Here’s to Erasing a False Dichotomy!

28 01 2016
Photo by Wil C. Fry, accessed through Flickr Creative Commons.

Photo by Wil C. Fry, accessed through Flickr Creative Commons.

Today the Robert Webber Institute for Christian Worship drew my attention to an article by Jonathan Aigner called “How to Make Worship Kid Friendly” published by patheos.com. As I am always interested in learning how to better facilitate multi-generational worship, I clicked through to read said article. My enthusiasm, however, quickly turned to frustration. Enough frustration to make me sigh audibly in a way that caused questions from those with whom  I was sharing a living room.

What Aigner has done here, (and I would encourage you to read the article by accessing the link above) is to provide some great ways in which parents and congregations can engage kids in “traditional” “liturgical” worship services. Unfortunately, rather than simply provide this very positive help, he has chosen to do so while also asserting not-quite subtly that “contemporary” worship “engages” kids at the cost of spiritual depth and personal growth. The underlying assumption is that “contemporary” worship uses modern entertainment as a “hook” to get young people in, but then doesn’t provide any transformative teaching or historical richness.

Interestingly… mid-way through his post, Aigner asserts:

The self-imposed contemporary/traditional worship dichotomy has had far-reaching negative effects on traditional worship. Instead of being a place for multi-generational participation, it’s been labeled as “old people worship and turned into a self-indulgent, “get all your blue-haired friends together” all-request golden oldies hour.

Yes. Absolutely. That has been the cost… on one side. Aigner seems to feel the debate has left “traditional” worship out in the cold (sorry, couldn’t resist.), while simultaneously spouting the opposite, equally damaging, generality: that all “contemporary” worship is empty and simply a lure to keep young people in the church.

I have worshiped, with depth, and with cultural relatively (for lack of a better phrase), in both “traditional” and “contemporary” congregations. My perception is that a tendency to blame or praise a style of worship for a common failing or beauty of worship generally portrays not the truth of whether or not worship is scriptural, or alive, or transformative, but rather the personal preferences of the one speaking.

I chose to respond to the article in a comment,* but have expanded into a blog post in order to seek your wisdom in the matter. There are also many good points and creative ideas in Aigner’s article–which is possibly why I’m so annoyed. Am I over-reacting? I throw it to you, readers. Please read the original article before commenting here. My comment below the article is included here:

I agree with the premise of this article, that kids don’t need “contemporary” in order to connect in worship. I, myself, grew up in a liturgical church—and, even as a kid, loved going to church. Sometimes it felt long… sometimes I was distracted or bored (my childhood church also kept kids in during the sermon!), but the difficulties yielded results in perseverance and attentiveness and richness that I’m still reaping today. You have also identified some key ways in which parents (and other community members) can help kids to engage in worship within a more traditional structure. I am disappointed, however, that you felt the need in this article to set traditional/contemporary once again at logger-heads, painting all churches within those very generalized categories with the same brush. The fact is, contemporary worship is only empty when we make it empty. Not every church that would describe itself as contemporary has “sold-out” to popular entertainment values. And traditional worship is only full when we bring our full selves to it. Not every traditional church is alive to the life in their liturgy. Yes, I would absolutely affirm that kids can be engaged in traditional worship—that they don’t need hype and volume in order to be involved—but can’t we also affirm that kids can be engaged with depth, and without dumbing-down, and without catering to increasingly shortening attention spans in both traditional and contemporary congregations? Why make it a dichotomy?

*Update: My comment was apparently unfit to be post under the article, which I find additionally disappointing.





Bottling Summer

21 12 2015

DownloadBanner[1]At this year’s Columbia Bible College (CBC) Christmas chapel, I adapted a creative non-fiction piece I wrote awhile back to serve as a structural liturgy leading up to communion. CBC decided to offer this reflection as a gift to their constituents, and made it into a beautiful e-book. You can download it for free here (Bottling Summer) or simply click on the banner above.

Merry Christmas! May it be a season of storing up plenty. And if it feels more like a season of want this time around–may this be an encouragement to pull a few jars off the shelf and feast on the provision from richer seasons past.

Stacey





Regent College Summer Courses in Worship Arts

14 05 2015

Hi friends,

I wanted to make you aware of some great summer courses coming up (soon! Sorry for the late notice!) at Regent College. Below are three I think might be of interest to you:

Christine_longhurstCHRISTINE LONGHURST: Instructor, Worship Music, Canadian Mennonite University

Christine Longhurst has spent the past thirty years in worship ministry as pastor, worship leader and teacher. She is on faculty at Canadian Mennonite in University in Winnipeg, and offers workshops on worship in churches across Canada. She is curator of the popular re:Worship blog for pastors and worship leaders. 

