Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Church sound systems

Awhile back the Associate Pastor at New Church was looking for people to run the sound system during the worship services.  Being a friend of the AP, as well as his Admin Assistant for a few hours a week, I knew that if people didn't step up this job he would wind up stuck in the sound booth every Sunday.  I was familiar with the Sound System at Old Church so I volunteered.

I am beginning to wonder what I have gotten myself into.  At Old Church there were a few people who knew something about sound and they actually ran the system from time to time...or should I say they attempted to corral the system and coax it into working on Sunday mornings (can I get an AMEN from any other church people?).  At New Church they have people who know something about sound who REFUSE TO RUN THE SOUND SYSTEM.  Of course, I did not find out this information until after I was in the sound booth that first morning and one such person came up to adjust something.  Um...okay.  We had a little bit of a chat and he went back to his seat and all was well.  But that was not the only person.  The next time I ran sound it was someone else who had a suggestion...in the  middle of the service and so it goes.

If I thought the sound system at Old Church was bad, nothing compares to New Church.  Just before we started attending the speakers went out.  The speakers are on the ceiling a good 20-25 feet or higher in the air.  In order to change out the speakers, they need to bring in a lift.  In order to change out the speakers, they need money (which seems to be in short supply unless it is a pet project or something that certain people think is important and then, voila! a whole new system will appear...without getting input from anyone who actually runs the system, but that's a whole 'nother blog post!).  A new set of speakers was temporarily installed.  They are on the ground floor, stationed underneath the overhead ledge.  The sound booth is in the balcony. There are people, such as myself, who choose to sit in the balcony.  The main speakers are on the lower level of the sanctuary.  Does anyone else see a problem here?

They have wires and gizmo's and gadgets running everywhere in the sound booth.  And a chair that squeaks each time you move.  When the person at the pulpit mic speaks, the whole system needs to be turned up to the point where feedback is possible at any second.  It gets especially tricky when the person at the pulpit mic is praying.  Because they gradually get softer to the point where the sound person has to turn the mic way up and still they may not be heard.  Of course the microphone for the worship leader works really well and he starts right after the prayer whisperer which means if his mic volume is up at the level it needs to be for while he is singing, well...I'll just say there are some sound operator gymnastics that take place in order for that not to happen.

Let us not forget there are many in the church who need hearing assistance devices and the fun continues.  Argh.

The irony of having sound problems in a church where the main thing that is done is TALKING does not go unnoticed.  Of course the person who notices this is the person who sits in the sound booth coaxing sound out of the board, turning up the volume on prayer whisperers and usually cursing under their breath.  No wonder it is so difficult to find people to run the sound system on Sunday mornings...we put them through hell.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


This Christmas season has been different for me.  Due to busy weekends (a wedding!  Disneyland!), I've been to church once in the last three weeks.  I'm not sure I will get there Sunday and then it's Christmas Eve.

As a life long Church Chick, I have to say, this Christmas season has seemed very, well, dull, lifeless.  I've felt like I'm going through the motions and it's not really Christmas.  There are other circumstances surrounding that but by in large, the reason has become apparent.  I've only gone to church once during Advent.  There hasn't been any prelude, not gradual warm up to the season.  I haven't sung "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" or "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus".  We haven't argued about singing the Christmas hymns too early or any of that.  There is a Christmas sized hole in Christmas for me this year.

That's quite a revelation for this Church Chick.  A Christmas sized hole is hard to fill.  I bought gifts, I've decorated the house but it wasn't until I pulled out the guitar the other day in anticipation of the one Sunday morning Christmas service that I would be going to church (and leading the music) that it started to feel like Christmas.  Hopefully by Christmas Eve when I stand in front of a congregation, again with guitar in hand, and lead in "Silent Night" that Christmas sized hole will be long gone...

Thursday, November 15, 2012


For over a year I've had a hard time feeling like I belonged at church.  Having left a job and thereby left a congregation that I had not only worked for but grown up in, this past year I've felt adrift.  Yes, New Church has been welcoming, to a point, but I have never felt completely one of the crowd.

There was a time when I moved to college and went to church at a couple of different places.  One place was too small, people really knew if you were there or weren't there.  Another place was too big.  I got too lost in that congregation.  Another place I had made friends but it just wasn't the right place and so for a time I didn't go to church.  It was good.  Someone once argued that I had walked away from God during that time when really, what I had done was walk away from church where I couldn't find a place to belong.

