Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Bigger is not always better

I had an interesting experience this past weekend at church that I felt I must share. Sunday I was scheduled to come sing at the Downtown Presbyterian Church as a paid choir member. I accepted the offer to come sing for this church with great trepidation for several reasons:

1. I did not know what I would be singing until I showed up that morning.
2. I wasn't sure the style of music, whether or not I would be dressed appropriately (I mean, how Does a Presbyterian dress, I ask you?), and whether or not I would have to sing a solo- this would affect how much I needed to warm up in the car on the way into town.
3. It meant I would have to miss out at BBC, singing this huge anthem complete with drumline. I also was going to miss church and Mike's sermon in Romans, and probably would miss Sunday School.

Ultimately, against my selfish desires to sing and worship at my home church, I couldn't pass up the chance to get paid to sing at another church, so downtown I went on Sunday morning. I literally dodged homeless men loitering on the street as I made my way into a side door of the church. I was stared at by these men hovering on all corners of the streets, and felt myself looking down my nose at them. I was the good little Christian going to church on Sunday morning- what were They doing? I was also a bit afraid for my safety even though it was broad daylight.

Into the church I went, where I didn't see another person as I weaved through the darkened building until I heard the banging of a piano and led myself to what I assumed must be the choir room. My assumptions correct, I was the first singer to arrive, and the director handed me a folder and in a flurry started to hand me sheet after sheet of music- hard music- John Rutter and Tchaikovsky- as I sweat (literally- the air conditioning was out) and wondered if I would be able to sight-read well-enough to sing the music in that morning's service.

Slowly but surely the other 5 choir members arrived- yes, I said 5- and I am fairly certain that I was not the only one paid to be there! It made me miss and appreciate my 200 voice choir at Brentwood Baptist as I wistfully thought of the powerful anthem they'd be singing at BBC that morning complete with full orchestra and drumline. But here I was using my gifts and talents in a very obvious way. To this church choir, my one voice mattered. I can't honestly say that when I sing at BBC. We rehearsed for an hour, and then went downstairs for church.

Our service was held in the small chapel, where the "choir" hovered around an out-of-tune piano to sing, the choir director doubling as the pianist and conducting with her nodding head, half the congregation consisted of a visiting youth group, and the substitute minister was a high school English teacher who preached from his open iBook computer propped up on the podium. Time was taken to share individual prayer requests and each person was prayed for individually. (I can't imagine how many hours upon hours we would be in church if they opened up the floor for prayer requests at Brentwood Baptist!) It was a small, struggling church, but it dawned on me the necessity for having an inner-city church present to minister directly to a large unchurched population! One man who voiced a prayer request actually lived in the Nashville Rescue Mission, and he was thanking the church for the ministry that they provide.

And here I was missing my big, cushy, suburban church, while this congregation was coming in contact with blatantly needy people every day! How dare I judge those men on the street as I entered the church. I was ashamed at my own ignorant predjudices, despite the fact that I have done missions projects with Room-In-The-Inn here and with the Muizenberg shelter in South Africa. I thanked God for the chance to experience worship in a different way, and thanked him for the blessing of allowing me to participate in a simplistic, back-to-basics kind of worship.


Mary Anna said...

I really love this story. Praise the Lord for turning our sour attitudes into an opportunity to teach us something!

We worship THAT God!

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