Wednesday, March 04, 2015

lectio decorio (reading the skin)

A creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary. For more resources go here.

Lectio divina (divine reading) is a practice by which Scripture is read slowly, seeking for God’s voice. Today I invited the community at worship at Uniting College to enter into lectio decorio (reading the skin). (Decorio is latin for skin).

The spark was the lectionary text – John 2:13-22, when Jesus cleanses the temple. Searching google, I found the work of Amanda Galloway. As a way to connect with women in India, a system of Biblical story telling has been developed. It uses the traditional henna process to symbolize biblical stories (I’ve blogged about henna and Biblical storytelling before). Henna, a temporary artwork drawn on hands and other parts of the body, is a popular beauty technique in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. As the story is told, the images are drawn onto the hand and arm.


I didn’t have the time (chapel is 20 minutes, including communion), nor the materials (henna), to literally use henna. But I loved the way the Amanda Galloway’s design told the story, and told it onto skin. It seeemed to also connect with the Biblical text, which was all about whips and overturned tables and thus a story about skin in the game of justice.

So, after reading the lectionary text, I introduced the design. I noted how it is used. I then invited folk to trace the design onto their skin. Not with henna, but by using their finger, while I read the text (slowly enough to give time for the tracing).

And so skin touched skin, as the Bible story was heard and traced (decorio).

I then repeated the process, inviting folk to trace to design on their other hand. Given that folk most likely initially chose their dominant hand, it felt deeply gospel to trace the design again, this time using a weaker finger. This also created links between the two contexts – us in the first week of the semester, with all the new learning that a semester involves, women in India, unable to read, but still opening themselves to learning.

I then moved into the six minute communion. And suddenly the passing of the peace had new meaning. It was another moment of lectio decorio, reading the skin, as the gospel story traced on my hand touched the gospel story traced on the hand on another.

I’m still to unpack with those gathered what the experience meant for them.

But for me, the invitation three times to hear a Gospel story, the deeper sense of connection as that gospel was traced on my skin, the sharing of a practice from another cultural context as an expression of solidarity in learning – felt very embodied.

So there we are, lectio decorio (reading the skin).

Posted by steve at 09:42 PM

Friday, December 19, 2014

U2 above across beyond: great cover and out

Fabulous cover for just released U2 Above, Across, and Beyond: Interdisciplinary Assessments


It emerges from the 2013 U2 Conference, held in collaboration with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. One of the chapters is mine, “Transmitting Memories: U2’s Rituals for Creating Communal History.” It is one of eight, that explore from the disciplines of organizational communication, music theory, literary studies, religion, and cultural studies ways U2’s dynamic of change has been a constant theme throughout its career.

Here’s the book blurb:

U2’s success and significance are due, in large part, to finding inventive, creative solutions for overcoming obstacles and moving past conventional boundaries. As it has embraced change and transformation over and over again, its fans and critics have come to value and expect this element of U2.

Thanks to the editing and publishing skills of Scott Calhoun, who directs the U2 Conference, is curator for the U2: Made in Dublin exhibit, and is professor of writing and literature at Cedarville University.

If you order directly from the publisher with this discount code — LEX30AUTH15 — you’ll save 30% off the list price. This code is free for the sharing.

Here’s the table of contents:

Introduction: U2 TRANS- Scott Calhoun

1. Collaborative Transactions: Making Sense (Again) for U2’s Achtung Baby, Christopher Wales

2. Transvaluing Adam Clayton: Why the Bass Matters in U2’s Music, Brian F. Wright

3. Translating Genres: U2’s Embrace of Electronic Dance Music in the 1990s, Ed Montano

4. A Transcendent Desire: In Defense of U2’s Irishness, Arlan Elizabeth Hess

5. A Transmedia Storyworld: The Edge Is One, But Not The Same, Fred Johnson

6. Transgressive Theology: The Sacred and the Profane at U2’s PopMart, Theodore Louis Trost

7. Transmitting Memories: U2’s Rituals for Creating Communal History, Steve Taylor

8. The Transformative Fan: The Bricolage of U2 Live, Matthew J. Hamilton

Posted by steve at 07:55 PM

Friday, December 06, 2013

intuitive worship: baptism, ministry, deeper water and Psalm 42

Today we farewelled a colleague. They had expressed a desire for a ritual moment, so over a number of days, by email, among a number of folk, a service of leaving was sketched.

