Monday, May 13, 2013

I Can’t Do That! I’m Presbyterian!

Some time ago, our church started something at the 11:15 service (the worship isn’t “contemporary” but something more akin to “new litgurical). What was new was the encouragement of the use of hands in the service, in addition to what we might to do pray.

While some (many?) might laugh at this being a radical departure or innovation, it was something like that for us. After all, we’re evangelical Presbyterians. Aren’t the use of hands in worship meant for (gasp!) charismatics?

Well, no.

I have to admit that when it was first discussed and undertaken, I sat on my hands (figuratively, not literally) (I couldn’t resist the pun). Most of the people in the service did as well. I didn’t rush to the Westminster Confession of Faith to see if it was either okay or some new heresy; I suspected the confession wouldn’t have much to say on the subject. I took a wait-and-see approach.

Months passed. People, even young people, didn’t rush into acceptance and implementation. We are Presbyterians, after all. But a few “early adopters” began to use their hands at critical points, like during songs and hymns.

One Sunday, at the end of the service when the pastor gives the blessing to the congregation, I lifted my hands. Not way up in the air, mind you, but enough to receive the blessing.

The world didn’t come to an end; the church building was left standing. It actually seemed like something natural. It was okay, and it was part of worship.

“We use our hands to reach up and cry for help, to tell of our soul’s thirst. To bless the Lord and to praise his holy name,” write Valerie Hess and Lane Arnold in The Life of the Body: Physical Well-Being and Spiritual Formation.

It’s what I do now. And I’m still a Presbyterian.

Over at The High Calling, we’re reading and discussing the Life of the Body during the month of May. The section included three chapters, including one entitled “The Theology of Food.” Marcus Goodyear is tackling that one in the main post today. I almost tackled that one here today, but decided to hold back.

Suffice it to say that I have a problem with the whole idea of “A Theology of Food” and suggestions that a proper theology includes natural, organic and local food, and excludes everything else (everything else is 99 percent of the food supply). The chapter also said organic food is pesticide-free, which is an understandable perception but understandably wrong. I might have had less of a problem if the chapter had been called “The Politics of Food” instead of “A Theology of Food.”

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Martha Jane Orlando said...

When I first began participating in contemporary worship, I found using my hands to be awkward and unnatural. After all, I had been a "good Episcopalian" for years! Now, it seems just as natural as breathing . . .
Glad you all tried something new, too!
Blessings, Glynn!

Jennifer @ said...

"It’s what I do now. And I’m still a Presbyterian."

:) ^^^^^^^

Me, too. Except Lutheran.

Marcus Goodyear said...

Glynn, I don't really wave my hands much either. I think God is really okay with that.

I do have ways of waving and making a fuss on social media sometimes, though...

Nancy said...

Ah, my brother Presbyterian! It does seem to me that our tribe has a ways to go in practicing more embodied worship. We have a few brave souls in our congregation who raise hands during the Doxology, but mine remain fairly frozen to my sides.

However about ten years ago we built a new sanctuary, and moved out of the fellowship hall with kitchen chairs where we had worshiped since the church's founding. Our church now has pews with kneelers--kneelers! if you can believe it, used by a bunch of Reformed Presbyterians. We had a fair number of discussions about the purpose and value of kneeling in prayer, and the practice seems widely accepted.

But that hand-raising business? That could take us awhile.

Unknown said...

:) I get this, Glynn. Raising my hands still feels awkward to me sometimes. But not when I'm singing alone at home, or in the car. For some reason it feels a little pretentious to me to do it in front of other people.

I think you have a good idea with that "politics of food" title too :)

Anonymous said...

Y'all might need to start wearing stretchy shirts to enable you to get those arms nearer to your ears.

Unknown said...

Glynn, I grew up Pentecostal where hand-use was often practiced through peer-pressure or, at times, manipulation. I rebelled in my 20s and sit on my hands these days. I need to loosen up a bit.

Sandra Heska King said...

There are times I just have to raise my hands. Like the other Sunday at the early service when we sang the Revelation Song. I was near the front, but I'm sure I was the only one.