How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Ps.137:4) 

Dear Fellow Members, 

In my previous letter I opened up the question - “Where is the Holy Spirit leading us?” How is the Church to function in a time of change? How is our worship, fellowship, pastoral care, outreach and administration to adapt in a digital age?

Let me begin with worship because worship is the USP (unique selling point) of the Christian Church. We can find all these other things elsewhere. We must immediately acknowledge that parish ministers all over Scotland have been doing their very best in difficult and unprecedented circumstances to provide worship in a novel format. They are to be congratulated for their endeavours; and not criticised.

It must, however, become apparent at once that there is a significant difference between public worship and private devotions. Public Worship is not a spectator sport. It is not about watching someone else worshipping. It calls for involvement and participation. In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles we read: “they were altogether in one place.” (Acts 2:1) The word CONGREGATION comes from the Latin CON meaning together and GREX meaning a flock or herd. Public Worship involves the People of God flocking together. In other words – you have to be there! Unfortunately this tends unavoidably to make recorded worship somewhat artificial. 

Another challenge and difficulty we have to face in a digital age is the fact that over time we have been conditioned to think of film and television as entertainment. Even serious news and current affairs programmes are referred to as “SHOWS”. Good television calls for action, drama, colour, and movement; (and as much excitement as possible). We have to stop and remember that worship is not entertainment; and it is not meant to be entertainment. We must not allow the shallow and unthinking among us to turn it into entertainment. It is, however, simply an inherent fact of the medium that pointing a camera at a static talking head can make for bad and boring television.

Just look at the Credits at the end of an hour’s television programme and note the vast numbers involved in such a production. There is enormous input from a whole variety of different skills, talents and professions. One solitary parish minister cannot compete with such professionalism and expertise. This, however, is the quality of film and television output that we are used to; and that we take for granted. If the church is to do this well doesn’t this call for a new and different kind of Training for our Worship leaders? Doesn’t it call for a new and fresh way of thinking? Does it, indeed, call for Worship Teams made up from a number of local congregations co-operating and sharing and working together? In a digital and co-operating age do we really need quite so many church buildings?

Please let me hear your own thoughts and feelings on this matter. Lets share our thinking on this.

Every Blessing,