By Claire Pritchard
In October I was living out my dream. I had taken my first trip to Africa and was living with 20 other missionaries in a village in central Ghana. We were planting a church. One night after we had hosted a party for the local children at our house, myself and one of the guys from the team got the task of walking the children back along the road which connected the village to the main road, dropping them off at their homes as we passed. It was well past dark, but the sky was clear and revealed an orchestra of stars. The dirt road was windy and pot-hole ridden, with the occasional puddle. And marching along was an odd medley of a Nigerian, a Canadian and 38 Ghanaian school children. The children were clamoring to hold our hands. So we each had one, if not two children on either side.
As we wandered along someone suggested we sing. I started them on the songs I had taught them in Sunday school, but it was not long until they wanted to sing the song “Hosanna” by Hillsong. Our team had sung the song at a school ministration earlier in the week and had since heard the melody echoed by the school-aged children throughout the village.
Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest.
We lifted our voices together to sing as we walked along this dark, dirt road, surrounded by fields and the dark impressions of houses without electricity. I’m sure the stars must have been shining bright with their agreement as we sang, but my eyes were fixed on the scene around me.
A few of the boys took off in front of us and started turning cartwheels.
It was worship. Right there, on the road, outside the walls of any church. Outside the conventions we place around worship. Just outside. We worshipped the living God. And it was beautiful.
We had no worship leader. We were neither told when to start nor when to finish. We did not have to worry about taking up too much space with our movements, nor lifting our voices too high. We turned cartwheels. We held hands. We laughed. We skipped. We ran. Limitless worship.
So often we, the Church, set boundaries and place limits around worship. Singing, check. Clapping, check. Lifting hands, check. Dancing, in moderation. Falling facedown, only at an alter call. Turning cartwheels … We restrict worship to make it ‘acceptable’. As though it were something dangerous. As though it needs a cage. Are we afraid of what will happen if we let worship loose?
What would happen if we let worship out? If we stripped off the limits we have clothed it in? If we ripped down our walls built to hold it back and pulled apart the bars that cage it? I think we would discover that worship is absolutely dangerous. Beautifully dangerous.
Because it is dangerous to lose ourselves in the pursuit of something else. Dangerous to lift the name of the Lord.
Dangerous to lay everything down.
Dangerous to confess that there is one who is far above us in power and might.
Dangerous to admit his sovereignty.
Because it is dangerous to love.
It is dangerous, because it just might change your life. It just might change your church. It just might change our communities and our cities and our nations. When we restrict our worship, we restrict the effects of our worship and belittle the God of our worship.
Worship can cause a revolution. When we lose ourselves in expressions of love for God, who knows what could spring forth. Perhaps as we learn to express our love towards God and practice that freedom; as we step outside of the boundaries that we as a church have placed around ourselves; we will discover something. I believe we will be more able to reach into the world and step over walls, over society’s rules about how we love our neighbour. I think the outflow of love will become natural for us.
Can we let worship free and watch this expression of love? Can we let ourselves overflow?
I believe worship is dangerous. Beautifully dangerous.
Claire is somewhere between being a student and not being a student. She just finished five months in Ghana and is now in Edinburgh, trying to set up life again. She wants to live out God’s calling for her life and is excited to see exactly what that means.