Lessons from the Sidechair

At my new internship church, part of my role is helping with the worship services each Sunday.  The HOS and Associate usually share leadership of the various elements of worship, but they have graciously added me into the mix.  I’m learning the ropes, bit by bit, including the pre-service rituals.  They’ve been working together for almost 15 years now, so you know they’ve got more than a few!

Before the start of the service, we walk around to the back of the chancel (after praying with the musicians) and come in through a door that faces the congregation.  We walk over to the chairs set up for the worship leaders.  The two main chairs are sort of tall an have armrests.  There are spares on either side, no armrests and just an inch or so lower.  Mine is the one between the Associate and the choir loft stairs.  And it is crammed in there.  Really.  The front right leg of the chair is squished right up next to the loft’s riser and the left side of the chair is slightly overlapped by the armrest.

I know it’s not meant to be (and I bet I would be assured otherwise if I were to mention it), but it sort of feels like I’m in the junior seat.  Like the kid’s table at Thanksgiving or something.  It doesn’t help that I’m not robed and they are – not that I’ve got one or particularly desire to wear one. It’s not as flashy as riding in a sidecar on a motorcycle, but I suppose that’s an apt comparison.  It’s even more like when I ride on the back of the hubby’s motorcycle.  I have to pay attention, even though I’m not driving, otherwise I can through the whole thing out of whack.

Plus, when I look at how generously and warmly they are offering these leadership opportunities, all of that vanishes.  By carving out space for me to be part of the leadership team on Sunday morning, they are setting me up for other leadership opportunities in the coming months.

And so… what have I learned so far as I sit in the side chair?

1.  While I enjoy and am comfortable with extemporaneous prayer, having something written out (or at least notes) is much easier to handle when learning the rhythms of a new worship order.

2. There is something to be said for memorizing creeds, responses, etc.  But there is something intimidating about not knowing the right words.  I memorized the ecumenical version of the Apostle’s Creed as part of my officer training at a previous church.  Try as I might, I stumble right through the traditional version.  I can only imagine what a visitor who knows neither must feel when the vast majority of people in the room are standing and reciting without looking!

3. In Pastoral Care class, we read about worship being an integral part of pastoral care.  I agreed then.  But having learned new worship orders from two churches in the past few weeks, I can say it is absolutely an important part of the teaching and encouragement of the church.  And attempting to lead a pastoral prayer without really knowing the community made it even more clear.  One can be orthodox and Reformed and use all the right pieces in the right order, but without connection to the life of the church, it is but a sounding gong (apologies to St. Paul).

And that’s just in three Sundays!   Who knows what sort of wisdom I’ll glean as the semester progresses…


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