The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Both/and worship

Sunday worship needs to be personal, not private

A comment and a question: A mid-50s gentleman who lost his job and was going through a divorce recently came to worship for the first time. In our family oriented service, no one welcomed him. Singles are often lost in the shuffle. How do we reach out and involve them in the church's life?

The comment:

I go to church to seek refuge and comfort from the storms of my busy everyday life. Church is the place I go for solace and silence. I greet people in the narthex but need no handshake interrupting the service. I don't think that is selfish.

Worship is directed to God. We come to church to praise God and be equipped to serve God. Public worship is both personal and communal but never private. People come needing both the community's support and personal solitude.

We can't assume we know peoples' needs. Not all singles are lonely. Other people may be lonely in the midst of their family. Welcome those who come alone, introduce yourself. Don't turn away too quickly--as though you have done your duty. Invite them to coffee hour, to a Bible class, a fellowship gathering or even to your home. They may need a listening ear.

Silence in worship

On the other hand, coming to re-center our lives in God's presence isn't selfish. Jesus prayed privately, sought the disciples' companionship and worshiped in synagogues and the temple.

We often come to worship burdened from the week, wanting relief from our noisy, busy world. Mercifully, the liturgy provides three opportunities for silence together--prior to the confession, following the sermon and before the benediction. Congregations need to make good use of these times. Sometimes trucks roar by, people cough or children fuss. But when we acknowledge these sounds around us and commend them to God, God centers us.

Greeting others in the name of Christ, offering his peace, is no intrusion. It reminds us that we are together in Christ. It reminds us of our need for mutual support.

Paul urges, "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." Our worship is one occasion for bearing each other up in Christ.


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