Enchantment in Worship

I’m spending a day locked in a retreat house reading for the research I’m doing into liturgy and culture. A decade ago Keith F Pecklers SJ gave a call to greater liturgical formation for the ‘future of Christianity’ as he looked at worshipping in a postmodern world.

Liturgy in the postmodern world must aim for enchantment, not entertainment… If presiders are to be effective instruments in the enchantment of their congregations gathered together in holy assembly, the churches will need to recognise the fact that presiding is a craft to be learnt; it does not come with the grace of ordination. (p199 Worship)

I wonder what delights I will discover at the ‘Worship Transforming Communities’ conference next week. I’m looking forward to continuing the discussions I’ve been having with colleagues about liturgical formation. #worship2013

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Sitting at the Table: A Sermon on Acts 11:1-18

When I was younger there was a church I used to walk past every day in the center of town.  It was called St Thomas’ Church.  And as a small boy what an impressive place it was.  There were huge vertical lines that were accentuated by the spacing of ornately carved pillars.  Each window consisted of intricately cut coloured glass creating beautifully illustrated scenes from the bible.  In one window there was ‘The Good Samaritan’ placing the beaten and robbed man upon the back of his donkey.  He was then shown taking the man to be looked after.  Then little gold coins were depicted as little yellow discs of glass being handed over to the innkeeper for his trouble.  In another window there was the last supper.  A simple shared meal between friends that symbolized the relationship God has with the world.  There was this huge table at which people were invited to come and share the Passover.  Jesus sat with his disciples as he welcomed them to come and eat with the God-man.  St Thomas’ was an impressive place.  It was a spectacular place.  When the summer sun shone through the windows and the incense was wafting between the pillars it created a dazzling sight as streaks of reds and blues and greens danced through the air.

Anybody who was anybody would be found there on a Sunday morning.  The Mayor would be there two rows from the front.  Behind him would sit the headmaster in the next pew.  Everyone was highly polished and neatly trimmed.  Partings were always worn and suits were neatly pressed.  Sunday best was the order of the day.  All of the people from the town we lived in who had any kind of status could be found there.  Everyone was ‘just so’.  As you looked around the congregation each Sunday morning you could see lots of white faces and nuclear families.  Mum and dad would bring the two point four children through the big oak doors each week.  In this congregation everyone was the “right type of person”.  There was no one in this place who could really be called “poor”.  Over the years plenty of people had come in and quickly gone back out because they soon realized that they weren’t the “right type of person”.  Here at St Thomas’, people in need were out of the question.  People with the wrong kind of accent need not apply.  If you are going to grace a pew, make sure your surname isn’t Unpronounceableovic.  Heaven forbid you would have a different coloured skin!

There was one family who attended for many years.  Mum and dad and 2.4 children happily coming to church each Sunday.  Dad had a good job and a company car.  Mum stayed at home and looked after the children.  The cracks started to appear when dad was made redundant.  Gone was the company car. Then one thing led to another and their marriage broke down.  It is hard work going to church when you find out that after ten years you are no longer the “right kind of people”.  Suddenly mum was taking the 2.4 children to St Thomas’ by herself.  No one said anything directly to her but she could tell.  There were conversations that would suddenly stop whenever she approached.  There were cups of tea passed to her with a knowing smile.  After a couple of weeks the energy it required to get the kids out of bed, dressed and ready for church was just not there.  The small nuclear family stopped being the “right sort of people” each Sunday morning.  As you might imagine, St Thomas’ did not receive many new members.  Its members simply grew older.

Years later as an adult I learned that St Thomas’ Church had closed.  There just weren’t enough of the “right type” of people.  They just didn’t exist, I guess.  One time I went back to that town and there I was passing beside the familiar gothic architecture and the ornately carved pillars.  St Thomas’ church building was still standing only now it was a restaurant.  Oddly given the history of the previous occupants of the building it was a curry house called the Indian Cottage.  I walked in through those massive gothic doors and where there had once been pews, now there were tables, waiters, and people eating dinner.  Candles were lit at each table and people were eagerly tearing naan breads and pouring fresh glasses of wine.  The familiar hubbub of community meals was all around as the sound of glass upon glass clanking together and laughter filled the building.  As I looked down the nave of the ancient gothic church to where the altar had once sat underneath the image of the last supper, now there were tables. 

A young waiter came over to us and asked if we’d like a table for two.  My wife and I exchanged a glance as I responded to his question with a simple “yes please”.  We were escorted to a table at the back of the restaurant where the sanctuary had once been.  The young man took our coats and pulled out a chair for my wife to sit at.  He asked if we would like to order drinks and I asked for a bottle of the house white.  As he went to get our drinks I began to unfold my serviette and turned to my wife.  As I pulled myself closer to her over the table with said with a hushed tone “Now, I guess everybody is finally welcome to eat at this table”.

