October 23, 2013

A theology of a built environment pt. IV

NOTE: This is part four of a series. I hope you'll want to read the intropart one, part two and part three as well. I stole the title of this series from a book by Timothy Gorringe that speaks well to this subject entitled A Theology of the Built Environment.
It's often said that historic sacred spaces aren't conducive to different genres of music or worship styles. While not participating/leading a liturgy of any kind, the band Low performs a piece below that is testament to the fact that our historic, sacred spaces are in fact conducive to different forms of music.

The music review website, Pitchfork did a series of videos with contemporary musicians performing in sacred spaces. And in most cases, it works! The northwest musical collective, The Opiate Mass creates worship experiences in cathedrals using contemporary instrumentation. Two things to keep in mind. 

First, as my friend April pointed out in our video chat last month, don't use musicians, let them lead. They'll often find an approach to the crossroads of space and worship you had not considered.

Second, never forget that the worship experience is not itself the end, but an aspect of what it is to make disciples–always consider whether or not how you worship assists in the work of shaping folks into being apprentices of Jesus.

Too often we battle about how we worship (musical genre, style, etc.) rather than concerning ourselves with why we worship and what is happening during worship. For some background, I previously jotted down some thoughts on the subject here, here and here. Let me continue with two quotes:
[This is] the Act in which we are now living and in which we are to make our own unique, unscripted and yet obedient, improvisation. This is how we are to be the church, for the world. As we do so, we are calling into question the world’s models of authority, as well as the content and direction of that authority.
—N.T. Wright, "How Can The Bible Be Authoritative?" Published in Vox Evangelica, 1991

In the most earnest sense, God is the critical theatergoer, who looks on to see how the lines are spoken and how they are listened to: hence here the customary audience is wanting. The speaker is then the prompter, and the listener stands openly before God. The listener ... is the actor, who in all truth acts before God.
—Søren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart
I've found myself going back to writers that–unbeknownst to me at the time–lead me to my increasingly "informal yet sacramental" view of worship. And here's why this is so important to me as of late: I think worship has got to matter–has got to be tethered to–our every day lives. I now worship with a tradition that utilizes many practices that have until now been more novelty than routine. The more it becomes a part of who I am, the more I find myself trying to make sense of it–understand it, theologize it. Pulling from Wright and Kierkegaard, here's how I've been piecing this together in my head lately:
Act 1, Memory-the calling: remembering (being reminded of) why we do this
In act one, we read Scriptures that remind us who we are and why we are gathered together. It’s the stage call; beckoning the characters to the stage. It’s intended to remind us that God’s story is the story we are living out in the rest of our lives.

Act 2, Community-the communion: reuniting (and reconciling) with God and each other
In act two, is the “peak” of our time together. We are reminded that we are not alone; that we go about life with each other and with God. During this time we offer reconciliation with God and each other, and celebrate the Lord’s Table–we feed on the Word through the bread and wine, through the reflection of Scripture... together.

Act 3, Mission-the commission: re-engaging with our world
In act three, we begin the “slide” back out into the world. It’s when we remember that this “separate” activity is done publicly and for the purpose of our lives--that are lived “out loud”, or in public.

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