Members of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Silver Spring had the tables turned on them at sermon time Sunday. Their pastor asked them to do the talking.
It was all part of an experiment by the pastor, the Rev. James Archibald, who thinks church services are "terribly structured and a worship service ought to stimulate thinking."
So Archibald called in United Methodist energy expert, the Rev. J. Elliot Corbett who led the congregation in a dialogue-sermon on the religious implications of the energy crisis.
While the dialogue itself didn't produce any new ideas, many in the congregation, like David Reise, had strong feelings on the format.
"I think it's good to talk about things other than the Bible at Church," said Reise, 21.
David Fogle said he liked the experiment because he likes "to hear what other people are thinking."
Many of the church members, like one woman college student, said they would like to see the format repeated because "it was an effective way of getting across information."
But others, like Harold Fogle, believe the discussion of social issues does not belong in church. "If I wanted to hear an energy discussion, I would go somewhere else," said Fogle, who holds a Ph.D. in agriculture. "I'd rather hear a religious sermon when I come to church."
Other members of the congregation said that although they liked the idea and wanted to participated they would have felt uncomfortable talking out loud in church. "It took some getting used to," said Grace Reise. "I guess you just get in the habit of never talking out loud there."
Several others said they were disappointed that religious and ethical questions on energy were not raised. "That was supposed to be the purpose of the discussion," said a middle-aged woman, "but people got caught up in the technology instead."
Although the dialogue-sermon technique is not as popular as it was several years ago, churches hold them occasionally as a way to involve more of the congregation.
Archibald said he thought Sunday's experiment was a "good start." His concern, he said, was "simply to get the people thinking about energy and what the religious implications are. If you're constantly taking the resources from the earth without thinking of other's needs, that's just not good stewardship."
Archibald added that his congregation has an unusually high number of scientists and people directly involved in energy. "It would be ridiculous for me to think that I'm the only one with anything valuable to say Sunday after Sunday," he said.
Archibald said that although he thinks the experimental format can be beneficial, discussion of social issues needs to be kept within church perspective. "There's the danger that you could lose what the worship is all about," he said. "If the church doesn't have corporate worship, nobody will."