I was wired to be a night person. From about 12 years old on, I was the last to bed in my home. In college I was rising no earlier than 8am ever, and going to bed between 1:00-2:00am. Most of my life I have been up before 6:00am. Why? I married a morning person. The schedule with which I was most comfortable was least comfortable for her.
For fourteen years I worked with and had a friendship with one of the most extroverted people I ever met. I am comfortable with long periods of silence and being quite alone. Jean can’t go many minutes without people. A perfect evening may be with a couple of close friends for me and Jean loves nothing more than spending an evening with two dozen of her closest friends. What’s more, her perfect evening just wears me out and mine would depress her.
One family member loves snow and cold. Another has already had too much cold and snow this mild winter. He loves the symphony and she enjoys sports. You get the picture…what is pleasing to one is not to another. What is comfortable to one is uncomfortable to someone else. In churches, I have often found that the very thing that makes one person comfortable or pleased elicits the opposite response from another.
For almost a decade and a half I pastored a church which had, by midway through that time, thirty to fifty percent of the people worshiping in contemporary settings while the rest worshiped in some level of traditional or blended service. When we had all-church services, such as Ash Wednesday or Holy Week, we tried to include elements from all types of services, knowing that almost everything we did would make some comfortable and some very uncomfortable. We began worship by saying, “Tonight, we have people from all our services together at one place at the same time. Isn’t that great? And we will use some of what we do in each service here together. That means, for example, that we will sing a song that you enjoy or at least is in a style you enjoy. Remember someone else here does not like it at all. At some point we will be doing something in a way that you don’t like at all. Look down the row and you will find someone who just loves it. Be happy for them and sing to make what they like as great as possible!” Eventually it worked, but it took hard work for everyone.
By now you get it. What makes one person comfortable makes another uncomfortable. The preferences of one run contrary to another. Here at Shepherdstown we are moving through a time of change. By itself change is never easy. Add to that the complicating factor that what pleases one is displeasing or uncomfortable to another. Projection, styles of music, digitalization all have that effect.
We have been clear that we intend to do our best to offer options. There will be increased digitalization, but we will maintain paper options for a long time because those who are uncomfortable with computers matter to us. We are still dominantly a church that does very traditional worship but we will incorporate more visuals (and the change that is needed to accommodate them) because those who like a more current/contemporary service matter to us too.
We all have our preferences, but when our love of God and others is great, we are willing to live out of our comfort zone to help others know of God’s love and our love for them.
In Christ’s service,
Dennis L. Otto, pastor