Each week the process begins with a spiritual practice that I learned at a preaching seminar 15 years ago. The practice is called “Who is in the room?” and it requires the pastor to spend quiet time reflecting on the question. Sometimes I sit in my study at home, and I visualize the people of Belmont sitting in their “usual” seats. Sometimes I go into the sanctuary or the chapel, sit in the pews, and look around me. The question “Who is in the room?” is not answered with the names of Belmonters (like Bill, Anne, Deborah, and Robert are in the room); the question is answered in this fashion: seated on the third row is a young man who just started college, on the sixth row is a widow who is still in the throes of grief, seated on the back row is a young mother and father with their new baby, seated over to the left is a first-time visitor, seated on the right side is a parent whose child is struggling in school. . . . When I know who is in the room, I can begin to write the sermon, and I believe the practice enables me to write a more meaningful sermon.
It often occurs to me that this question is a good question for every worshiper to consider on Sunday morning. Who is in the room? Who are the people sitting around us in worship, what are their needs, their struggles, their hopes and fears? Are visitors near us who need our friendly welcome, are young parents nearby who need our help with their children, and are some grieving who need our love and affirmation? We look around and allow the answers to those questions to guide us in our prayers for one another and our empathic responses during passing the peace and after worship as we greet one another in Christian love. In worship, we reach out to God in love and praise. In worship, we reach out to one another in hope and peace. So as we begin worship, let’s ask ourselves “Who is in the room?” and allow the question to guide us into a deeper and more meaningful experience of worship.
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