Transporting Worship

September 11th, 2012
One of our trailers.

I'm sure that in seminary I studied the last dozen or so chapters of Exodus, but I don’t remember much about it. All the talk of making worship happen while wandering the desert was interesting but did I really need to know all the details of worship supplies, set up, take down, and mobility related to the years long journey of the people of God? I was, after all, serving as an associate pastor in a church that had a multi-million dollar building situated on 20 beautiful acres. Every Sunday we had a roof above our head, air conditioning blowing, and pews that were there when we arrived and sitting there when we left.

In 2008 I became the pastor of a church with no name, no people, and—oh yeah—no building. I went back to my little, blue, leather-bound Bible that I often use when I preach and found the heading that rests over Exodus 40: Setting Up the Tabernacle. I needed a crash-course in what it meant to be a mobile church and I found it in the story of Moses the church planter.

What I learned there was that each particular gathering of God’s people requires some essentials to help make worship happen. I learned what is necessary for worship and what is not.

Our new church would gather in a living room, then a hotel meeting room, then a city park pavilion, a movie theater, an elementary school, and now a middle school. Each place presented challenges and yet in each place we were able to commune with the living God.

Each week we would pack up all of our stuff, pack it into totes, and then into our cars and drive away. (Read accompanying article, Worship in a Tote, for the particulars of our worship necessities.) We have always needed something to hold bread, juice and baptismal water, but other than that we have made do with what was most practical and fitting for our environment. Now on a Sunday morning we load up two large trailers and a former U-Haul truck with a lift gate. But it’s still just stuff that we load up and put away until the next time the cloud covers the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the Lord fills the gym, I mean, tabernacle.

What I have learned is that the mobile worship environment, though exhausting, requires all hands on deck and quickly involves a large number of people in the holy work of setting up a place to worship God. People who would never stand up and speak in church will setup folding chair after folding chair while offering prayers for the soul that will soon sit in it. People who would never have considered themselves liturgists are a part of a great Call to Worship as they prepare the hospitality area of an Elementary School lobby. People who would have laughed at being considered a Worship Leader are indeed leading others into worship Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.

In March, our church bought 20 beautiful acres where, one day, a more permanent house of worship will reside. I am excited about the day when our young church migrates again to a new place. I am glad that the mobile church serves a mobile God who is ever-present wherever we go.

“In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels.” Exodus 40.36-38

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