It’s been a hectic week at College and with one of the key folk sick, I wasn’t convinced that all the i’s were crossed or t’s were dotted. Just in case, I grabbed a Bible as I left my office – a useful tool in case of emergencies.

Sure enough, it emerged on the walk over that no-one was down to do the Bible reading. I’d suggested it, so was happy to read. Especially since I had a Bible.

It was the Psalm for today in the Lectionary, Psalm 42. It fitted really well with the opening song. The colleague loves Paul Kelly, so we’d chosen Deeper Water, a song about growth, journey, life.

Deeper water, deeper water,
Deeper water, calling them on

As the song played live, I began to wonder were to stand to read. My eyes settled on the baptismal font. Water. An intuitive link gets made in my mind.

So as the song ended, I stood and walked to the baptismal font. I introduced the Psalm as about deeper water, as about where is God in deeper water. (As a hart longs for flowing streams (v. 1); Deep calls to deep at the thunder of thy cataracts; all thy waves and thy billows have gone over me (v. 7).)

As the Psalm ended, I returned (Djed) the lyrics of the song. “Deeper water, calling you on, and you’re never alone.” I dipped my hands in the water of the baptismal font and walked across to our departing colleague and bent to make the sign of the cross on his forehead.

An intuitive moment – a mix of Paul Kelly, Psalm 42 and the Christian ritual of baptism. For it is in our baptism that we are called into ministry. So a re-affirmation of baptism as that which holds us on the ongoing journey into ministry.

A few extra seconds, wordless, in which the waters of baptism were applied. And I returned, in silence to my seat. It had felt, intuitively the right thing to do.

Creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary (in this case, baptism, ministry and Psalm 42). For more resources go here.

Posted by steve at 06:21 AM

Thursday, January 20, 2011

a practical post: turning alternative worship stations into communities

I sat with a pioneer today. We reflected on a year of experimentation. An artist by charism, last year they thought “Stuff it, I’m going to create a quiet, still space. Populate it with stations. Have a start and end time. Advertise it as I can. And offer some resources to nourish people’s spirituality.”

After a year of experimenting, they are encouraged. By the growing numbers. By the engagement with folk they don’t see on Sunday mornings. By the impact of leaving the stations set up during the week, so that folk on Sunday morning get to see and engage.

It is proving a genuine missional innovation. Having visited (I love visiting pioneer innovations) I had some encouragements. And some suggestions

1. Think more about what people can bring into your space. How about providing a variety of things on the foyer (bits of material, stuff from $2 shop, coloured cards). Invite them to chose something that marks their week/mood/a relationships. This creates curiousity and builds individual participation.

2. Think more about what people can take away, something to tuck in their pocket as a reminder of their engagement – a stone, a thread, a symbol that connects with a station. This helps memorialise the time.

3. Have a map of church, with stations. As a newcomer, visitors always wonder if there are special “sacred” places. A map helps orientate me in a space, lets me know where to go and where the stations are. It lets me decide if I want to go in a liturgical order, or not. This map can be simple (station a, station b, station c etc) or more detailed (rose station, origami station, water station).

4. Think about next steps. People need space to come and go. And feel free to come and go. But some people might want next steps. They might want to suggest an improvement. Or know about future offerings. Or have a go. Or something touched a nerve and they want to talk. Sp provide next steps, sensitively.

5. What about a discussion space. Some people like to to process thoughts and ideas. They want to share how they engaged. And to hear how others engaged. Especially for people with aural learning preferences. So a dedicated coffee space afterward. Or the next Sunday. It must be optional. But this provides ways for events to become communities.

I note these ideas here, wondering if they might be useful to others experimenting with installation type, station based fresh expressions.

