I just got home from the annual meeting at Park Street Church, a group of believers that meet in downtown boston and who I worship with on Sundays. I was fortunate to serve on the worship team for the evening, playing piano with a great band of musicians. Minus the formalized (and, to me, somewhat archaic, but perhaps necessary) meeting jargon, I was sincerely inspired by the leaders presentations; from tedious discussion of budget, to a long range vision of the facilities, I could tell that every aspect of the life of this church is being prayerfully thought about and led by the Holy Spirit.
The most encouraging part of the meeting for me, was when we broke into small groups and discussed two points:
1. What is currently happening in the services that fills you with the Holy Spirit and a sense of God’s love for the world?
2. What can we do to improve our services to open our eyes to the working of the Holy Spirit?
I met with a group of park streeters that were sitting around me, including one of the ministers to facilitate our discussion. I was encouraged to see the depth of thought and the intention of each member wanting to enhance their relationship with God and other people in the church. (I don’t know what I expected…so maybe this says something about my own pessimism). These folks, all older than me by varying amounts (one who had been going to park street for 60+ years!), had really practical concerns and amazing ideas on how to make each service more accessible for all people. Here are a couple that were especially memorable.
1. Don’t discontinue the radio broadcast!
Apparently a debate this church has been having for a while. Airtime costs money, and this might be one service we could cut; one step closer to a balanced budget. At first I thought: why is the church spending money for airtime when the service is available online for free and sermons can be downloaded as a podcast for free? Then I realized that the people who rely on the radio station likely don’t own computers, much less know what the word podcast even means. This generation, who grew up with radio as their source of mass media, cannot and should not be expected to learn new technology, when old technology works just as well.
2. A way to prepare intellectually and spiritually for Sunday’s scripture and sermon.
A number of groups shared their desire to be better prepared for Sunday’s sermon with an advanced notice of what would be preached on. This is so exciting hear that people want to study the scriptures at home before. There are many ways this could be done that would be straightforward and for virtually zero-cost (email, social media, church website, an announcement in the bulletin). Now to be fair, all of this information is actually on the churches website, so any tech-savvy worshipper can avail themselves of this information. However, I think the church staff could encourage preparing for worship in a variety of ways. This could be something as simple as printing next weeks sermon topic in the bulletin, to something as complicated as reformatting the entire small group structure to one where small groups would study and read the exact passage to be preached on the upcoming Sunday. Or shoot … what about the lectionary?
3. A great amount of diversity in worship styles.
I was really glad to hear from a number of people from the morning services that they desired to see a more continual flow of worship and praise similar to the evening format.
One person in my group mentioned a newfound love of some of the repeated service music like the Gloria or Doxology. What was previously viewed as tedious and repetitive is now seen from a new perspective as bringing greater continuity and enriching the worship.
Yet another person mentioned a connection with the looser more informal liturgy of the evening service. For her, a formal liturgy reminds her of younger years, with negative connotations. Praise music that seamlessly links multiple songs together allows her to get lost in the wonder and awe of God the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
So yes! I’m so inspired and encouraged to hear that members of Park Street church are passionate about the same things I am passionate about. It was great to hear a voice from the faces I see, and to understand that every is coming from different backgrounds, different past experiences, and brings their own unique ideas of worship to the table (pun intended?). I hope and pray that this coming year at Park Street would be one of rich worship, inspired words, and lives that reflect these workings of the Holy Spirit.