Convergence and Worship Planning

Rev Jeremy SmithNo less than five people who left the worship service on Sunday said the same thing: “I’m so glad you used Laron’s hymn.”

For the first person, I was perplexed. I looked at the hymns and I didn’t see any of them written by Laron Hall, former pastor of First UMC about 20 years ago. What did they mean?

Thankfully, the second person clarified: “The closing hymn was one of Laron’s favorites.”

The closing hymn was #206 “I want to Walk as a Child of the Light.” It has the following as a refrain that Laron saw as a refrain for his own Christian walk (and indeed, the words “No Darkness At All” are the title of Laron’s book of sermons and prayers, available in our Library):

In him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike. The Lamb is the lamp of the city of God. Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

As brilliant a choice of a hymn that might be on a day when I referenced Laron in the sermon, I cannot claim credit. It was a coincidence, or perhaps a convergence. The clergy (sometimes with a worship team of laity) select the hymns and scriptures and sermon directions many months in advance. The music team selects anthems, offertories, and organ music that reflect the worship message (did anyone else notice Jonathan’s offertory talked about light as well?).

Where coincidence meets convergence is the result of a typo. I had written a hymn down in the worship plan for the day, but I had mistyped it–the number I wrote down led me to a prayer in the Hymnal which was nowhere close to relevant! In selecting a new hymn, #206 seemed most appropriate. Little did I know the memories that would be brought up by our congregation.

I write the above comments because planning worship is a mixture of preparedness and an openness to the moving of the Spirit. Like our own discipleship, if we prepare and study too little, our walk with Christ struggles from the apathy. If we keep to a rigid schedule and regimen, we miss the coincidences and spontaneous opportunities that come our way.

I’m thankful that worship at First Church offers a mixture of channels for thought and openness to the Spirit to move through the room. Look no further than the children’s time to see the happy mixture of planned message and spontaneous messages!

Blessings, and see you on Sunday as we begin our journey through Lent.

~Jeremy

PS: For the record, if I ever get assigned a hymn in the hymnal, I’ll take Hymn #451 “Be Thou My Vision.” It’s my favorite and I have it open on my desk as a reminder whenever I walk by.

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