Greenbelt 2012 – U2charist

As you probably know, Ruth and I are involved in a couple of services at Greenbelt this year.  We’ve had details confirmed about when the U2charist will be happening.  It is going to be in the “InSense” venue at 5pm on Monday.  The worship is being organised by Luminous in Lincoln.  Metanoia will be leading the musical aspects of the service with a selection of U2 songs.

It’ll be great to see you there!

Metanoia at Greenbelt

Greenbelt 2012 is fast approaching and Metanoia are going to be involved in two of the services there.  Blesséd  are once again providing alternative sacramental worship and we have been asked to collaborate with Fr Simon and the team once more.  This year we are doing the opening act of worship in the Big Top at 5pm on Friday.  What the organisers were looking for was a ‘charismatic’ service of benediction.  Needless to say it will have a distinctive @metanoiauk feel to it.

There was also a request for a live band who would be able to help Luminous stage a U2charist.  Fr Simon suggested that we would be able to help out as we played a couple of U2 numbers in the big top last year.  Not quite sure which venue the U2charist is in yet or at what time but I’ll keep you up to date!

So who is coming then?

Rock Mass @ Biblefresh Wakefield – Thanks

From the “Paradise City” cam

Changing worship blogs are like busses.  You wait for over a week and then they all turn up at once.  I want to say a few words of thanks for the Rock Mass at Dewsbury Minster last Saturday night.

The event was great to be part of.  In the six years or so that we have been involved in this sort of worship event it has grown and grown.  To think that an idea I had for an MA essay would grow into this huge event is astonishing.  Previously we have been used to smaller local churches.  All told there were 355 communicants on Saturday night and countless numbers of others.  There was standing room only in the minster – for most of the people who were there!  Lots of people travelled great distance to be there (Liverpool, Nottingham, Newcastle and the Isle of Man!).  Several youth groups came along and many who have never been to church before came out of curiosity!

One of the great things about this experience has been collaborating with people.  The staff at Dewsbury Minster were exceptionally helpful, supportive, relaxed and groovy.  This was a great help because we were describing a concept that no one there had previously experienced.  Thanks to the many people who came from around the country to help set up – Newcastle seems to be a good location for summoning roadies!

The tech support for the service was brilliant.  A big thank you to Pete and Ken who both did an amazing job in exceptional circumstances.  As well as that I don’t particularly envy Julz at trashiitreasure who is currently editing down hours of footage from four cameras into a DVD.  Thanks for that!

The serving team with Revd Rach at the helm were brilliant.  Thank you for getting on with it without the need for too much direction.  Sorry you didn’t get to see the visuals.  Thanks to the Cathedral staff who stepped in at the last-minute when some of our plans fell through and provided some stunning vestments and a massive icon.  Thanks to Charity who preached a wonderfully cheeky and highly inspiring sermon about embracing the gifts of our young people.

As I say, one of the key things with this type of worship is collaboration.  Whilst I made many of the visual aspects of the service from scratch, some of this would not have been possible without Fr Simon Rundell.  He has been producing resources and making them open source for many years.  When one and a half hours of visual material is needed, this is an invaluable resource.  Thank you very much Fr.  Even though you were not present in the minster, some of your images were and for that we thank you!

My last vote of thanks goes to the band and especially my wife.  You guys worked really hard to put together the set and were professional throughout.  You guys also did a brilliant job of keeping me sane!!  ROCK ON!!

All of those who I have forgotten to mention, I apologise.  Thank you for all your hard work.

Under Pressure Intercessions

This is a set of intercessions based upon the Queen and Bowie song Under Pressure.

Alt:Hymnal – Him, The Sacrament

I humbly perform before you an act of contrition.  Dr Ruth pointed out that for the last few years she has wanted to play this song in church, probably at a Rock Mass and that she told me about it a long time ago.  I have to admit that I may have heard her say this but I never got around to doing something about it.  So here I offer my humble apologies to my wife.  I also offer you The Sacrament by Him as an addition to The Alt:Hymnal.  It’s very ‘igh.

“The Sacrament”

I hear you breathe so far from me
I feel your touch so close and real
And I know
My church is not of silver and gold,
It’s glory lies beyond judgement of souls
The commandments are of consolation and warmth

You know our sacred dream won’t fail
The sanctuary tender and so frail
The sacrament of love
The sacrament of warmth is true
The sacrament is you

I hear you weep so far from me
I taste your tears like you’re next to me
And I know
My weak prayers are not enough to heal
Oh the ancient wounds so deep and so dear
The revelation is of hatred and fear

You know our sacred dream won’t fail
The sanctuary tender and so frail
The sacrament of love
The sacrament of warmth is true
The sacrament is you

The sacrament is you
The sacrament is you
The sacrament is you
The sacrament is you

You know our sacred dream won’t fail
The sanctuary tender and so frail
The sacrament of love
The sacrament of warmth is true
The sacrament is you

You know our sacred dream won’t fail
The sanctuary tender and so frail
The sacrament of love
The sacrament of warmth is true
The sacrament is you