Thursday, 12 January 2012

Do I Hear An Amen?

Do I hear an Amen

Nope?  Thought not.  Saying Amen was once the only opportunity (hymn singing apart) that free church congregations had to join in with worship.  Now, it seems, this little Hebrew liturgical fragment is going the way of house sparrows, milkmen and phone boxes. And we are left to mumble and stumble our way through services like a bunch of sullen teenagers with p.m.t.

This bugs me.  I know it shouldn't but it does, bugs me bad.  So much so that more than once I've considered printing little cards with AMEN in big bold letters, handing them out to the congregation before the service and asking everyone to read from the card when prompted.  Do you think that would help? No?

Why won't people join in at the end of prayers?  Is it too much to ask?  Surely not everyone has nodded off.  Not after every prayer.  Surely.

I realise that part of the reason might be misunderstanding.  I'm sure some people think Amen means, "By 'eck, that were a cracking prayer!" when of course all it means is, "yup" or "me too".  So there's no need for the respondent to be impressed by a particular prayer, all that's necessary is that they agree.  And that they realise that a big part of corporate worship services is JOINING IN.

I realise too that some take a more principled position on this key issue of our day.  They think that corporate worship suppresses their individualism, enforces mindless conformity.  But here's the deal, we are communal creatures so it is highly appropriate that we act in concert, as a body, many but one n all that. 

Saying Amen is one way of expressing this aspect of our identity.  (While I'm at it so is standing up and sitting down at the same time.  Is it just me?)

It's about time we began a movement to bring back this poor, neglected little word.  I know, why don't we start the Coproate-self Preservation Society?  (We could all talk like Michael Caine and have a Mini Cooper as our logo.)  Join me! Let's stand against apathy!  Let's push back against pushy individualism in worship! 

Do I hear an Amen?


tim f said...

I like the card idea. If you made them big enough people could raise them in the air every time they agreed with an assertion in a sermon.

I reckon part of the reason people don't do it is because they feel like they're drawing attention to themselves, or posing at being holy. I suffer from this to some extent. In a pentecostal church I will happily exclaim "Amen" to encourage the preacher at various points in the sermon (though usually in the bits where other people don't necessarily - eg bits that talk about sacrifice rather than promise and prosperity), but in a traditional non-conformist church I'd be less likely to - in part because I'd feel in some way that I was showing off or pushing myself forward in doing so.

One positive counter-balance to all this is that whenever a young person dares to pray, almost whatever they say (even if downright heretical) the entire congregation will join in a resounding "AMEN!" to encourage them. Which is in some ways a manifestation of the problem you're talking about, and in some ways really sweet.

Catriona said...

Erm, Amen! Yes, it bugs me too, and I've noticed it more than ever since I moved north.

Another thing that annoys me is that a lot of published prayers/liturgies don't even have it printed either, which always makes me feel as if the prayer hasn't quite ended.

Oh dear, after reading your post I've now got The Kinks "We are the village green preservation society" going round my brain!

Glen Marshall said...

Tim, not too fussed one way or the other about amens during preaching. My concern is praying.

Catriona, I fear I've completely misled you. Are you not a fan of The Italian Job?

David Mackinder said...

I've come across one effective way of encouraging people to join in with an affirmative 'Amen' at the end of prayers, and that is when the pray-er ends by saying 'And all the people said . . .'

Catriona said...

Hi Glen,alas I have never seen it... and am usually easily misled I fear! Not really a film buff.

Good to see you posting again though even if I don't quite get what you're saying!!

Julie said...

Catriona - how can you not have seen this film - needs to go on your to-do list! Must confess it is the film that brought Tony and I together 37 years ago!
But agree it's good to have Glen back active in blogland

Mike Lowe said...

Amen is very powerful and the most amazing use of it is how Handel ends Messiah, gets me every time. I used the sentiment and the piece in the prayer I put together for my ordination - (go to 5mins 50secs). I use corporate prayers each week and make sure there's a big fat and bold Amen at the end of each one.