Posted by steve at 03:51 PM

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Transformation + worship: conversation with U2’s Willie Williams and Romans 12

Tuesday I had to speak for 5 minutes on the word “transformation” as it applied to worship. It was fun to try and say something in 5 minutes. (And gives a reason for some of the rant I blogged on Monday and some from Opawa might recognise fragments from a sermon series last year!)

I began with a projection of Willie Williams Lumia Domestica, as people walked in, helping to create an environment.

(This is an entire interview, if you’re pushed for time, start at 4:13)

On the screen is an art exhibition by Willie Williams. Called Lumia Domestica it aims to take the ordinary things, the everyday things, the domestic things, and see what happens, how they are transformed, when Light is shone on them.

The word transformation, and our topic – worship – brought to mind Romans 12:1-2.

 1Therefore, I urge you … in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed.

The word transformation, is, in the Greek, the word metamorphousthe, from which we get the word metamorphosis.

Rather than only words, let me offer you a visual reflection on transformation, metamorphousthe, and worship.

I then showed the following Youtube visual, for 55 secs. (Note – sound was OFF!!)

In Romans 12, transformation is about the whole of life. In verse 1-2; present your bodies. This stops us reducing transformation to ideas and the intellect.

Or as we are told in Uniting in Worship 2:1 “People are shaped by story, by narrative … Christian people are shaped by the story of Jesus …. The story is told through proclamation – which may include reading the Scriptures, preaching, reflection on Scripture, drama/movement, symbolic action, art, multimedia resources, and silence … ” So transformation in worship begins with attention to the whole senses of the whole body.

Then in 3-8; we are told of diverse gifts. Or as we are reminded in the Basis of Union: “the one Spirit has endowed the members of Christ’s Church with a diversity of gifts … there is no gift without its corresponding service: all ministries have a part in the ministry of Christ.”

This stops us reducing worship to the gifts of a few.

To quote Jonny Baker, new book Curating worship (for a review of the book, see here): “In many church circles the only gifts that are valued for worship are musical ones or the ability to speak well. This attitude needs shattering, and opening up so that poets, photographers, ideas people, geeks, theologians, liturgists, designers, writers, cooks, politicians, architects, movie-makers, storytellers, parents, campaigners, children, bloggers, DJs, VJs, craft-makers … can get involved.” (12)

Jonny argues for an approach to worship that is neither liturgical presiding. Nor is it choosing some songs and fronting a band. Rather it is what he calls “curating worship” an approach that like a art curator, seeks the best environment by which to showcase the whole bodies gifts and graces.

Then in Romans 12:9-21 the focus is how the whole world. As a result of whole bodies, the whole body is to “bless those who persecute you. If the enemy is hungry, feed them.”

This stops worship being for “I” and “we”, and instead offers us worship for “them”; for the transformation of the whole world.

To quote Paul Walton, introducing Uniting in worship 2 on ABC radio: “I think good liturgy is liturgy that’s not only understandable but connects with life as a whole.”2

Inviting whole bodies, honouring the whole body, for transformation, metamorphousthe of the whole world.

Posted by steve at 06:41 PM

Saturday, August 07, 2010

review of jonny baker’s book curating worship

Curating Worship by Jonny Baker (although it should really be Jonny and co. and Disclaimer:  I am one of the co.!) is an excellent addition to the emerging church/missional church discussion. 

Curating worship is a term used to frame an approach to worship that is neither liturgical presiding nor fronting a band. Rather it is the skills of framing other people’s elements. It’s a ethos of participation:

“In many church circles the only gifts that are valued for worship are musical ones or the ability to speak well. This attitude needs shattering, and opening up so that poets, photographers, ideas people, geeks, theologians, liturgists, designers, writers, cooks, politicians, architects, movie-makers, storytellers, parents, campaigners, children, bloggers, DJs, VJs, craft-makers, or just about anybody who comes and is willing to bounce ideas around, can get involved.” (12)

Or in the words of the Uniting Church, Basis of Union, “the one Spirit has endowed the members of Christ’s Church with a diversity of gifts, and that there is no gift without its corresponding service.” Or in a Baptistic understanding, the priesthood of all believers. So curating worship is an approach by which the priesthood of all believers, with their diverse gifts, can find corresponding service in public worship.

