a. trans. To honour or revere as a supernatural being or power, or as a holy thing; to regard or approach with veneration; to adore with appropriate acts, rites, or ceremonies.
b. transf. To regard with extreme respect or devotion; to ‘adore’.
c. absol. To engage in worship; to perform, or take part in, the act of worship.
We describe our sacrament meeting as a worship service, we talk about temple worship. But, how much time do we actually spend on worship while we participate in these things? And how much on instruction? How are we defining worship?
The subject of this post began to take form in my mind following a particularly frustrating sacrament meeting. The second speaker began his talk by quoting from the preface to the hymn book:
“Inspirational music is an essential part of our church meetings. The hymns invite the Spirit of the Lord, create a feeling of reverence, unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord.
“Some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns. Hymns move us to repentance and good works, build testimony and faith, comfort the weary, console the mourning, and inspire us to endure to the end.”
He finished by over-running his allotted time, and the presiding officer deemed it necessary to cut the intermediate hymn. Oh the irony! Just as well he hadn’t gone on to quote the next sentence in the preface:
“We hope to see an increase of hymn singing in our congregations.”
Following the final speaker, the closing hymn was “Keep the Commandments”, a primary song*, very short, and not a hymn of praise, worship or an expression of gratitude. Grrr!
Feeling rather frustrated it occurred to me to wonder how many of our hymns are, in fact, hymns of praise or worship. According to the topical index, all too few. Those hymns are the ones I tend to favour, and back in the past when I had the task of selecting the hymns for sacrament meeting, they always got a good and frequent airing. I’m missing them now.
For our sacrament meetings then, how much time do we actually spend on worship? Most of our hymns are not hymns of worship, though the sacrament hymns would probably qualify, even though they are not all listed under that subject. During the passing of the sacrament itself, we have the time to ponder on and feel gratitude for the atoning sacrifice. And that’s about it. About 20 minutes of the 70 minute service is what I consider to be a generous estimate. The talks are frequently on assigned topics, and more often than not are instruction rather than worship. I don’t object to instruction, but frankly, we get plenty of that in the Sunday School classes and other meetings that either precede or follow our sacrament meetings.
I have heard that the new Handbook of Instructions isn’t nearly so prescriptive when it comes to the form a sacrament meeting should take. Nevertheless, I have seen no departure (bar one) from, for me, the weary format of 2 or 3 speakers and (I hope) an intermediate hymn.
That one departure was an incredible Easter service I attended visiting another ward: there were readings from the New Testament, choral items, congregational hymns, and one talk on the subject of Easter. Local dignitaries had been invited and were in attendance. Clearly the usual format was not considered to be appropriate when inviting the mayor et al to attend.
I feel bound to ask why it is appropriate for the membership in general to put up with it week in week out. Could we grasp our freedom and make some changes? A lot more singing of hymns, and an increase in the the number of hymns of praise and worship would be a good start, because I wholeheartedly agree with this statement from the preface of the hymnbook:
“The hymns … unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord.”
Only when we get to sing them!
And for me, for worship, nothing beats singing or playing my heart out in a hymn of praise.
- When do you feel you are worshipping?
- What has been your experience of the balance between worship and instruction in sacrament meetings?
- What changes would you recommend?
(*Just what precisely is that doing in the hymn book? Given a choice I’d take “Come Follow Me” or “How Gentle God’s Commands” for that topic.)