In the 14 months since stepping out of legacy church leadership, I've picked up my guitar maybe three or four times. For someone who played most weeks, that's a dramatic change. I've simply not felt the need or the urge to do it. On the other hand, when we visit a church or a congregation, both Anne and I are reminded of what we used to do. Reminded about the importance and not just the rolling discipline and duty of leading worship.
So, my wonderful solid maple, custom made, left-handed Norman acoustic guitar lies silent in its case and the callouses on my fingers have softened. Like preaching, leading and playing for worship, things that occupied my life for over two decades, have quietly slipped from my agenda. Actually, playing the guitar for worship goes back even further to university days in the late 1970's.
Some might say that times change and needs change and circumstances change. It's time for a new thing and simply doing the same old things will only eve produce the same old results. But some of those results were good things. Like a deeper sense of the presence of God, a greater intimacy in worship, a powerful moment of celebration. Those were, and are, good things. There have been lots of debates about the state of worship in the church and the divide between styles and expectations. I'll nail my colours to the mast and say that there have been times when I've got frustrated with worship because it's been more about personal feelings than about encountering Almighty God. But the great blessing and challenge of the movement in worship through the 80's and 90's was for me seeing worship as more than a ritual built around 19th century lyrics and tunes. I learned a lot and I don't want to lose that.
So, as we continue our journey of discovery about the new thing that God has called us into, we need to remember the lessons learned and the value of the things we have learnt to do. We need to remember that we are not trying to plant a congregation in a building to sing songs. But we need to worship, and we need to do that with others. In our different ways, we were both good at leading worship. We weren't great, we're certainly not in the category of excellent musicians, but I think we had a skill, a gift that will one day be useful again.
How we take this forward, I don't know. But hopefully God will lead us to people or people to us with whom we can forge a worshipping community as one dimension of the new thing. Maybe I will start by getting Norman out of his case and allowing him to sing again.