What Jonny wants to do is write a book because “creative processes can seem mysterious and unattainable, even intimidating. The hope is that lifting the lid off the process and thinking might help demystify curating worship, and encourage people: ‘You can do it!’ (7)

He does this through what he calls 12 interviews with people involved in curating worship experiences around the world. While Jonny calls them interviews, I actually think they are conversations in which Jonny engages in lengthy to and fro. Because they are companions and friends, because relationships are established, Jonny can push and probe, asking some tough questions:

  • Does it matter if emerging churches remain small?
  • Arn’t some communities actually leading as artists and not curators?
  • What are the theological implications when alt.worship communities close?
  • What is the place of intellectualism?

Which makes this one of the most honest books I’ve seen from inside the emerging/alt.worship conversation. It also means a book in which the medium is the message – a book on curating in which the main author actually curates, shining the light on others. The range is rich – from public exhibition artists to pastors, from New Zealand through Australia to USA and UK, from those at the centre of churches to those off the edges, from lay to ordained.

The book has another heartwarming upside and that is the way it locates itself in a dialogue not with the church, but with the creative world, particularly the notion of curating as it has been researched in art and museum studies. What this means is a book that does not have to gain momentum by scoring points against other practices and practitioners in worship, which makes for a generous and creative read.

Curating Worship is an excellent read that marks a moment of maturity in the emerging/alt worship movement. First in articulating a clear and unique theology of worship. Second in conducting a critical conversation. Third in genuinely modelling a collective approach to authoring.

PS If you live in Adelaide and want to purchase a copy, I have a boxful of 20 books.

Posted by steve at 03:10 PM

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

wind of Spirit blows on and on and on: valuing takeaways

Tim Keel just dropped me a line to share a lovely story of the gracious, caring, unpredictable Spirit. He describes being part of a worship experience I lead in Pasadena, back in 2005. (I blogged about it back here.) The story then blows on, taking shape some 5 years later. Tim writes …

I returned to my office to clean it out. That involved box a lot of things up. But I also took the opportunity to go through old files to see what I wanted to keep and what could be thrown away. Going through old conference files, I found this postcard. Because of the impression Steve’s prayer made on me at the time of the conference, I wrote it out on the back of the postcard … To randomly find a postcard from a place I would soon being leaving for…I can’t adequately describe how powerful it was to read and then pray that prayer at a time when everything in my life felt like it was being blown apart.

It’s a lovely, encouraging, inspiring story. What strikes me is the importance of things that make worship tangible. I talk about this in my book, The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change.

Walter Brueggemann describes the task of mission in a postmodern world as one of funding, of providing the bits and pieces out of which a new world can be imagined. The emergent church needs to see itself as “funding” tourists, providing a deep and wide enough passage to enable postmodern people to navigate their way to God.

Sourcing tourism through the provision of spiritual products can be a key mission task of the emerging church. This builds on some of the current worshipping practices of the emerging church. It invites a move beyond gathered worship to consider how the church can be missionary, offering its spirituality resources as spiritual product to a spiritually hungry world, without expecting the crossing of a threshold of a church door. Let me give a few practical examples.

Most tourists buy souvenirs. When I talk of souvenirs, I am not thinking of kitsch. I’m thinking of photographs, personal mementos, shopping bags and those soaps, shampoos, and sugar packets from hotel rooms. These are souvenirs. When the tourist returns home, the handling of these takeaway souvenirs rekindles memories. The emerging church is asking itself what kind of physical souvenirs we can send home with those who journey with us.

For the last few years, churches like Graceway and Cityside have used art as part of the Advent experience in the Sundays leading up to Christmas. Each Sunday, a different piece of art was introduced and reflected upon. The art pieces were printed on postcards and distributed. Attendees could take them home as a spiritual memento for the week and perhaps return to the reflections of Sunday’s experience. They served as spiritual takeaway, a souvenir to hang on the fridge door.
At this juncture, the souvenirs become missionary. Everyone remotely connected with the church can be sent a pack of four postcards. The church as tour guide is now offering spirituality to people both gathered and scattered. The e-mails and letters of gratitude flow in.

