Sunday, September 16, 2007

Power of Informality

I come from a big church - in excess of 600 members, which is astounding for a denomination that considers big to be 200-250 people. So, being at the New Orleans church, with it's regular membership of about 80, is a new experience for me. It's this hard core of UUs, the group that will always be there but that my church has more or less moved beyond. Not that they aren't important, not that they aren't valued members and great people, but as the hard core, they are no longer integral. Not everyone does everything anymore.
This is, at its heart, something that can only exist in a small setting, like why communes can function but the USSR collapsed (very surface analogy there). This is a congregation in a very different sense than I am used to - this is a community, and informality is the guideline here, even in matters that seem to me to be beyond the reach of mundanity. This is discourse during a ritual, this is letting the whole thing be something other than a tightly run affair. It's a gathering of friends, an open house, where great words happen to be said and hymns happen to be sung. It is more involved and on a whole different level than I am used to. This is not a ritual of which the layperson has a part - this is a ritual that would not exist if every layperson didn't do there part. It's fumbling papers, mistakes admitted at the pulpit, and announcements shouted out from the audience. It is impressive, but it is so alien to me. It works, it works really well for the core, and I can now sympathize with what people have lost as the church grows. But the grandeur, the deep significance and overwhelming spirit of the sacred that the full church offers is nothing I would give up.

2 comments:

V said...

This gets at what we're trying to with the video service - get back to the small, intimate community, but keep the best of the gravity and grandeur. That's a tough divide to bridge.

Since the number in the congregation has dropped by 1/3, now your influence on the atmosphere in the service has tripled. Use it wisely!

Kelsey Atherton said...

It's funny - I find myself singing louder and slower, and can suddenly understand why some people are wary of hymns, without the large congregation to mask them.

As for the video service, I was on the committee that approved it, and have been aware of it's developments, but I have yet to go and see what it is all about.