Ancient-future worship invokes Holy Spirit
BY MELISSA LAUBER
The "ancient-future" summons the Holy Spirit. It evokes grace and invites worshippers into a timeless journey with Christ.
Ancient-future practices, which draw upon the devotion of the early Christians and the post-modern curiosity and creativity of today's seekers, are bringing new life to Solley UMC in Glen Burnie.
The monthly ancient-future services, held on weeknights, attempt to make God relevant in new ways, said David C. Shank, the church's pastor.
In August, the church began these services with a rededication of its worship space, using items that speak to people's souls - the starlit sky, a wooden cross, candles blazing in the darkness.
A second service, intentionally geared to a young adult audience, used music to illustrate the truth that when one makes the right connections, they find God is in everything.
In the planning, Shank takes care to make sure that authenticity is key. He also opens himself up, through prayer and meditation, to the Holy Spirit, allowing the Spirit to shape the service. Living out of a sense of community also plays an important role in ancient-future worship, he said. Relevance, silence, warmth and wonder are also built into the experience.
Attendance at these services is growing. They started with 11 and now have more than 30. The ancient-future experience may also be changing the Sunday morning congregation of about 60 worshippers as Shank and church leaders help the congregation understand that they are "building community to go into the community."
Learning how to balance one's time alone with God and among fellow Christians with time spent living out one's faith in the world is an important lesson, said Shank. "The church has to be relevant to the world or it will find itself in decline."
At Solley, he said, we're taking small steps, but we're moving forward, finding new ways to touch community. "By gesturing outward, rather than inward, we're getting rid of the boundaries that separate the church and the world."
The ancient-future is a part of this effort. The congregation is also slowly growing more comfortable with mystery, asking deeper questions and seeking to find answers and meaning.
"Many people in our culture, particularly young adults, are sick of smoke and mirrors," Shank said. "They are looking for something to believe in and they want it to be real."
Human beings are "inclined to have a desire to worship God," said Shank. "As we rethink church we need to listen to the Holy Spirit. We're on a journey. We take steps every day toward Christ."