• Vested Interest

More is More

Mary Davenport Davis
September 7, 2016

Working for the church has its benefits. Not just paid time off and health insurance—crucial as these are for my well-being—but the quirkier, often less tangible ones. I get to meet and laugh and pray with the most amazing people of every age. I get to read books on a tremendous variety of topics, from yoga for healing to sound engineering to literary culture in ancient Judaism. I get to develop—and then teach—new skills: writing prayers, swinging a thurible, managing a social media presence. And for me, one of the greatest blessings of my job is how easy it has become for me to go to a lot of church.

There are many reasons we Christians worship together, and “because it makes me feel good” is not the most important by a long stretch. That being said…church does make me feel good, and that’s worth talking about. Going to church for me is a little like running seems to be for many people: it’s often inexplicably hard to motivate myself to do it, it requires diligence and the ability to tolerate discomfort, but I nearly always feel better afterward. Church is a reliable source of interior calm, refocusing me on the beliefs and values that lie at the center of my life. Occasionally, it’s a place of crystalline, overwhelmingly beautiful encounter with the divine. Occasionally, something is off and I leave feeling cranky. (Those are the days when I remind myself of all those other, more important reasons to go to church.) But for the most part, worship is a practice that offers subtle but consistent rewards.

In any practice, there are times for a long, slow building of strength, and there are times to test that strength out. If an hour of worship every week for a year is good, what would going to church back-to-back-to-back be like? Our church’s primary opportunity for deep immersion in liturgical experience is Holy Week, when normal life explodes into a slightly preposterous, carefully orchestrated chaos of pageantry, penitence, grief and joy. It’s as though we took the sprinkler off the hose and attached a pressure washer instead, and it always leaves me exhausted, punch-drunk, and full of wonder. The rewards of worship go from “subtle but consistent” to “outsized, intense, and unpredictable.” And in the wake of that deep immersion, I find my more relaxed Sundays a little sweeter, a little richer, a little closer to the core of my being.

Luckily, I don’t have to wait another six months for another chance to experience the rarefied joys of intense time in worship. The summer is officially over, and this week we return to our regular service schedule at Trinity, which includes five worship services each Sunday. Five services in one day! Can you imagine? Sam promised, in his announcement last week, that going to all five in one day would produce “guaranteed holiness.” He may have been joking (or maybe not!); but I don’t think he was wrong. “Less is more” might be true of interior design (though clearly no one told H. H. Richardson that), but in church, more is more. This became especially clear to me this August while I was singing with the Trinity choirs in England. Singing daily worship services was intensely beneficial both for our sound and for our spirits, and even over the course of a single week, I could feel the Psalms beginning to work in me as we chanted them.

And so, in the spirit of all that is outsized, intense, and unpredictable, I’m daring myself to do something slightly preposterous: the Five A Day Challenge. Not just fruits and vegetables, but church. I’m going to pick a Sunday and attend all five services, then report back. And of course, I’m challenging you to join me—and to share a bit about your own experience, whether on your personal blog, as a Facebook or Instagram post, or however you choose. What will we learn? How will we grow? Only the Holy Spirit knows!


At "Vested Interest," church nerd Mary Davenport Davis explores all things liturgy and music at Trinity and beyond. Chime in with comments and questions!