Hurricane Irene blustered her way up the East Coast, downing trees, toppling cars, and leaving seven million people (including our family) in the dark. We were without power for four days. I missed it desperately–my laptop, smartphone, televisions, refrigerator, hair straightener, and garbage disposal. (Yes, I missed my garbage disposal.) But now that I'm back on the grid, I also miss our blackout. Because what I saw happen without power that first post-storm Sunday morning was powerful without one amp of electricity.
Despite the blackout across our community, we decided to move forward with an "informal" worship service. With no lights, soundboards, microphones, or PowerPoint, we moved outside, dragging chairs and an upright piano onto the patio. The worship team scrambled to rearrange a simple set of songs for unplugged music–just guitars, piano, bongos, and voices. Lyrics were printed in black, block letters on a flipchart.
People came, eager to escape their darkened homes. We gathered under the morning sun, welcomed by twittering songbirds (instead of cell phones). The sky was deep blue, the air scrubbed clean from the powerful winds of the hurricane. We sang the songs we knew without a big screen feeding us every word. When a lay leader in the church stood up and said, "I'm going to do this the old fashioned way; I'm going to read from an actual Bible," people cheered.
And when my pastors shared simple words, verses they had memorized, and words of truth about God's love, his creation, and his ways of meeting our every need, people listened. There was no children's program, no drama, no audio support, or announcement slides. But when my typically restrained community sang the final song, they stood together and raised their hands to the blue sky, praising God in a simple expression of worship and gratitude.
Perhaps it was the novelty of the setting, or our brush with God's power through the wind and the rain, but I couldn't help noticing the sacredness of the service. Stripped of the normal amenities, we were left with only the Word–and it was more than enough.
Since then we've returned to our large auditorium, to the directed lighting on the stage, the neat rows of chairs, the large slides. Information is easy to see and songs are easy to sing. Seats are easy to find, and the air temperature is easy to manage. Words are easy to hear.
But is this "ease" what we need in church? In our rush to stay current and speak to this culture, are we as the church experiencing too much of a good thing?