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“A Matter of Worship” by Ellenor Paul-O’Neil

I often wonder what is required of me as a Christian when it comes to worship and if my worship is acceptable to God? These questions are the same for many worshipers universally. Worship is a significant component of our relationship with God and should never be taken for granted. Attending a church sponsored program at Takoma Park SDA Church earlier this month really helped me to gain a clearer perspective on worship.    

Ellenor C. Paul-O’Neil

“How are we to worship”, “Are we worshiping correctly” and “What is the right way to worship were” some of the thought-provoking questions that established a foundation for the panel discussion Worship: More than a Song. The panel discussion on worship practices took place on Sabbath afternoon, April 16, 2016 at the Takoma Park Seventh-day Adventist Church (TPC). Contemplative, critical, inspirational and transformational are just a few words to describe the program. There were at least 100 individuals present and ready to gain insight as well as a broader perspective on the sacred matter of worship.

The meditative song service set the tone for the afternoon’s program. The selection of traditional and reflective hymns —This is My Father’s World and My Faith Has a Resting Place were songs that created a welcoming atmosphere. The theme of worship was certainly the focus. TPC’s own Minister of Music and Worship, Anwar Ottley, moderated the discussion. He graciously welcomed the well-versed panelists: Bogdan Scur, Associate Professor of Religion at Washington Adventist University; Cheryl Wilson-Bridges, Pastor of Worship at Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church and Adjunct Professor of Christian Worship and Church Music at Washington Adventist University; Nolan E. Williams, Jr., fourth-generation ordained preacher and CEO of NEWorks; and Mark Willey, Minister of Music at Spencerville SDA Church.

The essential thought underscored throughout the discussion was the fact that worship is essential. More inspiring is the notion that it will continue forever. Essentially, the panelists helped the audience to understand what true worship is not. It shouldn’t be taken for mere entertainment rather it is an interactive activity that involves the worshiper offering praises to God. It isn’t a synonym for music and it is not only about music and song! It certainly isn’t about “us” but rather it is all about God, the one whom we worship. “We should worship God because He is worthy; this should be the only reason,” said Professor Scur. Nolan Williams, Jr. further noted that it is a time when we experience the presence of God. Finally, worship should not only be based on feelings and emotions, but more so aimed to satisfy God, not ourselves. Worship is a time when we come to give and not necessarily to receive something. It is about bringing what God requires of us—our heart.

The role of music in worship was highlighted in the discussion. We should value music in the same manner we value the “word”. It should be planned and selected mindfully. This is where our Pastors and Ministers of Music become an integral component of the worship experience. These roles should not be taken for granted, rather they should be thoroughly understood by the church community. It is so important that the panelists encouraged church leaders to make it a priority to train the youth for these roles.

Music’s role is significant because it affects the manner in which we praise God. According to Professor Scur, music in worship heavily impacts the way we show gratitude and it assists in pressing the “word” into our hearts. Pastor Wilson-Bridges also emphasized the notion that songs are forms of praise and that they are a primary manner in which music leaders are able to teach. The effective selection and use of music assists in teaching the congregation about God—when effectively selected, music aids the worshiper so the word “can take root and bear fruit.”

Worshipers who attended the program came with various expectations and were able to receive answers for their questions. When polled prior to the discussion, members shared that they were attending to confirm what they already know about worship, and gain an understanding of how music could help to elevate us up to God. Ingrid Blackwood-Thomas, member of TPC, shared that she was seeking to gain a broader perspective on worship and how it can enrich her spiritual life. A new member shared that she had no expectations, but rather she was open to learning as much as she could about worship. First Elder, Trevor O’Neil, shared that he was seeking to gain more insight on worship styles and how tradition and culture impacts worship service. Pastor Wilson-Bridges noted that the program was enriching and that she was happy to participate. When asked to give two words that described the program, Anwar Ottley himself noted that it was inspirational and invaluable. From this enlightening panel discussion, it is clear that worship is “more than a song” it is indispensable and is a very important factor in our Christian experience.

Photos Credit: Kosly Joseph

Editor: Maya Paul, Communications Director

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(From Left to Right: Cheryl Wilson-Bridges, Pastor of Worship at Sligo SDA Church | Bogdan Scur, Associate Professor of Religion at Washington Adventist University | Nolan E. Williams, Jr., Ordained preacher and CEO of NEWorks | Mark Willey, Minister of Music at Spencerville SDA Church)

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