York it was actually something I benefited from. Secondly, I am reflecting on the placement of the “modern” songs which my church does utilize. They are all grouped at the beginning of the service, at times before the invocation. The general impression is that these “Songs of Ascent” are lightweight fluff to be gotten out of the way before the real worship begins. It is interesting to note that the older songs that the church uses fit into this category, while the newer songs generally have good content and some depth. It would be nice if Covenant would integrate the modern music into the core of the service so as to unambiguously acknowledge the validity of contemporary expressions of musical worship to God.

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