Some have been small country churches, with each piece built and shaped by the hands of the community. Others have been cathedrals with great artwork and architecture.
St. Margaret's Church in Fredericton, New Brunswick, bridged the ages. The original church had a beautiful spot by the river that was, unfortunately, prone to flooding. After many years, the old church was sold, but many pieces - including pews, stained glass, and the bell - were saved and moved into the new structure. The blend of old and new is a beautiful symbol of the many generations of worshipers.
The plaque outside Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, showing the construction date of 1688.
One of the most striking churches was Notre-Dame-des-Victoires in historic Old Quebec City. This church was one of the first buildings of the city, built in 1688. Over the first 100 years of its existence, local artists added to the beauty of the sanctuary. One build the altar pieces, another added the gold leaf. A woodworker carved the pews, and a painter created art for the ceiling.
The opulent altar of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires.
As we walked the aisles and gazed at the art, I was reminded of the reference in Hebrews to the "great cloud of witnesses" who have gone before us.
So since we stand surrounded by all those who have gone before, an enormous cloud of witnesses, let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us.
Hebrews 12:1, The Voice
I could visualize the artists planning their act of worship through wood and paint. I could see the priests and elders nodding their heads as they approved the designs. And I imagined the smiles of the congregants as they walked into the sanctuary, the smell of varnish still lingering as new images of faith filled the worship space.
As worship leaders, we can get so wrapped up in the new and the now. What songs are topping CCLI? What is my favourite band writing? What new tech do we have to play with? How do we build our Twitter following? How do we hold the attention of parishioners with a YouTube attention span?
Sometimes, we need to remember the generations of witnesses who have come before us, worshiping in their own 'contemporary' style. They fought through the challenges of their day and time, offering their art and music and prayers, all in an attempt to know Christ and make Him known. And as we imagine them, we are reminded that we are not alone in this faith journey. We are surrounded by the faithful of all generations, and on those days when we feel a little overwhelmed, maybe that can give us a little more strength for the race.
How do the worshippers of the past encourage your worship path?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
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