She will be teaching the course More than Music: Reimagining Worship, from May 25-29, at 8:00-11:00 am, that can be taken for 1 or 2 credits, or audited.

 

Julie_canlisJULIE CANLIS: Sessional Lecturer, Regent College

Julie Canlis lives in Wenatchee, Washington and holds a PhD from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. For her work on John Calvin, she won a Templeton Prize and a Christianity Today “Award of Merit.” She and her husband Matt started their family and ministered in the Church of Scotland for thirteen years.  

She will be teaching the course Worship as a Way of Life, from June 1-12, at 8:30-11:00 am, that can be taken for 2 or 3 credits, or audited. 

 

Adrienne_dengerink_chaplinADRIENNE DENGERINK CHAPLIN: Independent Scholar, Cambridge, UK

Originally from Amsterdam, she taught for eight years at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto where she was also an Associate Member of the Toronto School of Theology. She served as President of the Canadian Society for Aesthetics from 2005 until 2007 and has published widely for both academic and public audiences. She co-authored the textbook Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts and currently works as an independent scholar in Cambridge, UK. 

She will be teaching the course Coming to Our Senses: Art, Faith, and Embodiment, from July 20-24, at 1:15-4:15 pm, and it can be taken for 1 or 2 credits or audited.

 The cost per credit hour is CAD$ 470.00, and the cost per audit hour is CAD$ 320.00. If one prefers to audit the course, the cost to audit reflects the lower number of credits, so if the course is offered for 2 or 3 hours, then to audit it would cost 2 audit hours.

 The description for all the courses and an online registration link can be found here (http://www.regent-college.edu/summer), or by following one of the links above.





When Mother’s Day Hurts

10 05 2015

I love my mum. I have that going for me. To add blessing to blessing, I love my mum-in-law as well. They are both strong, caring, fun women who seek adventure, who pursue Christ wholeheartedly, and who never fail to be practical and emotional supports in difficulty and avid cheerleaders in times of triumph.

I also have many other mums in my life that I love and admire more than I can manage to put into words. Some dear friends who have mothered me at key moments in my life. Some dear friends who I watch in amazement as they pour goodness and strength into their creative, confident, and kind children.

And yet… Mother’s Day can still sting.

infertilityI think I have always wanted to be a mother. But, for me, the traditional route to motherhood was simply not available. 5 years of trying culminated in 2 surgeries… neither of which resulted in the ability for me to bear a child. And, without going into a myriad of details, after examining the complex and varied options to adopt–we realized God wasn’t calling us in that direction. So here I am. A mother without children on this day–a day on which facebook and twitter and commercials and TV and every possible form of technology and entertainment turns toward mothering. Even NHL players are interviewed before their playoff games about what they have learned from their mothers. It’s inescapable.

Hear me when I say… absolutely we should celebrate parents. It is a hard and sometimes thankless job that makes a huge difference in our world. We need good parents. We need to be their cheerleaders when there is reason to celebrate (even if it’s “just” a dry diaper, or a hard-won C+, or a slightly cleaner room), and their comforters when things don’t go so well, and their encouragers when there is too little sleep–or too much sass–or just, simply, too much. Parents are worth celebrating and supporting. Absolutely.

But there is real hurt here too. Women, like me, who will never fulfill a felt calling to mothering (at least not in the traditional way). Women who grieve not only childlessness on this day, but singleness as well. People who have complex or fraught relationships with their own mothers. Women who have lost children. Anyone who has lost their mother. There are many types of grief that this particular day presses on.

What I find most sad is that those of us who are struggling/grieving/hurting on this day will feel like staying home from church today. Will feel unsafe with their pain in the very community that should provide comfort and encouragement. Many of us will give in to the temptation to “turtle”–to curl up in a blanket at home and try to forget what day it is. Because sometimes the church gets it wrong. Sometimes the church makes an idol out of mothers and fathers. Sometimes the church comes dangerously close to defining humanity (and human worth) in terms of the nuclear family. Sometimes the church mistakenly weaves cultural days and seasons into the sacred rhythms of faith in a way that is unhealthy.

See we are called together, each week, to worship the Living God. That worship can include thanks for parents. It can include joy in and support of parents in our congregation. But when we begin to place all focus there, I think we have a theological problem that warps our worship away from God and toward people. When we worship, we make a profound statement about what matters–what is worth our attention, our time, our commitment, our whole selves. Parents do hard work, do good work–but they are not worthy of worship (nor are children, for that matter, wonderful as they are). While we should celebrate and support parents, our focus should remain on the Triune God. There should be no such thing as a “Mother’s Day service“.

