I wanted to do a whole post dedicated to this idea of what our community worship experience might be like in regards to distractions like cell phones and kids. I know people may feel strongly about this and I wonder if we thought about our understanding of God and how he is present to us, whether it might inform our feelings about noise in our “service.” My thoughts on this have been greatly effected by my experiences at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, where we say, leave your cell phones on… God might have an important message for you from someone who is calling, and please be sure to answer it if it rings. Also, if a child is crying, we will stop and listen because every voice is valued in our community. Every voice. The idea is that if we are going to come together and bring our lives together, celebrating who we are and what is happening in the far corners of our city, we don’t want to put all that life aside and pretend that it doesn’t have a significant effect on how we worship together.
It seems that if we think of our worship time as something where information is imparted on us (scripture, the pastor’s insight, music, drama, whatever…), than any distraction from that process is a bad thing. Our “services” really are geared up for this sort of interaction. The voices that are valued are the people who have the microphone. Everyone is facing one person. We are sitting in chairs and in a way that is made for receiving. At Solomon’s Porch, our setting was more like a living room. Lots of couches, everyone sitting in the round. We were forced to see each other. Every voice is valued because we believe that God speaks through us all and through each other’s lives. Because of this cell phones and kids are not a big deal. Granted there is an element of respect that is needed… but we hope to not negate the life that each person brings to our gathering.
Beyond it being a matter of how we view our weekly worship times and what we think about community values, this idea of God speaking to us is very important. I wonder if our weekly worship times are the best places for us to learn how to worship God in silence. First, I think that the silence through which we experience God is often times more an internal silence and peace than an external state of being. This is something that should perhaps be considered and practiced in a much more intentional setting than a hustle and bustle worship gathering. Also, God’s speaking to us is not something that we get to tailor and manipulate into our own comfortable preference… Think about it. What is the first thing that comes to our minds when we are in the middle of a prayer and someone’s phone goes off? Do we think, “Ugh… turn that off! How dare they forget to set it to vibrate!!” Or can we warmly smile and let them know that that’s okay… go ahead and answer it. I mean what if someone really needs them to answer it?
My main point here is that there are a lot of reasons why we insist on people putting their phones off. There are a lot of reasons why we want kids to shut up. Many of these reasons are unconscious, but when we think about it, perhaps we find it to be very revealing of how we think about God God’s-self. I am very interested in others’ thoughts about all this. Maybe one question that may help is to think about it is that we are afraid of when it comes to cell phones, kids, etc. What’s at risk?