Finding a place to belong is huge, especially when it comes to church.  Finding a place where I feel accepted and welcomed, where the music is to my liking, where the preaching inspires and challenges me, where there is more hope than despair, the list could go on and on.  I don't want to just go to a church, I want to belong.

The other day I was talking with someone who recently looked around their church and realized there was no one like them.  There weren't people within their age range.  Their spouse was the one who had first nudged them and said "look around" and the more they looked, the more they realized, they didn't belong there anymore.  This person related that as they walked around the halls of the church they kept hearing "You don't belong here."  Oh how I could relate.

The truth is, I heard that voice too, for a year or two before I actually listened to the voice and left.  It was a tough time.  I kept looking around at the people I loved, knowing I didn't belong there anymore but just not wanting to leave the place where I had once belonged.  Staying because it's comfortable and you don't want to have to go anywhere different does not equal belonging, in case you were wondering.  There were many moments when I looked, knowing I didn't belong anymore and still unable to leave the safety net of the church.

Which brings me back to now.  Belonging in the church isn't just a matter of being known.  For me belonging means I have a part in the church, that I can speak up and voice my opinion and still be respected and loved.  For me, belonging means I missed when I'm not there, encouraged, supported and challenged when I am there and most of all it means that I am a part of the body of believers, not just a bystander.

Monday, October 1, 2012

What does it mean to want Young Families in church?

New Church has a Pastoral Candidate coming next Sunday.  There are several Meet-n-Greets set up over the weekend to get to know him and hear what he has to say.  I can't make any of them but the Sunday morning time.  I already feel bad for the Pastoral Candidate because as he walks into the church there are expectations in place that he will be, well, the savior of the church.  The hope, by some, is that he will be younger and will attract younger families to the church, which is a lovely thought.  I'm afraid the reality is something those who are hoping for younger families don't really want to face.

For, as I see it, the reality is that to attract younger families, the church needs to be family friendly and family friendly, these days, means that children are welcome.  Not just welcome in their own building or rooms but welcome in the whole church building.  Children are welcome, not just to their own programs but in the main church service.

One of the things that was attractive to me about New Church, before getting there, was the way they included children in the service.  They have tables along the sides of the church that have craft supplies set up so that the children can color or create expressions of worship as they listen and participate in the service alongside the adults.  Before I started attending, those expressions of worship were then brought up to the front of the sanctuary and pinned on a board, creating a place for the children in the service.  They also had children's time.  Now, I'm not a huge fan of children's time...sometimes I think it's more for the adults to be entertained by the children but at least it's a small opportunity for children to have a presence in church.

New Church had a parting of ways (in the most polite terms) with the Pastor who had instigated all of those things in church a couple of months before I started attending.  I heard that within a week or two the boards came off the wall in the front of the sanctuary and children's time ceased to exist within the service.  The tables have remained but slowly more chairs are being introduced into the sanctuary, in a passive-aggressive attempt to push out the tables maybe?  What's happening more and more is that children are being pushed out of the service...to me that is the opposite of being family friendly.

What do people mean, then, when they say they want younger families in church?  Do they really want the children that come along with the parents?  Do they really want the changes that will need to occur for families to feel welcome?  Do they really want younger families?  Or do they just want someone who has a more flexible income and a checkbook? 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Keepin' it real

Beautiful mess...why people think Christians are fake...when worship is rough.  These are just a few titles of blog posts I've read recently.  Each author is a Christ Follower and each author delves into that side of being a Christ Follower that gets more than a little messy.  The side that says "life gets rough and we don't have it all together".

I attend church regularly.  I read a lot of blogs by Christ Followers.  I interact with people on a regular basis.  Life gets rough, it gets messy and we don't have it all together, though we would reallllllyyyyyy like to pretend that we do.  There's the crux.  We like to pretend that as Christ Followers life never gets messy.  We shine s***, as a friend would say and then pretend like it isn't, well, you know, and don't.fool.anyone.  I contend, rather loudly, the world does not need to see another Christ Follower pretending that everything is okay.  They need Christ Followers to keep it real.

