Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What it means to be a "Free" Methodist Part 2

Freedom and Simplicity in Worship

From the very beginning Free Methodism has tended to shy away from a high church and liturgical order of worship that was common in the older, more established protestant and Catholic churches that existed in the United States. It was believed that such a rigid order did not allow for the freedom of the Holy Spirit to move as He wished during the worship service.

Also typical of this freedom and simplicity of worship, much less emphasis was placed on liturgical vestments. It would not be uncommon for the pastor to minister in what might amount to plain and ordinary clothes.

Though music was very much a part of the Free Methodist Church from the beginning, the use of pianos and organs for the purpose of worship was strongly discouraged, with official denominational statements banning their use.

Though some of these aspects might rightly be seen in taking a more open approach to the worship service, it would not be incorrect to say that some aspects were clearly reactionary. What would not be correct to say is that this more open style of worship service is so open as to look like what might be seen in many of the Pentecostal, Full Gospel, and Charismatic Churches, where it seems as though anything goes. Though there was no standardized form of worship, it would be incorrect to say that there was no form or method for worship present. Each congregation was given the freedom to tailor the worship service to their particular community in a way that was both appropriate and God honoring.

By the mid 1940's however, the use of instruments in the church was becoming more and more common, though on a denominational level the issue was seen more in terms of what was appropriate for each conference.

This is a freedom that one does not have to take too much of a stretch to find a 21st century counterpart. Worship in the church is still very much a contemporary issue. There are still churches that use a highly liturgical model of worship, complete with vestments, while there are other churches that seem to follow no form whatsoever.

The Free Methodist Church still does not have a standardized order of worship, but encourages its congregations to use what is appropriate for its setting, allowing for the Holy Spirit room to move but not abandoning form altogether.

Music, as well as the playing of instruments, is a big part of the worship service as well. It is not uncommon to find not only a piano or an organ, but even guitars, bass, keyboards and drums.

Pastors are given the freedom to choose whether or not they want to use the lectionary, or if they will be more topical in their presentation of the gospel. Some pastors may use both as the time of the year dictates, or they might use neither.

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