I went to church this morning. I admit that I was a bit apprehensive. But, thankfully, blessedly, my church got it right.  I received a delightfully squished carnation from a small child who didn’t really want to let it go. I prayed, along with our church leadership, for mothers in our congregation. I shed a few tears in the midst, as I think I always will. But the focus of the service was the Triune God. I sang my heart out to Jesus–along with my fellow mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and uncles and aunts and sisters and brothers. Our whole delightfully mixed-up and diverse family heard the word of God and responded together. Because our family is so much bigger than we realize. So much deeper and broader. So much more messed-up and beautiful. And today I was reminded that–in that family–I have countless opportunities to be a mother, and a sister, and an aunt, and a daughter. And it was good. Happy Mother’s Day.





Lament: Proclaiming the Reign of Christ in Every Circumstance

31 03 2015

Recently, Columbia Bible College published their Spring 2015 of “Columbia Contact,” their bi-annual magazine. The focus of the issue is faith in the midst of suffering and pain. On page 7 is an article I wrote entitled “Lament: Proclaiming the Reign of Christ in Every Circumstance” in which I discuss why we need lament in our gathered worship, and how biblical lament can be implemented in a way that reflects reality while also revealing real hope and joy.Lament article

A few excerpts:

If we don’t lament in our congregations…

“we promote the idea that our gathered worship is reserved for the happy and well-fed. That those who struggle with sin or grief or poverty should just stay home. We declare them unwelcome in our midst. (This makes an interesting contrast to Jesus’ declaration that all who do not welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked are, in fact, outside of his kingdom–Matt. 25:41-43.) By failing to lament in our gathered worship, we propagate a circumstantial faith–faith that is dependent on things going well–rather than faith that is dependent on the character and actions of God.”

Continuing…

“Thankfully, implementation of biblical lament is easier than it might seem. Sometimes, lament will be a simple expression of trust in the midst of an honest expression of circumstance…. Lament might be as simple as praying “I don’t know” in a circumstance that doesn’t make sense when considered alongside the goodness of God and his promises of love and mercy. Because I don’t have to have the answers, not to eh big ‘whys.’ What answer can I give my friend who recently lost a child? What answer can I give to those living with constant fear? There is, sometimes, very little to be said. What is needed, instead, is the ability to climb down into that dark corner and whisper with them, ‘I don’t know why. But I do know that God is good. I know that he loves you. And I will sit with you here in the dark until we start to see that light.'”

To read the full article, which explores the implications of lament for our world, as well as further ideas for implementation in our gathered worship–and to read other great articles in this publication–follow this link.





JESUS CALLED – HE WANTS HIS BODY BACK

2 03 2015

One of the wonderful things about blogging is that you sometimes cyber-meet someone who is a partner in the work God has given you. Paul Clark Jr. is the Director of Worship and Music ministries for the Tennessee Baptist Convention. He is wise, well-spoken, and well-read, and he writes one of my favourite blogs on the internet. The following post is a good reminder to us of what worship is and what it should not be twisted toward.

Paul Clark Jr's Blog

Body of Christ This may sound overly blunt, and some may think does not even need to be said, but under an unction to do so, I need to posit that the church’s worship is not a proving ground for trying out a song, seeing how people react to new lighting effects, a cool video clip illustration, or a hymn arrangement. I am certainly not proposing that none of these innovations be used in worship. I am cautioning that one of the many ways Christian worship is stolen away from its sacred purpose is when it becomes utility experiment with the means rather than unadulterated focus on the ends. We are not gathered to market a worship product to consumers we dub “worshipers.” We are engaged in eternal sacred practice with the Bride of Christ to the glory of God.

The church is a body. It is not just a compilation of individual…

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Theologian Valentines

14 02 2015

Some special Valentines for my readers… enjoy. (I just wish I had thought of them first!)

The Monday Heretic

A few years ago, I saw some hilarious Valentines based on dictators. And I thought, I should totally do that with famous theologians! (Because, you know, that’s how my brain works.) So here you go!

Also, if you don’t present the Calvin valentine with a bouquet of tulips, you are missing out on a prime pun opportunity. Just sayin’.

Theologians

Disclaimer: I have the greatest respect for all of these folks from church history and their contribution to the faith. I also think they might have found these amusing.

Any alternate caption ideas or ideas for theologians who aren’t featured?

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