As a Christ Follower who tries really hard to keep it real, I will say the sentence. "life gets rough and I don't have it all together" but the sentence doesn't end there.  It continues, "and yet, I have hope that I'm not alone in this pit and life will get better."  See, to me, that's what being a Christ Follower is all about.  I may be in a rough patch, I may not be in the happiest of happy places and really feel like life keeps throwing rocks at me, but I have hope.  Not cheesy, fake, I have to say this because I'm a Christian hope, but deep, abiding, feel it to my bones hope that God is there with me.  In the pit.  I don't have it all together. Life is rough and sometimes I feel very much alone (Yes, today is one of those days).  But I have hope that I won't be in the pit forever.  It's the kind of hope that has me laughing through the tears.  Hope that allows me to praise God even when I am ranting at God.  Hope that allows me to sing a song with lyrics such as "Prone to wander, prone to leave the God I love" or "I'm so wretched, overwhelmed with you" with fervor and meaning, not afraid to admit, I don't have it all together.

I am a Christ Follower, I don't have it all together and life is throwing rocks at me...and I have hope.

Just keepin' it real.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A building or a community?

What is a church?  Is it a building?  Is it a group of people with similar beliefs?  Is it a community?  What is a church?

For so many the word "church" means a building.  A place where people go for an hour or so on a Sunday morning (or maybe a Saturday night).  They sit, they listen, the sing, they go home, they drink bad coffee, they go home.  Many times when I say the word "church" I mean the building.

When the Bible talks about the early "church" it doesn't mean a building.  The word is used in relation to the group of people that gathered together, that group was the "church".  They may have met in a building but it is the body of believers that the Bible refers to as the church, not the place they met.

Modern day Christian culture, though, puts a lot more emphasis on the building being church, rather than the people.  Sometimes there is a push to remember church is the people, not a building, but most of the time that point is lost.  Why does any of this matter?  Good question.

Recently I was talking with a friend about the community of believers and the building of the church.  We talked about going to church, going through the rituals and liturgy church services have come to be versus gathering as a community of believers and allowing the Spirit of God to move and lead the time together.  Is one church and the other not?

We talked about what a community of believers looks like, rather than a legalistic church which holds on to its rules and regulations for the sake of the rules and regulations (the Sanctuary is to be used solely for the purpose of worship on Sunday morning, nothing else).  Is one a church and the other not?

I'm still working this through, obviously, and I definitely have my ideas.  Niggling at the back of my mind is the knowledge that while church can be a building, more importantly church is a community of believers, it is the people.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A God by any other name

I've noticed this trend in prayer that has crawled underneath my skin, kind of like a chigger, and makes it's way to the surface to irritate me and make me itch.  The trend is to strictly relegate God to the role of "Father" in prayer.  What I mean is this "Father, we ask you today...Father, come into our presence...Father, we call on your name..."  I listened in worship this morning and every single person who prayed in front of church started out with "Father".

I don't mind calling God "father", though I know of many for whom that term will never fall from their lips.  What I mind is limiting God to "father".  It seems to make God one-dimensional and so very much human, whereas I see God as multi-dimensional and utterly other.  To me saying "Father" in relation to God conjures up the Sunday School image that I had of God as a giant white cloud in the sky with a face, a mustache, a long white beard and puffy white cheeks and a ready smile.  That God of my childhood was limiting, had parameters that were clearly known and would always be in the sky.  The God of my adulthood is different.

God may look like the God portrayed in "The Shack", a big black woman in an apron.  God may look like the wind.  Like the frog that sat beside me on the beach one day as I struggled to make sense of the heartache I was feeling.  God might look like the guy who sold me my Mustang Convertible.  God might look like the rocks where I sat in Tahoe last year, officially deciding to quit my job.  God might look like the lizards near the rocks that kept darting back and forth beneath my legs, making me move.  God might look the trees.  God might look like Ms. Shirley in Mississippi or my friend Cora or maybe even David, who lived in the woods.  I have no idea what God might look like but I do know that I cannot limit God to being just "Father".

God is Creator, Author, the Alpha and Omega, beautiful, scandalous, full of Grace, full of Mercy, full of Kindness but also a God of wrath and a God of love.  God is so infinitely big, so infinitely amazing I cannot fully comprehend nor explain God.  God is the giver of life, the keeper of my deepest secrets, the one who gives, the one who grieves.  God is breath.  God is hope.  God is compassionate and slow to anger.  God is the one who pushes me beyond the limits I have set for myself.  God is a cheerleader and a a rule enforcer.  God is...God not just Father but so much more.