After the service at First UMC Burlington on Sunday someone came up to me and said: “The Doxology is too low.” This person has an astute ear for music. We DID lower the Doxology yesterday – by a whole step. We did this so that it would transition more easily from the hymn we had just sang to the acclamation of praise known in the Christian Church as “The Doxology”.
The theme of our worship service was values. The qualities for living lifted up by prophets, epistle writers and Christ – justice, mercy, humility, forgiveness, servanthood, faithfulness. And of course – love. We explored what can happen when human beings become certain of their beliefs. “Certainty” is powerful; it can also be dangerous. For people who try to follow Jesus, we look to him to give definition not to our doctrine, but to our way of living in community together and in service to our neighbor. What is “justice” as Jesus would see it?
Following the service we engaged our congregation in a conversation on homosexuality. With recent and pending trials of United Methodist clergy who have officiated at same-sex weddings in the news, we decided to sit together – each of us with our opinions and convictions – and see what would happen as we opened up to each other. “Speak your mind and heart,” we said; “but don’t try to convert or convince.” We tried to listen to one another without drawing any lines in the sand. Is it possible for people to hold opposite views and beliefs from one another and still worship together such that all are welcome, safe, and encouraged to use their gifts?
I found myself thinking about the comment regarding the Doxology – not from the standpoint of what key we might be singing it in, but from the standpoint of our capacity to praise, love and accept. I cannot say for certain whether everyone felt safe during the conversation yesterday. It didn’t feel to me as if everyone there was equally comfortable and confident so as to be able to open up to each other. But we were together, and we were trying. And that’s an important step. I think our “Doxology” IS too low. We will keep working at First UMC to raise the pitch, the height, breadth and depth of our capacity to offer praise to God and love for one another.
And our church isn’t the only outfit on the planet struggling with this.