In the spirit of imparting ideas to others, Rev. Sarah Weaver of the Rehoboth Congregational Church agreed to share a portion of her most recent blog, Preaching in Pumps, that addresses how churches should be ‘comfortably uncomfortable.‘
“I get so many great ideas from other people, the least I can do is share what comes to me,” she said.
This particular article stemmed from someone at the Rehoboth church forgetting to order those little cups used during communion. Because of that slipup, communion was served by intinction (taking a piece of bread and dipping it in the chalice), which caused a conversation among members about whether or not people are comfortable with intinction. Weaver thought it was good time to think about how it’s easier said than done to be comfortably uncomfortable and wrote about it in her blog.
Here’s a portion of the article:
People do not like to be uncomfortable. They like to know what is coming next. They like their traditions to be predictable and their spaces to look or feel a certain way.
We do this in the church all the time. We worship a certain way, we arrange our flowers a certain way, we set up our sanctuary and our narthex a certain way and we do not want those things to change. We have the same events, year after year. We have traditions that we hold fast to. We often do not want to try something new because sometimes it is hard to picture something that we have never done before. Many of us are so accustomed to the way we do church here that we cannot imagine doing church any other way.
But guess what? Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. He broke tradition; he did something that had never been done before, something that made the Pharisees uncomfortable.
And in the end, a man was healed. Shouldn’t that have been the goal all along?
God’s grace is kind of a funny thing sometimes.
My point is this: It is okay to be a little bit uncomfortable sometimes. It is okay to try something new. It is okay to do something that has never been done before, even if that means stepping onto a path that has never been traveled on. It is okay to walk away, even if it is just for a moment, from the rituals and traditions that we do by rote and see what else God is calling us to do in this moment.
Friends, I have talked a lot about doing church lately. And sometimes doing church means being comfortably uncomfortable. It means being willing to compromise so that everyone feels like their voice has been heard and that their opinion is valued. It means not immediately dismissing something just because it is different and actively listening to new ideas. It means healing someone on the Sabbath because they are sick and serving someone holy bread because they are hungry. It means listening to God’s still speaking voice guiding us along a journey that is filled with a grace and love that will exceed even our wildest imaginations.
So do not be afraid to be comfortably uncomfortable. Push your boundaries. Stretch yourself. Try something new. And be amazed at God’s potential within our community. As a church, we can and will do great things. And we may find that, along the way, people will be healed, people will be fed and people will be made whole.
The uncomfortableness of change is a common concern among many Conference churches, especially those like the Rehoboth church, which have been around for hundreds of years. With such a long history, there was probably some ‘uncomfortableness’ in the church when it decided to hold an annual ‘Beatles Sunday’ — a worship service that combined traditional elements of worship with popular Beatles tunes. But how uncommon is it to have someone exclaim “I can’t wait!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” in response to a Facebook announcement of an upcoming church service, or to have the pews filled on a summer Sunday morning?!?
“As it states in our Conference Together, As One Vision, Mission & Purpose Statement, we believe God calls us to bring new life as agents of change and so we embrace and encourage adaptive and transformative leadership wherever the Body of Christ is gathered,” said Associate Conference Minister for the Southeast the Rev. Dr. Patty Kogut. “This Rehoboth church is embracing change, even though it may be uncomfortable.”
Source: Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ www.macucc.org/spotlight
Rev. Bruce here . . . this article made me think of the different things we have tried at Second Congregational during my time here. Some have done well. Others have been experiments from which we have learned and then moved on. One example of an “experiment” was my first or second Holy Week at Second Church. Rather than a Service of Tenebrae, we did a dramatic reading of the Passion Story with multiple people reading the different parts. In some churches, this is a much-anticipated event. After we discussed it at the Diaconate, we decided that we would consider it an “experiment” that led us back to the Service of Tenebrae.
Also, for several years we had Sunday morning breakfasts twice a month. Then we had them once a month. Then because of low attendance, we ended them. That was more of an outreach than an “experiment” that ran its (important) course and then concluded.
On Sunday mornings, we’ve had some successful changes. The Passing of the Peace was moved from after the sermon to the beginning of worship. The format of the bulletin was changed and divided into sections to make the whole picture of worship clearer. We had a “Spring Fair” for two years, and that “experiment” evolved and led to holding a dinner/concert as a fundraiser instead. We will try other experiments in the future, doing our best to have fun, listen to one another, and be honest about how they work. If we can combine that honesty with a sense of playfulness, changes that we try will always be successful, whether they last or not. What experiments would you like to try somewhere in the life of Second Church? Share your thoughts with our Moderator, Beth Zelazo, or me (Rev. Bruce)! We look forward to hearing them, and everyone involved will honor and respect your ideas.