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Accessible Worship

Brian Doerksen

In this article I want to take a brief look the main value of worship that we hold dear in the Vineyard: accessibility.

Le me confess something. A couple of Years ago I would not have written what I am about to write and I would not have believed it if God didn’t give me the precious gift of my wife, Joyce, to walk and learn with. I remember very clearly one worship experience from a few years ago.

Joyce and I, and several friends, attended a special night of worship. I was having a great time being led into worship with abstract sounds and songs.  However, after a while of ‘closed eye ecstatic worship, I opened my eyes and looked at Joyce glancing at me with a look that seemed to say, ‘Can we go now?’ What was meaningful for me, and the worship team, was not necessarily accessible for all those present.

To have real worship you have to have both passion and restraint

In the past few years our society has made huge strides to make public places more accessible to those with special needs. People with wheelchairs, hearing difficulties and the like, can enjoy more events and places than ever before, which I think is great. Sometimes as a worship leader, I need to ask some of the same questions that brought about change for access in the places we live. Is our worship accessible for all, or is it only accessible for those who are artistically able and mystical?

Making worship accessible sometimes means that we need something called restraint in worship. I know that’s not a popular word, but to have real worship you have to have both passion and restraint. You’re nowhere if you don’t have both.  Restraint is the backbone of making music that others can follow and enter into.   Here are a few tips to worship leaders on restraint in worship.

:: Restraint is picking songs that will say what the majority of the people gathered want to say to God.

:: Restraint is the discipline to not play or sing all the time – if you fill all the spaces with your ‘stuff,’ the music doesn’t breath and the congregation feels overwhelmed.

:: Restraint is the realisation that the notes you don’t play are just as important as the ones you do.

::  Restraint is not adding tons of embellishments to a song that others cannot follow or sing.

Often this means that we have to choose music that is not “musician’s music” -sometimes at some pain and sacrifice. There are times when the Lord prompts a song and I think, ‘There’s no way I’m singing that simple overused song again!’ Then I yield and find the satisfaction of sensing people connecting with God far more precious than doing what I wanted to do. Restraint in worship isn’t necessarily easy, and it doesn’t always feel good to you as a worship leader, but it is right. If we lose accessibility, we will lose the people.

So let’s not leave people outside the door, like someone in a wheelchair who couldn’t enter a building because we didn’t care enough to make it accessible for them. Let’s make a way for everyone to experience intimate worship together.

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