What Worship Means to Me

Our sanctuary here at Parkville Presbyterian is a very special place. In my mind it is not simply that room of the church where we gather on Sunday morning for worship. It is decidedly different than any other space I am in on every other day.

And when I enter, I leave behind my daily cares, my challenges and I purposefully move from the secular and ordinary to the sacred and holy. I will sometimes say something to myself like, “Be here now,” or “Be present in this space.” This helps me to quiet myself and endeavor to take in all that occurs during worship. I stop thinking about my to-do list, where I need to be in the afternoon or whether I have caught up on emails and phone calls and other deadlines.

In Richard Foster’s book, The Celebration of Discipline, he says that “to worship is to change.”  To be open to change requires that we be attentive, receptive, eager and available to the transformation God seeks for each of us. And so for me, I need to take off the yoke of all the cares and woes of daily life and be present. I do not need to be alone and I take comfort by being with others of like minds and hearts. But I need to be calm, to be mostly silent and to listen.

I like to remind myself of how often I have been in this space over 22 years, and of the many people, some now gone, that I have shared it with. And of special occasions of worship such as weddings, memorial services, confirmations, commissioning ceremonies and Senior Sundays where our children have given their testimony. And all of that reminds me that I am a very different person than I was a decade ago, and a decade prior to that.

I have come to realize that this transformation has been, for me, quite slow and gradual. I understand that I acquire new ways of living and learning and being each time I am in this place.  This deliberate, continuous awakening is good for me. And I am grateful for it.

This past year in particular, I satisfied my intellectual itch to better understand how the Bible came to be and why certain books are included and others were put aside. Our series of sermons and Sunday School classes on Deleted Scenes offered a peek behind the curtain and great perspective on the formation of the Bible, particularly the New Testament. In addition to learning about Clement, Thecla and Bel, I came to a deeper appreciation of the how important it is that the canon was closed and that the Bible we read today is just as it was in the early days of Christianity. This enduring link to our parents and ancestors is a significant reason that our faith has flourished for thousands of years.

Each time I enter our sanctuary, I know we will pray, sing, give testimony, recite readings as a congregation, receive the word interpreted, offer our gifts to God, and lift up our praise. And so when I have made the transformation to be fully in worship I am no longer just another sheep in the flock, but one who is able to go from worship and from this place to be present in the world and to share my joy at being Christian with those I encounter.

It is also here that I intentionally practice gratitude.  I count the many blessings and gifts I have been given and thank God for all that he has provided. And from that gratitude I know that I am called to reach out to others and to live each minute of each day with purpose and in a manner that will please God. I know that that only by being an active and engaged member of Parkville Presbyterian can I return some of what I have been granted. Though your journey will be different in form and pace, we all are part of the body of Christ. And we should think and pray carefully about how we will return some of the abundance we have received as we approach Dedication Sunday and fully live into our stewardship theme: Celebrate the Blessings.

There is effort in worship. It isn’t, nor should it be, too easy. For me, it simply cannot be a passive act. And so as I rise to go out, I am already looking forward to returning.

Randy Smith

Ruling Elder