Presbyterians Today

APR-MAY 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | APRIL/MAY 2018 35 accepting environment to lift one's hands in praise when so moved, there is resistance to a bodily experience for some Presbyterians. Even the passing of the peace may feel overly familiar — too touchy-feely — for some. Weirich remembers the passing of the peace complaints in her former congregation. She also remembers when a member told her to not change a thing. The member then handed her a poem by Ann Weems called Touch in Church. The poem still sits on her desk today, reminding Weirich that sometimes the passing of the peace is the only human contact people have all week. In An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor writes, "I'm not sure when Christian tradition lost confi- dence in the body, but I have some guesses. Although Jesus was a Jew, many of his earliest interpreters were Greeks, who divided body and soul in ways that he did not. Then along came the Protestant Reformation, with its deep suspicion of physical pleasure, followed by Freud's dark insights into human sexuality. Add to that the modern scientific reduction of the body to biological matter, overlaid by Victoria's Secret ads, and it is small wonder that so many of us are uncomfortable in our flesh." Breaking traditional models Five years ago, the worship and dis- cipleship team of First Presbyterian Church in Beacon, New York, took a sacraments course. The course opened the conversation of doing worship differently. "We were sort of stuck in the old model of worship, and we had the desire, for kids especially, to have par- ticipatory experiences," said the Rev. Ben Larson-Wolbrink. "There was the traditional 'have the kids in worship up to the children's sermon, and then get them out of there' thought. But my experience was that the kids grew up loving the church, but then wanted nothing to do with worship." The worship and discipleship team turned to the idea of prayer stations at special services, giving everyone a chance to get up and move around — children too — and have someone pray with and for them individually. The team then introduced a weekly baptismal reminder, where during the prayer of confession, the children come to the front of the church where there are individual Communion cups of water on a tray. The children take turns pouring their cups of water into a pitcher in the baptismal font. Then during the assurance of pardon, one child visibly pours the water into the font. Finally, says Larson-Wolbrink, "it all comes home" with noisemakers during the Gloria Patri. "Our souls are in need as are bodies for a deeper expression of worship," he said. "I'm totally con- vinced if we want to reach millennials, it has to be participatory. Culturally, no one just sits and receives anymore. We all participate, react and engage." Some aversion exists Not everyone loves the experiential model. Larson-Wolbrink offered foot washing during a Lenten service and admitted "there was a lot of squawking." "And that's okay. Some chose not to come. But for those who did, it was very powerful. Every time we do something experiential with worship with the body, it taps deeper into the participants and takes them some- where their souls long to go," he said. Weirich tweaked the idea by offering foot washing and/or hand washing, and she said that many pre- ferred the latter. It was an idea she introduced while serving the Guiding Light Mission in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At the Mission, she offered two basins — one filled with warm water and lavender, and one empty. People held out their hands over the empty basin as someone dipped a small pitcher into the warm water and gently poured it over their hands while saying a blessing. Weirich remembers those hands. "All different colors and textures, some with dirt under the nails, or rough and chapped, or nails bitten to the quick. Many of the participants at the Mission had psychological and mental health challenges, but it was at that moment that they met your eyes," she said. The need to bring the body along with the brain is the essence of worship — worship is not merely an intellectual exercise, nor an emotional COURTESY OF FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH Every week the children at First Presbyterian Church lead the congregation in a spirit-filled Gloria Patri, complete with noisemakers and streamers.

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