This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Setting things right in worship

I was raised on a steady diet of country music, with a strong sense of country-girl pride to go along with it.

Boots, jeans, and belt buckles that hurt my tummy when I sat down because they were so big made up my wardrobe.

So it should not surprise you at all when I say classical music had to grow on me and it should really not surprise you when I say that organ music is still growing on me.

I can appreciate the complexity of the organ, the skill that is required of the organist. I can appreciate the long history that it carries and the deep sense of reverence that many have for it, but the organ would not be my first choice for accompaniment in worship, except on Thanksgiving Eve.

Every Thanksgiving Eve for somewhere around a decade something powerful happens in worship in Archbold, Ohio.

Mennonites and Lutherans come together for worship and fellowship. The host church provides the sanctuary and food, and the visiting church provides the preacher. Both churches provide a love for choral music, especially choral music accompanied by the organ.

When Zion Mennonite Church and St. Martin’s Lutheran ELCA gather for worship on Thanksgiving Eve, something happens in that worship space—it is almost like electricity running throughout the congregation. Historical enemies—in some ways enemies from birth sit side by side and worship our shared God. There is excitement, joy, and there is always the organ.

The significance of this yearly gathering is never forgotten.

Both communities carry long memories, not only of our bloody church histories together—of excommunication and martyrdom—but also of Vietnam era tensions and anger that stems back from the first and second World Wars. Painful memories of how our churches mistreated one another are set aside as we practice being God’s Church.

In this setting the grandeur of the organ makes a person feel so small and in the same sense it makes any difference one might have with her brother or sister seem petty. Everything else is drowned out by the organ and worship becomes the place where everything is set right again.

In a time where it seems like our Mennonite Church is fracturing and splintering every time we turn around, I think of our worship with the Lutherans.

If God is able to break down the dividing wall of hostility between us and make the two groups (Mennonites and Lutherans) one, perhaps with more ideological differences than we have similarities, then what is God able to do with the Mennonite Church that has within it more similarities than differences?

The power of our yearly worship service is not in the production of superb choral music, or the masterpiece of the organ, or the fine violins and the excellent preaching—it is in the shared history, the shared pain, and the memory of who we were before the power of Christ and his resurrection and the possibilities after.

There is power in worship; power in knowing that there should be no reason why I should be able to sit beside my enemy and glorify God, except that in Christ it is possible.

Wikipedia photo

Jessica Schrock-Ringenberg

Jessica is on the pastoral team at Zion Mennonite Church in Archbold, Ohio where she lives with her husband Shem and three children. Read More

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!