Monday, February 25, 2013
Celtic cross hugger
I hugged a Celtic cross a few weeks. Visiting Leeds, driving through snow, parking outside Leeds Minister, I stepped inside to find this ancient Celtic cross, placed in the middle of the sanctuary. It was found in the city walls and is now placed in the church. Gorgeous isn’t it.
On the way out I couldn’t resist any longer and gave the cross a big hug. I’m a bit of a tree hugger, and find enormous strength from giving a tree a great big hug. But I’ve never hugged a cross before. Which seems a strange thing for a Christian to say doesn’t it!
Here the cross has been especially lit, as part of the worship that Sue Wallace offers at Leeds Minister. Sue is part of a group that offers alternative worship experiences that mix ancient and modern. In a worship service like Transcendence, they take very traditional words (Common Worship Order 1), use robes, offer incense and chant latin, yet mixed with ambient dance backgrounds, projected moving digital images and prayer stations around the building. It’s a wonderful mix of ancient and future.
It is a much more traditional service than anything I would have imagined doing ten years ago, and yet somehow, because it is reinterpreted within a multimedia framework, it really works! I think it is because the familiarity of the traditional Mass structure enables people to cope when something unusual and creative happens. We have also found that some spiritual seekers are put off when everything is very new – when it isn’t how they imagine church to be. (“Alternative Worship and the Story of Visions in York,” in Ancient Faith, Future Mission: Fresh Expressions in the Sacramental Tradition, 14)
I interviewed Sue as the snow fell. We talked about her journey in ministry, her learnings over the years, what made Visions one of the longest lasting and creative alternative worship groups in the UK, her understanding of liturgy and how mission is experienced as spiritual seekers connect with art, music and history.
It was a rich conversation that jumped out of so many of the boxes and stereotypes of fresh expressions and missional church. It is a conversation I’m looking forward to transcribing and analysing this week. And then, once transcribed, placing it alongside the insightful ethnographic study of Visions by Matthew Guest, Evangelical Identity and Contemporary Culture: A Congregational Study in Innovation (Studies in Evangelical History and Thought).