One of the benefits of having to sit in the pew more often than I was used to before my illness is not only to hear more good preaching but also to be more “involved” in the worship of God.

Like many preachers I’ve often found it difficult to get fully engaged in corporate worship. Partly it’s because of the sense of responsibility for leading the service; partly it’s the burden of having to preach shortly; but it’s also partly the “distance” from the congregation.

On a platform or in a pulpit you hear the general volume of the gathered voices (if the instruments are quiet enough!), but you don’t get to hear the subtle and beautiful pathos in individual voices.

I was reminded of this recently when a deep male voice started singing near my pew. I recognized it immediately and, knowing the person as I do, I was able to understand why he was singing these words with such passion and feeling in his voice. It so enhanced my own singing of that Psalm as I joined my voice and experience to his. It felt like I was singing in stereo.

Another time it was a female voice and, again, from what I know of her life and providence, I could tell what was going through her mind as she sang words very appropriate to her situation. Again I was able to worship God more meaningfully as I listened to the joyful trembling in her voice.

Probably neither of these people have any idea how much they ministered to me and thereby heightened my own worship. Maybe, hopefully, I’ve done the same for others at times.

Though I still miss pulpit-Sundays, my pew-Sundays have given me a new understanding and appreciation of two-dimensional, or bi-directional, worship. There’s the “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,” but there’s also the horizontal “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19-20).

And more of the latter results in more of the former.

  • Brian Kooshian

    Hello Dr. Murray,

    I have subscribed via Live Bookmarks, but I cannot locate the code to enter. What am I doing wrong?



  • David Murray

    Subscribe via the RSS or email icons beside my picture up on the right. The code will be sent to you via your RSS or email today or tomorrow.

  • Scott

    This is why I choose to sit in the pew with my family during the worship service, and not on the “platform.” I never liked the way sitting up there separated me from the congregation, in a number of ways. Of course, I’m still distracted by the “have to preach shortly” thing, so I probably don’t engage as much as I would like, but I do think I engage more now than when I sat “up front.”

  • Peter Ratcliff

    Thank you David for this fascinating thought.

    Being in a slightly different tradition to yourself it has stimulated my thoughts to consider some of the advantages of Reformed Anglicanism. I guess you will say these advantages do not outweigh other factors but I’m not out to pick a fight, just to ponder a few thoughts!

    Being in the Church of England(Continuing)our ministers uses the Anglican tradition of sitting/standing/kneeling at the side of the room at the front, historically this is called the north side and was introduced in England at the Reformation as a reform of the Papal “Eastward” position in which the “sacrificing priest” stands with his back to the people as he re-presents the (blasphemous)sacrifice of Christ. Only for the preaching do we stand in the pulpit facing the congregation. Coming from a nonconformist background I first found this strange, but now I can see how it also unifies the minister and congregation in approaching the Lord together in worship. It distinguishes the preaching as being from God whereas the worship by the minister, like that of the congregation, is toward God. Of course we would not want to press these historical significations too far or we’d be superstitious ourselves!

    As far as the minister’s thoughts wandering ahead into his sermon 20 minutes ahead of time is concerned we have another advantage in the Anglican old style. Without wanting to criticise the noble practices of godly presbyterians and your sincere objections to the use of the Book of Common Prayer, one of the advantages of the Prayerbook is that in order to avoid the sin of vain repetition the reader must make some effort to really concentrate on the words before him. You have to read the Prayerbook afresh as if you have not read it before, paying attention to each word. When you do that properly it is quite hard to drift off into thinking about your sermon.

    • Pastor S

      Thanks for sharing. It’s helpful for me.

  • Deb

    I put the movie in the cart and tried to apply the code that was in my rss feed, it said it isn’t a recognized code for this product, what am I doing wrong?

    • David Murray

      Are you using today’s code? Yesterday’s will not work. Today’s will work only for today.

  • Deb

    no sir, the code for the 23rd is the only code i have