This is just a shadow of the Logrus. The real Logrus is at http://members.shaw.ca/pamela.mclean/GUS0-intro.html
"Our church is holding a national worship conference", said Diane. "You should go".
"I'm not even Lutheran", I protested. "I'm not the right person."
"Doesn't matter", said Diane. "You should go." She looked significantly at Dean. "One of you should go".
"Dean should go" I said. He's the musician, he would fit right in. Dean rolled his eyes. He doesn't ‘do’ conferences. I glanced at the brochure: Welcoming Children to Worship; Hospitality: a Worship Issue; Sacred Circle Dance -- the passions of my heart. "Dean should go", I said again, weakly.
Actually, it didn't look like either of us could go. I had to travel on business; Dean's car broke down. Yet somehow -- without even a road map, not knowing what awaited us in Camrose – August 19 finds us driving north. Navigating by transmission lines, I find Augustana College. Instantly, we feel welcome. Volunteers wave us in, help us register; drive us over to our rooms. Although we can't find our "task group", we don't feel lost: Pastor Marty Tuer quickly incorporates Anne and Rachel into her "Way of the Cross" task group. Dean and I join in the meditations and responses. The spirit of worship and belonging seeps through the cracks in my Anglican reserve. We have been "gathered in".
In the chapel that first evening, familiar music washed over the conference congregation. The conference presenters were Marty Haugen and Susan Briehl. Marty Haugen is familiar by his rich contributions to our worship music: As the Grains of Wheat, Sing Out Earth and Skies; Beneath the Tree of Life; and of course Gather Us In. In subsequent presentations Marty would explain the role of music within the Lutheran tradition, and how to ensure that music stays true to the substance of Lutheran thought. In this first service, he was content to allow massed voices demonstrate music's role in stunning four-part harmony, overwhelming my senses. Though familiar with the austere beauty of unison plainchant or the well-rehearsed tones of a cathedral choir, I had never heard such congregational music as I heard that night. Throughout the conference which ran from Saturday to the following Wednesday, lectures and explanations greatly deepened my awareness of the role of music in Lutheran faith; and I would be impressed again and again by the facility with which relative strangers blended voices in such awesome harmony.
Susan Briehl is a pastor, preacher, liturgist and essayist. Her words are the counterpoint of Marty Haugen's chords. Between them, Marty and Susan laid out the wealth and breadth of Lutheran tradition: its committed reliance on Scripture, the empowering freedom given to the Priesthood of Believers, the understanding of Sacrament and symbol held in common with all manifestations of the Church catholic. Day by day, my understanding deepened of what it means to sojourn among Lutherans. In subsequent articles I will share details of several workshops, including Reflections on Sabbath; Space, Colour and Shape; and A Common Liturgical Language.
Church conferences tend to begin in midweek and build toward the Sabbath. But at Gather Us In, scheduling conflicts -- or perhaps God -- intervened. The conference had to be held from Sunday to Wednesday. And so we formed our community with the Sabbath, and moved forward from there. Following Sunday worship, the delegates dispersed to unhurried recreation; returning in the waning afternoon to picnic together on the Augustana grounds. Later, conference delegates gathered to reflect on their Sabbath experience.
For most conference delegates, a true Sabbath rest is rare. A high proportion of delegates were clergy and worship leaders, for whom Sunday is their primary day of work. Even laity may find "rest" a rarity -- it helped to be three hundred kilometres from my household's washing-up, ironing and lawn-mowing. Sadly, for some people just attending worship is an obligation that overburdens the Sabbath. In the past, Sabbath-keeping was often made a burden: some older people may remember long joyless Sundays with most pastimes forbidden. Sabbath legalism is unscriptural; we are told that "Man was not made for the Sabbath". Yet in the same passage Scripture tells us that Sabbath was created for man, that it is good for men to keep a day of rest. Keynote presenters Susan Briehl and Marty Haugen asked us to reconsider Sabbath-keeping as a sacred privilege. By choosing to forego our Sabbath rest, we harm ourselves and our communities. By the choices we make regarding how we spend the Sabbath, we enslave our sisters and brothers. Marty and Susan asked us to consider; first, what are the weaknesses that plague our communities; and second, what are the changes we as a community could make in our practice of Sabbath-keeping that might address those weaknesses.
The questions clash awkwardly with our prior assumptions. Can Sabbath-keeping address such real problems as lack of vision and decaying neighbourhoods? It would be easy to misconstrue the question as "what are the weaknesses with our present Sabbath-keeping"! That problem was quickly blamed in turn on organizations that schedule children's events on Sunday; on businessmen and women who are too business-focussed to bother with church, or those modern parents who won't be satisfied providing their children with old-fashioned Sunday-School experiences. Such blaming is a mistake: we cannot solve any problem if we assume they are someone else's fault. In the case of Sabbath-keeping, what we needed to do instead was re-examine all our assumptions.
