Holden Voices: Blog

Poems, stories, and reflections, written by faculty, staff, and volunteers currently serving in the Village.

DANIELE MAEDER: Why Do We Worship?

February 17, 2016 at 6:00 PM

Why do we worship? 

Why do people, any people worship?

Why do Christians worship?

Why do we, as Holden, commit to daily worship as a community?

I would ask you to take a moment to think about these questions and answer them for yourself.  Why do you worship?  Why do you think that others worship?  And why do we worship here? 

"Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again , come , come." 

These are very broad questions, perhaps best answered by theologians, anthropologists and sociologists or as a 10 part lecture series.  I have decided to speak from the only place of authority I have and that is my own experience.  So I will share with you some of the reasons that I worship and why I think that daily worship is a worthwhile practice for this community.

The word worship comes from the Old English worth and ship with the suffix –ship, denoting a quality or condition.  Thus, worship (worth-ship)- an acknowledgement of or the condition of having worth.

It is more commonly defined as the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration as towards a deity. 

I like to sing, and corporal singing (singing with others) makes me feel good.  Andsometimes, when I really let go and let the energy flow freely through me, I can feel my throat open up and Music (with a capital M) comes out.

I don’t mean that it sounds good to anyone else, it may, or it may not, but that it is an expression, through me, of the creative spirit, the force, the universe, that I sometimes call God.

It doesn’t happen every time that I sing, but it helps if I am in the right place, calm, secure, open, vulnerable, and not thinking about what other people will think of my singing.

I can experience feeling, this expression, this creative spirit at other times and places; when engrossed in an art project, creating  or experimenting in the kitchen, when meditating, when participating in a meaningful conversation where both parties are vulnerable and honest and truth is being shared, whenever I see the  ocean, in the smell of pine needles on a hot summer day, when a baby falls asleep on my shoulder and they give that last big sigh before surrendering and their face relaxes into pure sweet bliss. 

It’s a feeling worth having, worth acknowledging,

Worship is Sacred/Holy-words that can mean set apart, separate, made special.

Our daily worship is a special time, set apart in from our work day, held in a special place.  Made special/separate/holy/sacred by us.  Special because we have made it so, designated as a time and place apart, created for a purpose.  Created for expressing praise, sharing ourselves, making connections, inviting the spirit to move through us, a space for things of worth-

“Words are powerful. Words make a difference. They can create and destroy. They can open doors and close doors. Words can create illusion or magic, love or destruction. … All those things.”

Poet, R.M. Engelhardt,

I know that when Pastor Kent speaks during worship, or we read something that he has written, these are words that he has carefully considered; he has prayed over, has intentionally opened himself up to the creative spirit and is hoping to express words of import, powerful words, words of worth,

And sometimes those words travel across the room and grip me by the heart and bring tears to my eyes, because I know that they are true (with a capital T) and that they are for me and they change me, or heal me, or move me.

And sometimes they don’t.  And that’s ok, I can still sing, meditate, or  just be in a friendly room with my family, my chamily (chalet+family), my community and participate in a shared time and place, shared ritual, shared breath.

We gather once a day, with intention, to create a space and time to invite in the creative spirit to be experienced.  To appreciate its worth-

“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.” 

― Ani DiFranco

Myth, symbol and ritual are elements of culture, an expression of part of what makes us human. Ritual, rites of passage, celebrations, can serve to mark passage of time, acknowledge yearly cycles, the changing of seasons, celebrate life events and are shared by a community. Rituals help build community by creating shared experiences that transcend space and time.

The Holden community has its own rich tradition of myths symbols and rituals.  

Holden Bread is a powerful symbol of life at Holden. There is no right way to make Holden Bread, the recipe is mythical, the technique handed down from baker to baker, you have to learn to feel the dough and know it to get it right. Holden Bread just doesn’t taste the same if you make it at home because place and time are part of the experience.  

Eating it is ritualized, including the process of standing at the toaster, putting it through the correct number of times, on the correct setting, adding just the right amount of peanut butter or honey.  Part of the experience is the smell of freshly baked bread just out of the toaster, the way it feels, sounds, and finally tastes.  Although everyone does it in their own way there is a shared ritual/symbol that is Holden Bread.

Taco Tuesday-Even if you don’t enjoy Tacos, there is comfort in the repetition, the certainty, the shared experience, the ritual.

Long term goodbyes-(the prayer of good courage and waving at the bus until you can’t see it anymore) We all participate in these rituals. We repeat powerful words, we share positive intentions, and we trust that it will be done for us when our time comes.  It becomes a way of keeping promises to each other.  We intentionally create a sacred time, a moment to express an appreciation of someone’s worth-

These are just a small part of our mythology, our community, our shared experiences- our informal worship. 

When we attend daily worship as a community, we are keeping a promise.  We have all promised to show up for worship, whether or not we feel like it tonight, whether or not we find it particularly interesting, whether we believe what the leader is saying, whether or not we like the songs chosen, whether we had a good day or a bad one, whether we want to be there or not. When we show up for worship, we are fulfilling a responsibility, supporting each other, and strengthening the bonds of community. Because whether you believe that Jesus Christ is the resurrected son of God, or Not, you still have a sacred place to cry in the dark with your loving community surrounding and supporting you.

Finally, as a Christian, as someone who believes in something I might call God, someone who has experienced this creative spirit in my life, I worship because I want to experience it again and to share with my community this thing of worth,