And Finally…What is Alternative Worship?

HCR-1406_Advent_Mailer_FINAL.pdf - Adobe Acrobat ProNOTE: Check out the Advent Alternative Worship Service at Hope Church at 9:30 AM, December 14 and December 21!

One person at our meeting spoke up. “If ‘alternative’ means different from other worship services in the area, then our eleven o’clock service already is alternative!” People murmured their assent. We were picking our way through the pricker bushes of defining our task–to imagine a new alternative worship service at Hope Church–and finding our attention drawn by this question: What is Alternative Worship?

Is it cool? New? Hip? Vintage? Ancient? Loud? Soft?
Does it have drums? A screen? Someone with tattoos? Candles? Couches? Coffee?
Whatever it is, we didn’t want it to be imported, foreign, copied… it had to be something generated from the center of the spirit of this congregation of believers. And so we found ourselves at the heart of our mission statement as Hope Church, RCA.

Our mission statement has some beautiful language and goals toward growing in faith, being a welcoming and open community, and leading in service, justice, and acts of compassion–things one would hope to find similarly in many Christian congregations. But the one purpose that stands out is that we are “called by God…to Pioneer.” By the Holy Spirit, we are “willing to experiment courageously and to press ahead in new directions…to seek creativity and excellence in worship…” This is fairly unique to our identity–we are called to be pioneers.

One way we do that is through the good work of Brian Carder, introducing us to new songs and worship styles. Another way is through the various weekly leadership at Early Worship that has us engaging the scriptures in a variety of ways. We have our healing services, our seasonal series, and our special days. All of these are good, creative, excellent. And as pioneers we press on asking, “What more can we do to inhabit this calling?” I like the way Cindi Veldheer DeYoung, in last month’s newsletter, pointed us to the Psalmist’s exhortation, “Sing a new song to the Lord!” Not because the old is no longer good, but because our God is not static, nor are we, and we find renewed expressions in our spirits that seek a voice.

Jesus had a conversation with a Samaritan woman about how and where to worship God. She thought on the mountain, the Jews thought at the temple. Jesus said, “In spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). What Alternative Worship is to us will take its shape not primarily from its form (candles or couches) but from our honest efforts to find fresh expression of our faith as we are led by a pioneering Holy Spirit.

So, what is Alternative Worship at Hope? Let’s find out. It might be as inspiring as a first glimpse of the white crested Rockies. It might be as tedious as Nebraska’s endless sand hills. But in the end, it is this congregation’s calling.

Andrew Spidahl