Sabbath-keeping does not inherently mean "church attendance". Sabbath was established during the Israelites' wilderness sojourn, whereas communal Sabbath worship was established in the synagogues of the Diaspora hundreds of years later. For clergy and worship leaders, this means that they can with perfect consistency take their sabbath on some other day, most typically Monday. For lay people, this means that there is no "burden" of compulsory attendance at worship. Instead, lay people are freed to ask, "in what way can I remember today to keep holy the Sabbath?" With worship, of course, but worship takes many forms. In worshipping a God who is Perfect Community -- Three in One, we find ourselves yearning to worship as community. Like Sabbath-keeping itself, our presence at worship becomes delightful longed-for privilege instead of obligation.
But how can Sabbath-keeping address the real problems that face, for example, the community of Emmanuel? What are Emmanuel's problems? Are there any changes which Emmanuel as a community should make? These are questions for the people of Emmanuel, individually and corporately, to answer for themselves.
And as for me and my house, we will confine the weekend's washing-up, lawn-mowing and ironing to Saturday.
Workshop speaker Susan Briehl had never before been introduced as an artist. How that remission occurred is bemusing, for her love of language flows like poetry in every word of her preaching and liturgy. The first keynote presentation aparently recapitulated Susan's presentation to the ELCA's Jubilee 2000 Conference, the text of which is available at http://www.elca.org/dcm/worship/briehl.html. In it, Susan enlarged lyrically upon a single sentence:
"In our ongoing search for a common liturgical language, let us choose words rooted in the biblical witness, shaped by the prayers of the faithful in every time and place, spacious enough to name the mystery of the holy trinity, expansive enough to embrace all that God would unite, and evocative of lives that anticipate God's future."Why do we even need a common liturgical language? Because God has made us a people of language. Infants begin babbling because the feeling of speach is sensually pleasant. Their babbling praises God: Infants are free from worry as to whether their anthems rhyme or form theological constructs. Our best liturgy is simular: repeated phrases that flow from the heart at a level that transcends analytical thought. Where pentecostal worshippers turn to glossalalia to give utterance to their deepest feelings beyond words, we have access to the timeless beauty of our liturgy. We must put on our children's lips the best that our tradition has to offer: they need no spiritual pablum. The simple beauty of Agnus Dei and Kyrie with their flowing repetetive words are as natural a praise-language for the young child as is babbling for an infant. As we claim the language of our tradition, let us also claim its silence. LBW 441. Silence is the true universal language. It is to our liturgy, what the doctrine of the incarnation is to our theology: a proclaimation that the finite has the ability to bear the infinite.
All the beauty of liturgical language that we have inherited from our tradition is firmly rooted in Scripture. As we enlarge upon that language, we must continue to be rooted in Scripture. As Susan said, "were we to choose another book for our source of liturgical language, we would be choosing another religion". The Lutheran tradition holds to a "Living Word" hermeneutic. Lutherans are not by their tradition literalists or fundamentalists, who would confine the power of the Word to text on a printed page. Neither do Lutherans adopt protestant liberal biblical criticism. The Living Word transcends the written text. The text points to the living word. Great images, rich in power as consomme is rich in the flavour of the broth from which it is condensed, reach out from the written word to draw our hearts to the Living Word. Susan recounted to us the Great "O" antiphons: Adonai, Key of David, Root of Jesse, Emmanuel, Wisdom, Ruler of Nations, Dayspring. Each scriptural image evokes the concentrated power of the scriptural narrative that informs it. "We are a people of stories", Susan said. We must tell our stories, so that we know who we are.
The two great reformation changes to the mass were, adopting the language of the people, and the introduction of the Hymn of the Day. The loss of the Kyrie, the loss of the Hymn of the Day from our common worship, equates to the loss of the Lutheran Liturgy. Participating in the liturgy is like putting on a cloak made frokm the prayers of the faithful departed. Losing the liturgy is like being robbed. The Hymn of the Day is liturgical recognition that proclaimation is a baptismal ministry. The pastor preaches his sermon to us; it would be easy to accept, at the end of the sermon, that the work of proclaimation has been done for us. Instead in Lutheran tradition, the people stand for the Hymn of the Day and "preach back"; expounding on Scripture through hymnody. According to Susan, liturgy is like a vine: improper husbandry or neglect lets the vine wither, or grow agressively feral. Good liturgy is like wine, in contrast to grape-flavoured Koolaid: but not all wines age well. We are called to a continuing reformation. We must taste and see -- both of the old wine and of the new. The question to ask is not "is this language traditional or contemporary", but "does our language widen God's embrace; does it express honest, authentic human experience; does it point to what is essential". We must both claim, and test, our liturgical heritage.
