Worship notes, etc. 26 April 2008
Since I'm playing once again at another church, which once again is without an organist, I won't be at Sunday's potluck and discussion, so I'd like to say a little more today. Thanks for all the thoughts and ideas, everyone; Pastor M, thanks for this opportunity!
Like previous posters, I enjoy the lively energy of the music at the 1st service, and I love singing those songs. I also love playing arrangements of them on the piano, too--during the year plus I played keyboards for the heritage service, I always and inevitably played a setting of a contemporary praise song for the offering.
I particularly resonate with the comments by PB and LAW, but in the interest of posting this and possibly even getting it read, I won't specifically say anything about their remarks, but will offer a few more of my own.
Before I continue talking about this subject I'm so very passionate about, I'll admit I don't know how many folks in this congregation besides LAW, PB and the Sunday adult Bible study group know much about my background. I won't go into the long Pauline-style list of credentials, etc. or even the extensive list of shipwrecks and related disasters, but I'll mention here that in fall 2000 I returned to SD after a long a church in North County before venturing back to the east coast to serve a term call there for an inner-city congregation, coupled with my finally entering the candidacy process for ordination to ministry of word and sacrament and concurrently to begin an MDiv program. In September 2000 it looked as if I might be in SD for only a year; there was about a 50/50 chance I had a PT position to return to in Boston starting the following September. Although the entire situation fell through, that possibility excited me because in addition to serving an inner-city church as worship specialist I'd have been developing new liturgical forms that still would focus on Word and Sacrament in a fully participatory manner, and in a highly multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-everything setting...
Although I didn't grow up even on the periphery of the Church, the texts, colors, music and symbols of the liturgical year gradually came to shape my entire understanding of God's gracious encounter with all creation and God's redeeming work in Jesus Christ, so by the time I started preaching and teaching on a seriously regular basis, I naturally drew upon those understandings. Of course, as a life-long artist I'm very visual about everything!
And again, the church's historical liturgy is deeply rooted, not only in the practice of the early church (when to be ecclesia still was far more political and cultural than it was religious or theological), but also in the worship of God's people we first knew as Israelites and later as Jews. One of the many strengths of retaining some aspects of historical forms is the way those words and actions connect us vertically with the people of God in every place and time and also horizontally connect us here at NPC to the contemporary Church and churches around the world. Of course, the way of Jesus is comprehensive, but retaining historical liturgical practices helps move us out from our own concerns as individuals to the demands of the gospel for political and social justice and advocacy, something I don't see or feel happening nearly enough (anywhere, actually).
A few words about the assurance of pardon: needless to say we all sin far too frequently, but the rite of confession, pardon, absolution isn't nearly as much about announcing the fact our lives again have fallen far short of God's demands along with our need for grace and forgiveness as it is an opportunity to reflect upon God's claims on our lives in this community and in the world. Possibly it better could be expressed as a proclamation or assurance of our reconciliation to God, one another and all creation in Jesus Christ.
By the way, our liturgy classes in seminary were team-taught, not only because I attended an ecumenical seminary but also because we can learn so much from other styles and traditions. Yes, I do understand all this is developing and evolving at NPC and everywhere else, but I'd be very happy to work together with Pastor M. and anyone else to write some orders of worship, prayers and responses reflecting our scriptural and confessional grounding and this congregation's history and experience as a people of God in Jesus Christ here on this mesa. LAW also has a great deal of knowledge and interest in worship and liturgy; given her involvements in church and elsewhere, I don't know to what extent she'd be interested in being part of this possible endeavor. I'm making this offer because of my concern for this congregation as my church community and because of my own need to use my gifts, education, experience and skills to a far greater degree than I've been able to for the past dozen or more years. Although I have no regrets about not continuing to serve in authorized, public ministry, believing that choice was consonant with God's call to me and would lead to better stewardship of my life, very few of the opportunities I'd anticipated have happened. And it could be résumé fodder for me, and might even form part of a book of worship resources I've imagined writing!
Prayers continue arising to heaven from here; be blessed!