Speaking up in church..

Speaking up in church is something that varies widely in the Christian world. When my wife and I joined a small startup church eight years ago everyone there felt welcomed to speak up after the service. Since the church was a liturgical one speaking up during the service was a limited to chanting the required verses as they came up in the service text. But after the service anyone who had something to say could stand up and speak their mind. During those years we were renting space in a strip mall so our church was somewhat unconventional at least from an architectural standpoint. We were a small congregation so speaking up was a good way for everyone to get to know their fellow members.

Five years or so after the startup and with a new pastor we bought and remodeled a space that looked much more like a conventional church. Not long after the new facilities were completed a decision was made to restrict speaking up to only the pastor. If someone wanted to say something they are now required to give their written message to the pastor and he would recite it to the congregation after the service. I’m not really sure the purpose for this change but one of the results, at least from my viewpoint, was to take away much of the small church feel and personal fellowship. I was saddened to not hear those special, although sometimes long winded personal recitals. 🙂

I know when I was a member of a Catholic congregation many years ago speaking up was also limited to pretty much the pastor. The ability to stand up and speak varies greatly among different denominations. Some encourage speaking up with an occasional “Amen” during the service; some allow more personal utterances. But I think there is primarily only one who actually have “speaking up” as the primary means of worship and that is The Society of Friends known as Quakers. For those Quakers who use the unprogrammed worship format speaking up is what the service is all about. It is left up to the congregants to decide what is said during their worship time. Some meeting (services) go the whole period in silence; some are a constant messages as received by the members from the Holy Spirit.

I think God meant us to speak up during our worship time and not to just have everything set up to automatically speak for us.