Why I Love Integrated Worship
A few Sundays ago my wife and I sat down in our Sunday morning worship gathering like any other week. We sat quietly for a few minutes looking over the bulletin and waving to a few friends while we waited for our pastor to give The Call to Worship. Just like every week we said our lines in response and waited for the band to begin the Hymn of Adoration.
As the congregation began to lift their voices to The LORD I noticed something different. There was something about the singing that was specifically beautiful that Sunday and I couldn’t quite figure it out. Every time the hymn brought the congregation to a climactic note I noticed a peculiar beauty to the sound. After this happened a few times it finally dawned on me what it was. I hadn’t noticed it until then but I was sitting next to a young girl around seven or eight years old. Her voice was beautiful. As I continued to sing with the rest of the congregation I realized once again why I love “integrated” worship.
While I do love being in a church where everyone worships together, I hate the fact that the term “integrated worship” even exists. Because so many churches divide the congregants up these days it has become necessary for “integrated churches” to distinguish themselves. I would much prefer it if a majority of churches worshiped as a unified body and those that choose to do differently carried the burden of distinction. Perhaps it’s due to the negative historical connotations of the phrase “segregated worship” that they choose not to.
One of the common pushbacks against integrated worship services is the argument that young children can’t understand what’s being said or track along with the sermon. I almost find this argument laughable considering the content being pushed in many of these “segregated” worship services is at most at a third grade reading level. Even if the content were above the comprehension level of a child it’s still no excuse to exclude them from worship or divide the Body.
Christian worship is formative. That means that mere participation in worship plays a role in transforming the congregation. The cadences of weekly liturgy grasp the imagination in a non-cognitive way. This points one’s affections towards the telos (goal/end) of the liturgy, Jesus Christ. A child who is immersed in Christian worship will necessarily be shaped by that immersion. Conversely, when the children are whisked away to the church annexes they are denied such formation. Further, the act removing the children from Christ’s Body (the church) seems to run straight against the words of our Lord when he said “Let the children come to me” (Matthew 19:14).
In worship yesterday morning I was again sitting near a young girl and I noticed another reason to love integrated worship. While she too had a lovely voice it wasn’t her voice that stood out to me. This young girl (under ten years old) had all the words to every hymn MEMORIZED! While she might not be able to remember the pastors sermon next week (neither will most adults) the discipleship she has received is invaluable. These songs are imprinted in her heart in such a way that could never be achieved outside of an integrated worship service!
Food for thought.