Can We Stop Using the Phrase ‘Frozen Chosen’?

Recently, I was perusing the workshops that will be offered at the United Church of Christ’s General Synod this summer and I came across one with this title: “Thawing the ‘Frozen Chosen'”. I have no problem with the content of the workshop, which is about using and teaching liturgical movement. But seeing the title made me realize just how tired of the term ‘frozen chosen’ I am.

The idea behind ‘frozen chosen’ is simple enough. Different congregations and denominations have different traditions around movement and sound. Some churches are full of dancing in the pews, clapping during the hymns, and shouts from the congregation. Other churches are characterized by staid congregations, slow and deliberate hymns (accompanied by a pipe organ), and silence from everywhere except the pulpit (and the aforementioned pipe organ). I don’t know if the people who go to the former have a name, but the people who go to the latter are called the ‘frozen chosen’. ‘Cause they don’t move. Get it?

And here’s my problem with the phrase. Almost every time I see or hear ‘frozen chosen’, it’s presenting stillness and silence as problems that need to be solved. “If only we could get the frozen chosen to move,” the person seems to be saying, “then church would be fun and vibrant and alive!”

But here’s the thing. Stillness and silence aren’t bad things. In a world that demands that we always be busy and constantly accosts us with sound, stillness and silence can be valuable and they can be appreciated. In fact, being still and silent—and appreciating stillness and silence—are skills that we should probably learn to cultivate.

And that’s not to say that we shouldn’t also cultivate movement and sound. I sometimes wish that my congregation would dance to the music, and clap on two and four, and punctuate my sermons with an ‘amen’ or two. But I wish we would present that as an addition to the toolbox instead of a correction to a problem.

In fact, that might be a good practice most of the time. I know that there are problems and that we need to find solutions to those problems, but maybe we should spent more time looking at how we present our ideas and asking, “Before I present this as a solution to a problem, is there a way for me to present it as an addition to the toolbox?”

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