When churches start adding physical souvenirs, people have access to spiritual resources without having to open a church door. A theological stake has been driven into the ground. The church has recognized that people are at different places in their spiritual journeys. The church is loving people enough to go into the “highways and byways,” trusting the wind of the Spirit to do its work in people’s lives.

Five years on from when I wrote that, my thinking still holds. Our worship needs tangible shape. I don’t see a separation between the wind of the Spirit and the practicality of a takeway. Rather, drawing on Eugune Rogers, After The Spirit: A Constructive Pneumatology From Resources Outside The Modern West: “To think about the Spirit it will not do to think ‘spiritually’: to think about the Spirit you have to think materially.” (56). And if you want to drift further back in time, then here is a scrap from a Pentecost sermon by Gregory of Nazianzen: “[I]f [the Spirit] takes possession of a shepherd, He makes him a Psalmist, subduing evil spirits by his song, and proclaims him KIng; if He possesses a goatherd and a scraper of sycamore fruit, He makes him a Prophet [Amos 7:14] …. If He takes possession of Fishermen, He makes them catch the whole world…. If of Publicans, He… makes them merchants of souls.”

This wind of the Spirit blows on the material world, and essential to our engaging the Spirit is our working with God’s creation. Like postcards.

Posted by steve at 09:14 PM

Saturday, May 15, 2010

a pentecost journal

Here’s an idea … why not every church start a Pentecost journal. This would be read every year at Pentecost. Then, after a time of silence for reflection, updates to the journal would be invited. People would name how the Spirit has been active among them in the year gone. These would be typed up, and added to the journal.

Which would be read again next year.

This would honour the Spirit as alive today, honour the Spirit as alive in history, appreciate the Spirit as diverse and creative in the life of the community, develop skills of discernment and just be plain interesting.

It is an idea that has some echoes to the Advent journals I initiated at Opawa. It emerged in my Grow and go Mission-shaped community class today. We were talking about innovation (one of the 9 National Church Life Survey indicators of a healthy church) and to make this practical, the class were introduced to a number of ways to practise creative brainstorming. In the process, as groups laughed and talked, a number of random linkages were made …

Posted by steve at 10:41 PM

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Ascension day and emerging worship with Paul Kelly

I spent some time in preparation for leading (Wednesday chapel) worship, playing with Ascension Day, which the church affirms, as it says in the Apostles Creed:

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord …
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Tall skinny kiwi engages with Jeremy Begbie concerned that the emerging church doesn’t engage with Ascension Day. Well, Jeremy obviously doesn’t read this emergent/ing blog, like back in 2007 when I noted what Ascension day means for Christian faith. (Get with the internet Jeremy) and when I noted the following points about Ascension Day.

  • God in Jesus is present through all time and space.
  • A human body now live with God.
  • Faith without sight is now the normal way to follow Jesus.
  • God’s people are the primary hermeneneutic of the Gospel.

Anyhow, back to my emerging worship, with me making random connections, humming the Paul Kelly song, “Meet me in the middle of the air”, which was played in my recent Sociology for Ministry class. (Here’s a cover, the actual song I was thinking about was Paul at the bushfire concert.

In the midst of all that bushfire pain, Paul sings acapella a song that seems to claim outrageous hope in the world beyond. Was it inappropriate? Pietistic? Or is there more going on in the music and life of Paul Kelly, that lets him slap a form of eschatalogical, Ascension-like hope on the bushfire table?

Is this why Ascension Day is important for the church – in Creed, worship and theology – because it keeps alive a note of outrageous hope? If so, when, how, in the midst of a broken world, to name it? Not sure if such thoughts will be woven into Wednesday worship, but writing them helps me process them.

Posted by steve at 09:40 AM

Friday, March 19, 2010

vestments. any emerging theology? other than bling the bish?

Plea for help from a student: they are doing a paper on worship and specific research on vestments. (Apparently, they are popular in Uniting Churches in other parts of Australia, but not as much here in South Australia. I’ve certainly not seen them in my church-seeking travels as yet.) The student has an interest in the emerging church and so popped in wondering if there has been any recent emerging theologising in this area?

