Why Worship? A Summer Series

It is the single most important thing that we do at Plymouth Church. We do it every single week. I like to think we do it pretty well.

But we rarely talk about it. Why do we worship? Exactly what are we trying to accomplish? And could we do it more effectively?

I look forward to living with these questions for a little while.

The first third of the summer (through the end of June) will be driven by a preaching and worship series called Why Worship? (Gather Hear Bless Eat Go). It’s an opportunity to delve deeper into the work of worship. And as a supplement to what we will be doing in worship on Saturdays and Sundays, we will also gather in the middle of the week for conversation about worship. Join us on Wednesdays from 8 to 9 am at the West End Architectural Salvage Coffee Shop in downtown Des Moines (beginning on May 30).

But I want to be really clear about the way this series will work, and what we are (and are not) doing: We aren’t learning about worship. We are exploring worship. We are experiencing worship. We are doing it.

What is the difference?

Plymouth tends to be a fairly cerebral congregation. It’s not entirely our fault; we come by it honestly. At the time of the Reformation in the 16th century, Protestant leaders like Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin looked with suspicion on the ritual and ornamentation of medieval Catholic worship. So their program ran in the opposite direction. Zwingli smashed stained glass windows and banned organ music; in Geneva, Calvin forbade the singing of anything in church except the Psalms. In re-working worship, they made the sermon the focus of the service. Churches were reduced to lecture halls. “To worship” meant “to learn.”

As Congregational Christians, we are the ecclesiastical descendants of Zwingli and Calvin. All these centuries later, their influence lives on in us. I think that is why we at Plymouth Church are so awfully well-educated. I think that is why our first impulse is so often to attend a class or study a book or download a TED Talk.

And there is nothing wrong with learning. (I have been known to do some of it myself from time to time). But there is so much more to worship than acquiring knowledge or entertaining ideas.

So this summer we want to do more than learn about worship; we want to experience worship. Each weekend will focus on one aspect of our worship (Gather Hear Bless Eat Go). And, yes, we will learn a little about what we are trying to accomplish in that moment. But I really hope that we will experience it in a deeper and more profound way.

So here is my invitation to you: Join us this summer. Join us at West End Architectural Salvage on Wednesday mornings. Join us for worship on Saturday Nights at 5:30, on Sunday mornings at 9 and 11. Come to discover just how much we can get out of worship when we enter into it together.

See you in church?


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