global music and worship

It seems that a truce has been called in the so-called worship wars. Or at least I seem to hear a lot less about such wars raging in the church today.

Perhaps this lull in the fighting is because the church in the West has finally realized it has more important questions to answer than whether we go traditional or contemporary in our musical worship. Or perhaps (a less promising possibility!) the silence on these questions reflects the fact that each has decided to go his or her own way – the contemporary worshippers and the traditional worshippers have simply parted company, so there’s nothing left to fight over.

Whatever the case case, I’m not intending to open a new front in these old battles. However, there is one suggestion I would like to make, no matter where we may have settled on the question of worship style. My simple suggestion is that we remain open and attentive to the worship styles and content that come to us from the global church.

This isn’t to say that such attention is utterly lacking in our congregations. Some local churches are more than aware of the ways that our worship can be enriched by the melodies and rhythms and themes of global Christianity. But I also know of plenty of worshipping communities (blended, contemporary, traditional) where the diversity of the worldwide church never finds expression in music. Continue reading

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Easter Kids’ Litany

A litany we will use this Sunday at Kensington, to be led by one of the kids of the congregation.

This is a great day; a beautiful day.
     What makes it a great and beautiful day?
This is the day of Jesus’ resurrection.
   What’s that you say? Tell us again!
This is the day of Jesus’ resurrection!
     This is amazing news you share.
Can I hear these words? “He is risen! Hallelujah.”
     We will say it: He is risen! Hallelujah!
Death is not the end of the story. Life is!
     Jesus is life for a broken, dark world.
     It’s an amazing message – something to share.

Jesus is our risen Lord – he is with us every day.
     We can speak with him, sing to him, praise him.
He leads us into a life that is beautiful and good.
     Let us live in his compassion and truth. Let
     us live for his kingdom. He is risen!

poem for palm sunday

PALM SUNDAY

     hymn

Time-pressed sedimentary, igneous, metamorphic rocks
Burst with anticipation that, human voices stayed,
Their moment of unlocked eloquence and
Soaring speech might finally arrive.

But vocal chords reverberate with ancient choruses,
Embodying praise for earth divinely imagined, given,
Gathering sentiments of quartz, kingfisher and crocodile:
Hosanna! King! Saviour!

     recoil

Impossible words, these,
An unlikely thing, this,
For ears untrained, minds unprepared,
Hearts hardened and unremitting in (un)generous doubt.

We would muzzle rocks,
And mock too-easy faith and hope,
Unless our own in human ingenuity unleashed,
In mean and method, device and digital tomorrow.

     walk

Whisper of fabric, cloaks lifted again across shoulders,
Palms tossed aside, withering echo of a song.
He silently surveys ancient bricked courtyards,
Seeking in crack and crevice, faithfulness and mercy.

Disappointment and departure,
Reculant in sad reversal of pomp and procession,
Bethany re-christened ‘disappointment,’
Thud of stone over Lazarus’ grave.

     persist

Resistance is ours only,
ultimacy not granted to our ‘no’,
flintlike, his face,
‘yes’. 

     three days

Kids’ litanies for lent

A series of litanies that we are using this year at Kensington – led by children of the congregation during Lent. Based on texts from Exodus… Good to have the kids’ voices sharing and leading in worship. Two of them were also done in French (those translations are at the bottom of this post.)

Litany 1 (Burning Bush)

Moses was out in the rocky places taking care
of his sheep, just minding his own business.
     God said: “Now’s a good time to meet Moses!”
Moses went looking for one of his sheep that
had run off somewhere – just out doing his job.
     God said: “This little bush will show my glory.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Moses saw something
different – a light, a fire, a bush in flame.
     God said: “Take off your shoes, take them off
     right now – you are standing on holy ground.”
Moses was amazed – a bush on fire, but not burned up.
God talking to him. He took off his shoes.
     God said: “Moses, I want you to do something for
     me – I want you to help my suffering people.”

God comes close to us and speaks to us, too.
He asks us to help people who are suffering.
     God says: “Live like Jesus, he’s my holy Son.”
In the time of Lent, we discover God is with us
in all our experiences, good and bad. He helps us
live as his family every day.
     God says: “Jesus is with you, all the time.”

Continue reading

congregational aesthetics: a LIVING faith (2/3)

In this short blog series I’m exploring this question: What is the aesthetic profile of your congregation?

Every congregation has an aesthetic profile, a profile that emerges out of the architecture, memorials, artwork, and liturgical accoutrements that make up the worship space or community space of a particular church. This aesthetic profile says something about who we are and about the nature of our faith.

In the first blog post of this series (here) I reflected on the weight of history – the question of how we might respond to the aesthetic tradition that has been handed down to us in our particular congregations. In this post I want to move beyond the historical, to the contemporary.

memorialOne realization I have made is that in many congregations – including the one I serve – most of the aesthetic elements are at least two or three generations old. Memorials or paintings or photographs give expression to the lives, faith, culture, and aesthetics of earlier generations. Which is to say that, very often, there are no contemporary aesthetic expressions of faith within our buildings or worship spaces. Which is also to say that in many congregations there are very few (or none at all!) ways in which we express our living and contemporary faith in Jesus Christ through paint or woodworking or weaving – through our creative capacities as women and men and kids. Continue reading

A New Call to Worship? #DoubtIsTheNewBlack

It appears that “doubt is the new black.” Or, that uncertainty is “in.’  This is so particularly in Christian circles.

This sentiment is everywhere on the web these days – in blog posts, in Facebook postings, in tweets, and also on the more established Christian publishing sites. Doubt has displaced dogma. We are supposed to be wary of those who are certain of their faith. We are supposed to be suspicious of those who claim to know the truth. We are all supposed to bask in the glorious uncertainty of everything, because there’s nothing more annoying (or dangerous for that matter – be very afraid!) than someone who presumes to express confidence in faith.

We are all just muddling through. Don’t you dare presume or suggest otherwise!

Now it seems to me that there is something profoundly disingenuous in many of these writings that celebrate doubt. In many instances this celebration of uncertainty seems to be nothing but a trojan horse, under guise of which writers simply want to establish a new dogmatism. It’s not that they doubt. It’s that they want YOU to doubt what THEY want you to doubt. So doubt is only celebrated to the extent that it might help to change your mind – mostly to abandon traditional elements of faith. Continue reading