As we discover new liturgical language, we must test it, too. A frequent challenge in discovering language for God is to determine, whether the language we are using is too limited, or whether a wider description is in fact a "different" god. "God" is as far from a concrete noun as can be conceived. Our language can function to hem in God, but God rejects such language. We may refer to God as "Lord", but God declares god's self to be "I AM". The Matthean formula for the Trinity, "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" is good language, historic and ecumenical, but it is not adequate. Theologians and liturgists have striven throughout the ages to find words to encompass the trinity. Augustine refered to "the Lover, the Beloved, and Love". Luther refered to "the Speaker, the Word, and ?" One modern theologian expresses God is "Rain, Soaring Mist, Perfect Stream". But in our striving, we must be very careful. "Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier", a popular formulation, in fact reflects the modalist heresy of claiming that different "modes" of the Godhead function independantly. Yet even often uninspiring sources may produce felicitous words. Tertullian has given us "Root , Tree and Fruit". John gives us "Vine Dresser, Vine, and the Juice of Life". There is only one fruit: Love -- to be crushed down that it may become wine that intoxicates the world with grace."
Words can include or exclude. "Family" language is a common metaphor for the relationships of the worshipping community. It is good language -- but still we must be sensitive. Does the single bachelor, the street teen, or the widower, newly alone, identify with being part of family? Or can even that language be exclusive? Perhaps no language, no metaphor can include everyone -- perhaps our sensitivity to others must lead us to use a wealth of varied language. Our language and our worship practices must be varied enough to name a wider community: we must make space for the people who aren't there. At a church where she previously pastored, Susan proposed removing a pew to make room for a wheelchair. One of her committee objected "but, we don't have anyone at church in a wheelchair. As Susan said, "Well, duh." In my own experience I have worked in churches where adding accomodation for children was similarly greeted with "but we don't *have* any children attending." Well, duh. It is hard to see the people who aren't there. But we must ask ourselves who they are -- and how we can make room for them to come in. Perhaps, it is the mourners who are missing. Perhaps it is the guilty. When the penitential and lamentory elements of our service are omitted in favour of upbeat praise, we find ourselves abandoned in our hour of need -- for we have lost the language that could include our sorrow. In our joy, we sing the songs of sorrow in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who sorrow. In our sorrow, we are upheld by the songs of our brothers and sisters who know joy.
Rhonda Harder Epp is an artist living and working in Camrose Alberta. In addition to her professional work, she has taken responsibility for the art decorating her own community's worship space.
Christian art is historically grounded in mature classical aesthetic: realism, and idealism. In the first three centuries prior to Constantine, when Christianity was oppressed by the state, Christian art also functioned as covert communications. A highly informed symbology evolved, wherein specific symbols gained highly informed meanings. The most familiar to us is probably the ichthys, a simple picture of a fish that, to a first-century christian was the mnemonic for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour". In the same way, a lamb carrying a crook specifies "Lamb of God", three intertwined circles specifies "Father, Son and Holy Spirit". Following the establishment of Christianity by Constantine, Christian art adopted much of the triumphalist aspects of imperial art. Realistic depictions, icons and statuary adopted much of the ostentatious style used to depict emperors and Olympian gods. The Reformation included a strong backlash against this triumphalism, to the extent that the reformation's approach to high art can be seen at best as indifferent, at worst as outright destructive.* The visual impact of this backlash can be seen by contrasting the stained glass saints and biblical scenes in churches of the older artistic tradition, such as Saint Stephen's Anglican church or the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer; with the stained glass Chi-rhos and Trinity-roses of an older Lutheran church such as Saint Matthew's or Sharon. Symbolic representational art speaks strongly to the Lutheran aesthetic. Luther himself combined such symbols in his well-known personal crest: a latin cross (the Church) inside a rose mounted on a heart (The Love of God) surrounded by flames (the Holy Spirit). To the informed mind representational symbols are visual antiphons -- pointing through the image to a specific phrase of scripture, that itself epitomizes a scriptural theme.
However, to the seeker or stranger among us, such symbols have no power to speak. In aspiring to appeal visually to a wider community, our art must be informed by more transcendent artistic principles: a deeper psychological understanding of colour, shape and texture. Warm colours are inviting or exciting; cool colours are serene or detached. Complex shapes and textures engage the eye and draw it in; or may distract and confuse. Different textures communicate different feelings. Depictions of everyday objects may draw on associations from our common secular life. The average person may not be able to manipulate these principles to communicate a particular spirit or sense. Artists themselves may be unable to articulate how they are using colour and form, but it is an instinct for these subtler meanings that make an artist. The liturgical artist thrives in an environment of artistic freedom, where she is able to follow that instinct.
