Sunday, June 16, 2013

Life as a Clergy Wife: And a Time to...Let's Go!

Someone recently asked my husband if he'd shorten the Sunday service. He came home and told me. I've waited a respectable length of time before writing about this. Maybe an entire week.

Shorten Sunday Eucharist? How much shorter could it get? Clearly these people know nothing about their Jewish roots.

Being raised Jewish, I entered my Christian Era at a level of comfy discomfort with lengthy worship services.

When I was growing up, a typical synagogue service involved at least 90 minutes of blessings, prayers, Torah readings, and D'var Torah/Drasha (trans: homily). Add another 30-to-60 minutes for the Oneg Shabbat (Hebrew: "Joy of Sabbath." Practical reality: refreshments).

Being raised in the Reform movement, I knew our services were brief moments in secular time compared to ones Conservative and Orthodox Jews conducted. Theirs went on for hours, although it's also true their services also seemed to involve a lot of traffic and schmoozing. No silent sitting in pews.

And so it came as a shock to discover Christian worship took less than an hour to complete from opening hymn to closing benediction.

I'm referring, of course, to a typical Sunday morning when there are no baptisms, renewal of nuptial vows, or sending youth off to build houses in developing countries. Regular services seem to be done in an analytic hour (i.e., 50 minutes).

In all fairness, that recent request to shorten the service came about because there would indeed be a sending forth ceremony. Could he, perhaps, shorten his sermon?

Oh, he could do that and more. He could also eliminate the second reading; cut out some hymn verses. My suggestion:
"Save time? How about sing every other word?"
Meanwhile, shimmering in the thought bubble:


  1. Confession? Prayers? No, those have to stay.

    During flu season though we could easily eliminate the peace. For germ sake!

  2. In my past life as a clergy wife, I remember that there were many requests to shorten the service; however, I can't recall that request ever being honoured and the service was always longer than one hour and quite often 90 minutes.

    I was also surprised when I began attending the Roman Catholic Church to discover that Mass can be completed in an hour. The homily is much shorter than the sermons my former spouse preached.

  3. How about shortening or eliminating the greatest time sink and momentum-killer in any worship service: announcements? (I want to call your attention to the announcements in the bulletin; and now I will read them all to you. OR I have an um, announcement, um that is um about ahhh a really ahhh important um event that will ummm take place ahh next ahh weekend...)

    Actually I have been involved in 50-60 minutes services that made me think, "Well, that's an hour of my life I'll never get back." At the same time, I've experienced 90-minute-plus services that flew by. When I reflected on these longer services, I could not find any part of the worship that seemed too long.

    Finally, I have to chuckle at folks who think trimming hymns is the solution. A hymn stanza usually lasts, at best, 45 seconds or so.

    OF course then there are the services with Communion, a Baptism, welcoming of new members, installing officers, and honoring Sunday School teachers, and them someone realizes how long the service is going to be and they ask if you can cut some hymns or leave out scripture. And I think, "um..wait, what about worship?"

  4. Brenda: Oh yeah, the exchange of so-called "peace." That's a liturgical element I've never found the least bit inspiring or useful. And it goes on waaaay too long. Wish the invocation was, "think nice thoughts about one another and save the other stuff for the coffee hour you should try attending sometime."

    Rob: What I didn't post was his response to my "every other word" suggestion, viz.: "In some cases that would be an improvement."

  5. That reminds me of when, to my surprise and delight, the Gospel was brought down and up to the tune of "Torah Orah" and I experienced an irresistible urge to trust my hymnbook at the Gospel book being held aloft and to bring the hymnbook back to my lips after! Oh well, these things happen.


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