I’ve been thinking about corporate worship lately.
Many things I believe about corporate worship have come from Mauri Macy—some intentional things he teaches and says, many unintentional simply by how he is. Mauri likes to say, “We try to find some way, in every service, to prove we’re not slick—and usually succeed.” By that he means something I truly value. Worship leadership needs to be real. Rather than draw attention to how cool that transition was or to have a chord progression scream out for attention, worship leaders practice hard and use their skill to get out of the way, to let the worshiper focus attention on God.
Mauri likes to say, “While corporate worship is always personal, it’s not at all private.” (and he credits his brother, Howard, with this phrase). We all have songs and styles and expressions of worship that touch us deeply. The way we connect with God is personal. But when we gather together to worship, it isn’t private. We sing each other’s songs. We celebrate the messy differences among us, because it’s a little window into eternity, when all of God’s children, gathered around Jesus, will worship with all our diversity in harmony!
I’ve watched Mauri—and have seen week in and week out how dedicated he is. He’s been a model of Colossians 3:17. Did you know he still practices his instruments on his own? Did you know he writes musical parts for voice and instruments so that people from our congregation can bring their skills into worship leadership? Did you know he still tries to learn something every time he picks up his guitar?
I’ve watched Mauri—and have seen week in and week out how much he practices what he preaches. He wants to do what he does in a way that allows us to worship without really noticing what is going on up front. This one little thing has stayed in my mind for years, something I noticed only because I was in multiple services: First service, everything went just right on one song, even with a funky key change. Second service, the key change sort of clunked, and the congregation lost their place. Without missing a beat, Mauri changed keys one more time, unplanned, and the whole congregation jumped right back in with full volume. It was the perfect example of his wanting to get it right up front—not so the leaders look good but so the congregation can enter in with everything in us!
These are the principles we want to keep as we transition. We will miss Mauri. But he will be the first to say that worship is not dependent upon him. My prayer for us is that we handle with grace the changes that inevitably come in a transition. That we (to quote Elizabeth Sherwood from years ago) “will bend over backward for each other” as we join together in worship. That more people will find their place in worship leadership (music, drama, the arts, speaking). That we as a community will give our energy and offer our skills to usher each other into the presence of God, not sit back with arms folded waiting for someone up front to “get it right.”
May we keep moving toward the throng of all Christians gathered around Christ’s throne!