Tonight I made good on a promise to Katie. Back in February, she and Ryan were playing Upward basketball at another congregation's building (you know the one I'm talking about, but I don't want to name names and make this post Google-able). Katie was intrigued by the noisy worship service going on in their sanctuary on a Saturday night. I told her we'd visit sometime, and tonight was that "sometime." I was really curious to attend the instrumental service anyway--change of pace and all that.
I'm glad we got to worship there for several reasons:
1. R&K saw two of their teachers in attendance, so that was neat.
2. I appreciated all the A/V stuff they had going on (of course, I had to notice that!). They do a great job of seamlessly mixing on-screen text and video without distracting from the message. (My sweet children told me I do a better job because I have TWO screens to deal with. ;) )
3. The service really helped me worship, in spite of my discomfort with being in a new place surrounded by strangers. The music, the sermon, the dramatic presentation, the way the Lord's Supper was served, even the response time, all contributed to a moving service.
4. I'm so excited to see how that group is reaching people, bringing them to Christ. We're all here for the same purpose--on the same team, you know--so it's wonderful to know they're touching lives. It's just awesome to see what they're doing to add to our body.
However, as Ryan said on our way back to our car, I'm so glad we have Heritage. I know it's ridiculous to compare my worship experience with strangers to worship with the family I've laughed, cried, eaten, served and grown with. But I still feel like I've found a home at HCC, and I can't imagine feeling that way at this other place--at their Saturday service, anyway. So what was it that made me feel like that place wouldn't be a good fit for me and my family? I think it's based mostly on my gut feeling, but I have to admit, music was a big part of that reaction.
Did the praise band bother me? In a word, no. First of all, I have absolutely no objection to instrumental worship. When musicians use their talents to praise God through guitars or keyboards, they're "making music with their hearts" as much as vocalists do. Christian radio uplifts me; Christian recording artists inspire and bless me. Why would it be OK to worship with instrumental praise on that station or with that CD in my car but not in a particular building on Sunday morning? In spite of my opinion, though, I've wondered why I attend an acappella congregation. Am I just more comfortable sticking with the tradition I grew up with?
(At this point, I have to add this: I didn't choose to attend our congregation based on music. Nor did I check off a list of C of C requirements before placing membership. If gender roles were the basis for my choice of a church home, for example, I wouldn't be at HCC. But that's another post...)
Tonight I think I figured out the answer to my acappella question. Singing without instruments helps me connect. There's just no substitute for the blending of voices, the four-part harmony symbolizing the way we all have different functions as members of the same body. (What is it about instrumental music that makes people sing everything in unison, anyway?) I didn't feel like the guitars or drums kept me from worshiping; I did, however, feel disconnected from my brothers and sisters around me since I could barely hear them. Please know that I don't think instrumental music is "wrong." Acappella just happens to be my preference, and tonight confirmed that for me.
I also figured out how wonderful it is to worship elsewhere now and then. Besides HCC and my old church home in Austin, I really haven't visited any other congregations in ages. I think it's good for Ryan and Katie to see how other folks worship, and whenever we can connect with other Christians who are part of this amazing body, we're better off. Our Father doesn't want his children to be those distant siblings who never see each other. He expects us to be a family.
Speaking of family, that's what we've found at Heritage. The acappella music is just one of a thousand reasons why we're members at HCC. So yes, I'm glad we got to visit the other place, but I'm even happier that tomorrow morning, we'll be heading back to home, sweet home!