They kept stressing the word “theologise”. They think this should be more than just a personal – will I, won’t I – bling the bish – type issue; they want to make a decision based on theology, not on personal preferences.

Anyone of my readers know of any good thinking around vestments, worship and emerging cultures?

(There’s theology in the video actually:

  • vestments to increase “mystery”
  • incarnational inclusivity – what to wear “to enter God’s house” and do vestments work towards, or away from, new cultural forms of dress
  • “bless, bless” and what human agency can be involved in enacting blessing)
Posted by steve at 02:20 PM

u2 chapter accepted for publication

News overnight that my U2 conference paper – Sampling and reframing: the evolving live concert performances of “Bullet the Blue Sky” – has been accepted for publication. Date and publisher still to be clarified, but with over 40 papers being submitted for a book of about 15 chapters, I’m stoked.

It’s also my first foray into the arts and music world outside the church, so the whole process – having the chance to present a paper and now have that accepted for publication, is a pretty big tick in terms of what I do and teach (the paper began life as a casestudy in a lecture in my Living the text in a postmodern context.”

Here is the “abstract”:

“Bullet the Blue Sky” is the fourth track on U2’s 1987 album, The Joshua Tree. The song was originally written as a commentary on a highly particularized context, the involvement of the United States military in Central America during the 1980’s. Over time, this highly particularized political context has changed, yet the song has continued to be performed by U2.

Using commercially available concert footage, this chapter will explore the changes and development in the song’s performance, over a twenty year period, with a particular focus on concerts in Paris (1987), Slane Castle (2001) and Chicago (2005).

Following one song over an extended period allows an exploration of how a band can reframe and re-perform their music as the context and culture shifts. (Hint, hint, what churches are seeking to do every Sunday in relation to Bible and church tradition! Ed)

The theoretical frameworks of narrative mapping and analyzing popular culture using the metaphor of sampling will be employed. Narrative mapping allows complex data to be analyzed in real time, as it unfolds, while sampling involves the collage-like re-appropriating of already existing elements in the pursuit of creativity.

Naming these samples, including song snippets, video and theatrical performances, and how they work in relationship to the audience, demonstrates a complex renegotiation of the meaning of “Bullet the Blue Sky” and shows how “sampling” a song might address new contextual and political issues. The application of installation art theory offers insights into the public negotiation of communal memory and provides another window by which to appreciate U2’s live concert performances. (Hint, hint, creativity in the context of gathered worship! Ed)

Posted by steve at 08:40 AM

Friday, December 11, 2009

the spirit, worship, leadership. but outside the gathered?

Some random thoughts have been churning through my head. They are a mix of pastoral encounters with people in hard places, who no longer feel able to pray. And the ongoing tension of being a pastoral leader in today’s post-Christendom context, when the gathered expect my feeding, but the mission task keeps itching. And engaging (through study and reading this week) Romans 8:26, in which the Spirit prays for us.

And wondering if this prayer is embodied, takes shape in the habits of the praying community and the praying leader. As in Anunication, baptism, transfiguration, resurrection, pentecost, the Spirit finds concrete shape in human things, so does this prayer of the Spirit take shape in the prayers of the saints?

And all of this stimulated by watching U2 live in Raleigh. (Yes, yet another U2 reference on this blog. Sorry for being stuck in a moment. This time will pass!).  Third song in is Mysterious ways. At the end, Bono invokes the Spirit. (See a clip here).

He literally names the one who moves us as the Spirit (3:45 “Spirit teach me, reach me), and then shifts from singular to plural (is the “we” the band or the crowd?), inviting that Spirit to come and be present (3:55 “we move with it”). And the lighting switches from being band-centric, to mirror-ball, with white light moving over the crowd (4:08). A magic moment, as for the first time the crowd are lit. 

And the part of me that is not dancing and enjoying, but is paying attention wonders if this is coincidence, or if I am hearing Bono right, and seeing the light correct. Is the Spirit being invoked to be present at a rock concert, to play not just over a band member, but over all those gathered? If so, is this part of Romans 8:26, in which the Spirit is praying for the aches and pains of the gathered thousands, through the words and invitation of a singer, and underlined by a lighting director?

