Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Challenge to "Big Productions"

As part of the Worship Team at our church, I'm constantly planning and working on the services for Sundays. The funny thing is how big of a "production" it's all become ("contemporary" worship, anyway). Today I got my "Technologies for Worship" magazine with page after page of articles on lighting and sound with complimentary glossy ads showing "Worship Leaders" proudly singing with their new Sure In-Ear Monitor system.

While glancing through the magazine, I was reminded of a chapter in a book called "Sabbath" by Wayne Muller (one of my favorite books). Here are a few excerpts:

  • Liturgical ritual is meant to be repeated. We are not supposed to do it right the first time, and then be done with it. This year's Easter does not have to be new and improved, more dramatic and moving than last year's. The perfection is in the repetition, the sheer ordinariness, the intimate familiarity of a place known because we have visited it again and again, in so many different moments...
  • This is not about progress, it is about circles, cycles, and seasons, and the way time moves, and things we must remember, because with ever-faster turnings of the wheel it can become easier to forget...
  • When liturgy is ensnared by progress, all these quiet, mystical qualities are replaced by responsibility and obligation. I have been part of so many little churches paralyzed by the assumption that we must make this year's Christmas pageant better, more dramatic, more impressive, more spectacular than the last. I have seen parents, children, and youth ministers frantic, desperate, frusterated, and overwhelmed as they try to make the "perfect" representation of an event that was, at its origins, quiet, unassuming, unpredictable, sloppy, and invisible.


Celeste said...

Great post. It reminds me of my yoga teacher training. In my first teacher class, the instructor emphasized to us to not be afraid of repetition. She said that with beginners, it is a good idea to repeat the same sequence over and over, so the students can really learn it and internalize it. Also that they can relax into the familiarity.

For me as the teacher, it gets boring doing the same thing over and over. But they don't seem bored at all. Maybe it is the church leadership that is meeting their own needs by making it bigger and better, and not the congregation's needs.

I used to go to a Unity church where they always ended with the song, "The Spirit of God is in This Place" . It is the one thing I remember, not the sermons. Each Sunday, I anticipated that wonderful song.

Celeste said...

I just looked at the reviews of "Sabbath" on Amazon, and it sounds like an amazing book. I'm ordering a copy and maybe it will wind up as a Christmas gift for several relatives. The "Practice" sections sound interesting.

The teacher training I was just in this weekend focused on taking journaling & meditation time. Several of the moms in there say they can't have any journaling or meditating time because of their children. I wonder about that. Not having any children, I can't really know...but it seems if parents did help each other to have personal "Sabbath" time, the entire family would benefit.

isaiah said...

You know, I love your telling about the Sunday you did Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" with the entire choir chiming in.... had to have sent chill bumps up yer spine- THAT's what worship is about...making the hair stand up on one's neck and sending a rush of blood to the heart.

I like the quotes from "Sabbath". I think people sometimes forget that a sabbath can be taken most anytime, anywhere. Seems like a kool book. I'm reading "Hardcore Zen" right now and will pick up "Sabbath" after that.

I really enjoyed planning Sunday moring music at Unity- until word came back that we seemed to be ignoring the 'older' ones with too much contemporary music. I had to let go of the reigns after that...but hey, I love all music- and there's room for it all...just gotta let go of what seems to be right and wrong about the service...and simply sing.

Trev Diesel said...

Celeste and Tommy - thanks for the reflections about what worship and what repetition/familiarity mean to you!

And yes, I highly recommend that book - it's just such a breath of fresh air in a hurried culture. I read a chapter out of that book sometimes when I feel stressed. It's marvelous.

anonymous julie said...

Awesome post. I totally want to ramble at length in response. Short form: I love doing the Catholic thing!