Sunday, November 02, 2014

looking up

I love the creativity by which spaces are changed. Here is a wonderful example from our recent holiday in Turkey. The interior of a large room, and from the ceiling had been hung bright yellow coloured rings.


Walking inside, we noted a change of colour, from yellow to green, along with a change of shape. It seemed invitation, pointing toward another room.

lookingup green

They had even placed a swing inside. Which sure enough, you were allowed to play on. I watched a young child head straight for the swing, and another young couple enjoy some fun together.


It changed the entire look and feel of the place, from large and stark, to playfully invitational. I have no idea why (not being fluent in Turkish) but it was a memorable and striking way to invite us to “look up.” It created interaction, built conversation with strangers (Wow, what is it?) and offered a set of memories that walked with us into our week.

A church could use their “looking up” to change with the colours of the church year, to hang angels at Advent, to create more intimate surroundings in winter. For a positive, practical, example, Cityside Baptist in Auckland were superb. They had strung wire across their auditorium and this allowed them to attach spots, but also to provide a range of creative offerings – flowers, poppies at Anzac Day.

Up is as much of a space to be curated as the front. (For more on curating and worship; see Jonny Baker, Curating Worship and Mark Pierson, The Art of Curating Worship: Reshaping the Role of Worship Leader)

Posted by steve at 09:30 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

Sunday, May 16, 2010

word of mission: a forgotten Uniting church treasure?

Over the weekend I discovered (thanks to Stephen Burns, who was a wonderful breath of fresh air in my attempts to understand the practice of mainline worship) what I think is a forgotten Uniting church treasure. In Uniting in Worship 2, the official book that guides Uniting worship, is a pattern for worship. The pattern is four-fold:

  • Gathering – including welcome and prayers of praise and confession
  • Word – including Scripture reading, preaching and prayers for others
  • Table – communion
  • Sending

The final section – Sending – is divided into a song, a benediction and this thing called “Word of mission.” This “Word of mission”, according to the book, could be a verse of Scripture, a sentence or a brief charge to the people.

I’ve never heard this, in all the Uniting services I’ve been part of. I wonder why I’ve not heard it. I wonder if it is just me, or if it’s fallen out of favour in general across the denomination. I wonder if it’s neglect says something about Uniting church life.

But what a gift, a moment when the people of God pause and prepare themselves for service in God’s world. It has all sorts of creative possibilities
– sharing in 2’s
– photos of the community which one is going to
– sounds of the world outside the church walls
– a litany of the places God is calling us to
– summing up the all that has gone before in the service in light of mission
– being recorded/journalled and then reflected on by leaders in terms of what God is saying in mission

Indeed, a forgotten treasure.

Posted by steve at 07:52 PM

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Anzac Day resources

anzacdaycross250.jpg I’ve had a number of people email requesting info regarding Anzac Day and worship: for the record

  • the journal article I wrote on the subject is Steve Taylor, “Scars on the Australasian Heart: Anzac Day as a Contextual Atonement Image,” New Zealand Journal of Baptist Research 6 (2001): 48-74
  • here is a sermon (2004)
  • here is my reflections on being part of a Dawn Parade in 2007
  • and here is some worship (2009)
Posted by steve at 07:52 PM

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

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