And if so, how to make sense  – theological, liturgical, congregational – of that moment, and other moments, when the Spirit is invoked beyond the gathered church?

Many will have never make this connection I have made. Does this matter? Is this “prayer” still “for” them? Many of them will not consider themselves “Amen-ers” ready to say yes to the work of the Spirit in them. Does this matter? How is this “prayer” still “for” them? But many will go on in the concert to pray and to enact justice on behalf of the One campaign. So is this then their participation in an activity of the Spirit?

Such are the thoughts that wriggle through my head at the moment.

Posted by steve at 12:14 PM

Sunday, November 29, 2009

advent blessings creative prayer stations

Updated: based on the interest in this post, I’ve added another post with four more creative advent ideas, this time more do at home, type stations.

We kicked off Advent at Opawa today. Someone noted how much work is involved. “Too right,” is my response. It’s like adding a tablecloth, some flowers and mood music to an everyday meal. It draws attention to the church seasons and gives distinctive shape to the church year. It’s an essential spiritual practice to the Christmas consumerist frenzy.

This year we are tracing Incarnational themes through four church blessings/benedictions. The hope is also to add some content to what we hear regularly as church services end, plus ensure a real God focus as I conclude my ministry at Opawa.

Alongside the first Advent banner (which looks stunning against the black background curtains), three “blessing” stations were presented. Physically, they are marked with black wooden stands, draped in cloth. They will be with us for the weeks of Advent, with the “blessing” texts changed each week.

Scriptural prayer: (Spark from here) Consider the words from Numbers 6:24-27. What strikes you? What questions would you like to ask the writer? In the white space, around the words, write or draw your comments and questions.

Intercession bowl: Write or draw the names of people and places you want to see blessed this Christmas. Place them in the bowl.

Fridge magnet prayers: (Spark from here) The Bible is written in Hebrew and Greek. As words are translated, they take on different shades of meaning. This provides an opportunity for prayer and reflection. First, consider words of similar meaning.

(spread on table — lord/protector/saviour/redeemer/provider/the/and/you/us/his/her/with/in/be/bless/benedict/kiss/impart/watch/guard/keep/strengthen/sustain/protect/shine/glow/highlight/enlighten/illuminate/magnify/reflect/gracious/kind/merciful/give favour/hug/lift up/hold/extend/face/peace/shalom/tranquility/whole of life)

Second, arrange the words into your prayer of blessing. When you are satisfied with your work, write your prayer in the Advent journal. Please note that by writing out your prayer, we are asking your permission to display it publicly, perhaps on the church website or projected at a service or in an outside art installation.

So here are three of the “fridge magnet” blessings. (more…)

Posted by steve at 05:31 PM

Sunday, November 08, 2009

communion anabaptist style

Worship. Which I often define as all that we are responding to all that God is. It includes our bodies, our seating relationships, our words of prayer. Today we continued our series on Turning points in history and the focus was the radical reformation. Especially given that the Baptists are 400 years old this year.

A perfect time to rearrange our church seating, swinging some of the pews into a “U” shape. So that we took communion looking at each other, at the body of Christ, rather than the person at the front. Lots of positive feedback on this very simple change in our church architecture. An embodied realisation that we gather as human people.

A perfect time to pull out this communion liturgy written by Balthasar Hubmaier, an early Anabaptist theologian. I pulled out some phrases I considered noteworthy and invited us to pray them together.

Brothers and sisters, If you will love God before, in and above all things. Response: I will
If you will love your neighbour and serve with deeds of love. Response: I will
If you will make peace and unity and reconcile among yourselves. Response: I will
If you will love your enemies and do good to them. Response: I will
So eat and drink with one another in the name of God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. May the Lord impart to us his grace. Amen

Note the fascinating progression in the theology of this communion prayer: -> God -> neighbour -> church community -> enemies. At times Baptists are considered functional pragmatists. These words suggest in fact a deeply relational and missional theology, expressed in the acts of worship and engaging the reality of everyday life. It sounds quite contemporary for a prayer written over 400 years ago!

Posted by steve at 05:33 PM