Modern liturgical art should reflect the rhythms of the worshipping community, a significant component of which is the liturgical year. Such art is often ephemeral, and therefore correspondingly inexpensive. Text and heavy symbolism is unnecessary. Rather, liturgical art may simply provide a pleasant resting place for the eye, freeing the mind to focus on the Word. When three-dimensional and mobile art are admitted, the whole worship space becomes available to the artist. Paper dolls can be used to frame an advent wreath, or cut giant-size to stand in a frozen dance before the altar. A cut-out flock of sheep before the altar might illustrate pastoral themes, or tissue-paper flames might cascade from the ceiling in a bold pentecost mobile. Flexible art might be assembled in different shapes from week to week, to continue to engage observers in defiance of familiarity.
*The Presbyterian destruction of the Neville tombs springs to the mind of this descendent of Jacobite exiles.
As adults, we already know how to appeal to children. Children like music, action, movement, novelty, participation, and visual impact These properties are the essence of Liturgy: the variations of the church year providing the elements of novelty and the familiarity of the liturgy allowing for the people's full participation. Children are particularly engaged when the ministers and worship-leaders are themselves children.
- TV Personality
Students act out the same Bible character on a TV show simultaneously and should all speak at one time. Each student must face the camera (which is the leader). As the leader calls out a character connected to the story, the whole class together must instantly try to tell their story, in character, to the Camera. The leader calls freeze after about 45 seconds and suggests the next character.
- Two-Person Drama
Divide the group into pairs to illustrate an encounter between two Biblical antagonists. The initiator of the challenge takes three steps away from his or her partner. With eyes closed, all listen to the leader recounting the story of the conflict between the characters. The participants concentrate on what arguments or strategies they can use against their opponent. Then they role-play the conflict.
- Blind walk
Divide the class into pairs (everyone has a partner). Give a blindfold to each pair. One student will be sighted, the other will be blind. Ask them to ove slowly aroun d the room negotiating objects on floor and tactilely exploring the room. After a few minutes have the partners switch.
Divid into pairs and sit facing each other. One student is the leader and the other is the mirror. The mirror, watching the leaders eyes only -- not the hands, mimics the movements of the leader exactly and at the same time.
- See It, Be It
Leader asks students/actors to close eyes and silently picture a bible Character. What does he/she look like? Clothes, face, footwear, what are they carrying? Ask questions about what surrounds this person. Do they see and hear the trees, weather, running water, wind. animals, buildings, et cetera. Leader asks the students (with eyes closed) to take the shape of this person. When you open your eyes you be that character -- you will move and do activities as that character. Ignore the others unless you want interaction.
- What's the Story
A volunteer is presented with a card that identifies the story. At the front of the of the room the student mimes one of the actions from the story.
After 45 seconds, anyone who thinks that they know the story can join in and begin acting at the front of the room. Those joining the acting must do complementary but different actions than any other actor.
Group is split into pairs; one student is the clay and the other is the sculptor. All of the sculptors explore by shaping the arms, legs, body position and facial expressions of the "human clay" partner. After a 20-second break sculptors then create a "masterpiece" statue of one of the Bible characters in a moment of crisis or discovery. Sculptors examine each other's work. Reverse roles and repeat.
- Echo Storytelling
The group stands in a circle so that all students can see the leader. The leader tells the story phrase by phrase. Each phrase spoken can have a simple movement and sound if desired, that fits with the words. Students/actors, as one voice, repeat or echo the teacher's phrase including the movement and sound.
- Mystery box
Sit in a circle. Explain that everyone has an imaginary myster box in front of him or her. Demonstrate by miming the size and shape of the box. One person att a time takes the box, opens the lid and slowly pulls an imaginary oject from the mystery box. Observers determine what the objefct is by how the person handles the object -- its weight, movemmetn, size, et cetera..
Foirm one large circle with everyone seated. Present the theme to the group. They are to find a character, a repetitive action, a sound or word phrase based on that theme. One student moves to the centre of the space and begins the repetitive action and sound/phrase. Encourage and reinforce the need to make a sound. Let the rhythm and machine movement patterns become established before others join in. One by one, others move into the centre and add their own individual movement and sound. Suggest that students connect or link up physically if possible..
Worship is more than a duty, more than praise, more than emotional experience. Worship teaches us who we are. But the power of worship depends upon the people understanding what they are doing, upon their taking ownership of their own role in the liturgy.