Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Check out KBC & Acts 16:9-15

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Crafting Meaningful Worship

Good worship is no accident. As I reflect on the process of crafting meaningful worship, I am struck by the simultaneous mechanics and spirituality. First, the mechanics involve the tasks: setting out a theme, meeting with worship leaders, discussing ideas, and putting the disparate pieces together. Second, spirituality brings in spontaneity and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. A child whispers a question to his mother, the pastor reads the child’s lips, and the pastor weaves the child’s question into the liturgy.

The entire process begins with a group of people. Separately or together, they pray. In the end, by God’s grace, they assemble sometimes incongruent pieces into a contiguous whole.

Months before any given Sunday, for me, the process starts with a prayer—a time of listening. Paul Tillich writes, “In order to know what is just in a person-to-person encounter, love listens. It is its first task to listen.” As Christians, our first task is to listen. I pick scripture or select a part of the lectionary on which to focus. Then, after sharing this emphasis with the staff, the music director picks music. Perhaps an associate pastor suggests a prayer to complement the theme.

Early in the week, the staff gathers together to go over the worship service. They pray together. They talk it through and think about stagecraft or logistics--who will be where and when (e.g. how will the organist get to the piano? Or, will the pastor have time to get to the baptistery and back, after a baptism?). They discuss hymns: how does this hymn connect with the theme? They work through a mockup bulletin.

After the staff meeting, the administrative assistant prints a final proof of the bulletin. Staff members review it and give a final approval. By Thursday, the admin begins printing the bulletins. During the week, volunteers add drapery to the cross to match the season of the Christian calendar. The cleaning staff picks up old bulletins, straightens hymnals, and vacuums the carpet. The florist brings in fresh flowers.

Sunday arrives…

For the worshipper, she enters a sanctuary, a sacred space, and carries the preoccupations of a postmodern world. One is concerned with work. Another thinks about family and a recent conflict. Still, another thinks about how great life is. A new parent beams with pride as people dote over the baby. An elderly person is happy to see other people, yet reminded of a sore knee with each step. A teen thinks: When will this be over? Or, Does she like me? Each person enters the sacred space bringing in something different.

Worship begins…

Humanity cannot guide God. However, God gives people the awareness of time. Thus, ministers and other church leaders have the opportunity to create meaningful worship opportunities. By choosing themes that mean something to people today, connecting the dots, and presenting each element of worship as effectively as possible, the Holy Spirit has space to roam. By taking time to prepare, each person, with their vastly different interests and concerns, can experience God in the same worship service. In my experience, God ordains preparation and thoughtfulness.

Friday, April 8, 2016

World end?

I found Prince Ea through a friend's shared video on Facebook. The initial video was about the social media concerns. It was well-done and thought-provoking. It was also a bit simplistic and pointed out obvious concerns about overusing social media. Replacing real human contact with virtual exchange on social media is a warped reality.

Adherents to that reality, at the expense of genuine interaction, twist the meaning of community. Few people, it seems to me, would argue that social media provides true community. However, the initial video made me want to see more by Prince Ea, so I found his YouTube channel. On his channel, I found the following video:

Richard Williams (aka Prince Ea) begins by outlining contemporary issues: air pollution, animal extinction, poor education, depression, antisocial behavior, dishonesty, obesity, racism, religious intolerance, sexism, materialism, and anger.

Williams, then, turns toward love. He says, "Love is the most powerful weapon on the face of the Earth." He paints an optimistic response to the problems of the world. It is based in love, but he does not say how love will make a difference. Let us begin with his first twenty-first-century concern: air pollution.

Air pollution is a macro-level problem. As an individual, I cannot pollute the environment; I can contribute to pollution, but one individual lacks the capacity to change air quality. Thus, to combat air pollution, many individuals must make changes to the Cfc, neurotoxins, and other polluting output. How can love be an ingredient in responding? First, understanding is necessary. People must cognitively recognize the combine impact of air pollution. E.g. 100 factories, each putting out a small amount of pollution, can damage the environment; reducing pollution from each factory can improve air quality. Second, regulation and enforcement are necessary for companies to act in everyone's best interest. If I have a company and you have a company, and we both know that air pollution is bad, if we are not required to reduce pollution, why would we change our behavior?

Each of Williams critiques of contemporary culture are accurate. And, love is an optimistic response. However, each of his critiques require complex answers, not simply, let us be more loving. His second critique, animal extinction, brings up a complex issue: animal rights. Cambodia is planning to reintroduce functionally extinct tigers. It is exciting news. It might help rebalance the ecosystem. What will happen when habitat loss and overpopulation causes one of these tigers to wander into a population area and kill a person?

Every issue Williams brings up is complicated. Each one has multiple perspectives. I appreciate his rhyme. The video is well done. The backing track is interesting and complements the music. And, I hope he continues making thought provoking videos. I also hope that people do not relegate complicated problems to overly simplistic solutions. Complicated problems deserve our attention.

The world is not coming to an end. It is changing. Heraclitus was right. "No one can walk through the same stream twice." Bob Merrill was also right, "Love makes the world go 'round." Keep loving! Keep seeking solutions to complicated problems.