On Wednesday nights, we do small groups at my church.
Actually, we do small groups almost every night of the week, all over the place. But for about a year now, we’ve had a specific meeting on Wednesday nights.
Originally, it was Wednesday Night Ladies. We started small. And then we grew.
And then, for a short time period, we decided to invite Those Who Are Not Ladies.
In short, we opened the doors to men.
And they came.
We divvy up in groups of 8 – 12. We sit separately – one table for couples who want to be together, one table for men only, and seven other tables for women.
And we sing.
Now, at our church, we like music. We do loud, energetic, spirited music on Sundays. As part of the very reason we exist, we do songs you wouldn’t normally hear in a church on Sunday. If it connects with the message, you might hear “Roxanne” or “Freebird”. Or a John Mayer tune. Maybe a Billy Joel song (one of my personal favorites). We sing songs to and about God and Jesus as well. We sing hymns, too. It’s deep and rich and wide and meaningful. It’s worship. It helps us connect with, understand and appreciate God; we focus our attention and affection on Him.
There’s a little bit of everything, stylistically and traditionally.
Because it fits our purpose, mission and goal, we create a Sunday experience that is much like a theater. Yes, it’s sort of a production. No, we don’t claim that all churches ought to be like this. Yes, we realize that it’s not for everyone.
We have a very focused mission and vision and we believe we best honor God by adhering closely to the strategies we feel He has led us to in order to accomplish that mission.
We do church for people who don’t go to church.
That doesn’t change everything, but it changes a lot of things.
On Wednesday nights, we unplug everything and keep it casual. There are no screens with words and fancy moving pictures – there are papers with typed lyrics. Sometimes with typos.
I sit at the piano and play. And sing at the top of my lungs. Tonight, my friend Matthew stood beside me with his acoustic guitar – unplugged – and played. And sang at the top of his lungs.
And standing all around me are women (and men!), 60 or 70 of them, singing at the top of their lungs. It’s not the smooth, polished, generic vocal tones you hear on the Christian radio station. It’s not the amplified, equalized voices you’ll hear at our church on Sunday morning.
It’s real people, singing. Gathered around the piano in clumps. Some close, some as far away as they can reasonably stand. They can and do sing. They have voices. They sing.
It’s my friends; people I know, lifting their voices, finding a harmony line, following the melody.
It’s Jamie, lifting her hand towards heaven.
It’s Ginger, voice soaring and shimmering.
It’s Susan, with a lifetime of passion for worshiping God echoing from her soul.
It’s Jen. It’s Miranda. It’s Donia. It’s Meg.
It’s all of them.
And here’s what I noticed, and this is true: There is no more meaningful, potent, energizing corporate worship for me than what I experience on Wednesday nights.
It has nothing to do with style or volume or production values.
It is because we sing songs together, and then we go sit at tables together and tell the stories of our lives. Honest and vulnerable. Slowly, at first, while we test the waters and determine whether or not we are safe.
We trust the Creator, as we raise our voices, unhindered and allowed, imperfect. And then we learn to trust each other, voices whispering, confiding, truth-telling. Encouraging.
And that, my friends, is the essence of church. We are learning, together, to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength. And we are learning, carefully and messily, to love one another.
I am so grateful for this church that welcomes me each week. And I am so grateful to reap the benefits of diverse experiences that continue to shape and inform and make me who I am. It keeps changes.
New mercies, indeed.
Grateful for such grace.