This world. This place. This life.

What’s “worship” for?


I learned last month during my first Pilates classes that many of my muscles have atrophied.

There was nothing in my daily habits that prepared me for Pilates’ demands.  I have loading wheelchair muscles, carrying groceries muscles, and walking the dog muscles. But Pilates showed me that I don’t have a uniformly strong core–the muscles that I will need for the next 40 years of my life.

This morning I listened to the New Epiphany Revival from this past weekend’s UUA General Assembly, and a lightbulb went on about the purpose of this thing we most often call “worship.”

Worship is like Pilates.  It challenges the parts of us left unused by our daily habits.  It strengthens our core, so that we can fulfill our life’s purpose with energy and vitality.

Some of us spend most of our week reading and thinking, and we need lively worship, full of music and dancing, opportunities to use our heart rather than our minds.  Others of us haven’t had much quiet time, or much thinking time, and we come to worship with those needs.

A congregation’s worship services need balance.  As much as possible, worship planners consider the diverse needs of those who might attend, and create services that shift smoothly between various states of mind, body and heart.

This way of thinking about “worship” makes me realize again how much the word “worship” doesn’t work for me.  Even the etymological gymnastics of following its meaning to its root, “weorthscipe,” (ascribing worth) leaves me cold.

When I go to the Anchorage UU Fellowship on Sunday morning, I’m not there to ascribe worth to anyone or anything (though we may do that).  I’m there to stretch and strain and expand into the full range of human experience and expression.  I’m there to think and sing, to dance and mourn, to rage and lament, to celebrate, laugh and rejoice.

After Pilates class, for the rest of the day I have what I call “jelly belly.”  Any action that calls on my atrophied abdominal muscles gives me signals that those muscles are still there, and coming back to life.

What if, every Sunday afternoon, our souls felt like jelly?  What if, for days afterward, we felt signals that parts of ourselves were coming back to life?  And what good work might we do in the world, with all those resurrected soul muscles?



2 thoughts on “What’s “worship” for?

  1. That’s a beautiful way to describe it. I really miss going to the full worship, since I became a DRE, and I like the metaphor of the Pilates class exactly because I feel now like I’m trying to work-out on my own instead of attending a challenging class. You can get a good work-out solo, but the group and the instructor can push you to go even deeper.

    • Thank you for taking the metaphor deeper! I hadn’t thought of the distinction between Pilates class, and Pilates solo at home, but it really works, doesn’t it? Truth be told, I’m more likely to do Pilates in class than on my own, and that can be true of worship, too.

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