Since my first year in parish ministry, when I had a head full of steam and interest in the concepts and issues addressed by the “alternative worship” movement in the United Kingdom, I have looked for ways to expose my congregation to a sense of interaction in worship. In the remote Ouachita mountains of West Arkansas, that open-minded congregation in Waldron responded quite well to the crafty, wordy, and sometimes plain “out there” concepts I presented in something I called “Movements of the Spirit.” I was happy that folks even volunteered to participate in a Bible study out of which a follow up “prayer stations worship experience” would be planned and set up by the participants. I chronicled all of that experience on my blog at the time, and if you’re really interested, you can go investigate. See below. Those great experiences led me to believe that it wasn’t just the “urban millennial generation” who could be reached and engaged by experiential, hands on, go-at-your-own pace, responsive worship settings.
I looked for ways to do the same kinds of thing at my next appointment in Morris, OK, and the process filtered into the way I presented the prodigal son story at the confirmation retreat I first led around 7 years ago that I still use for that retreat today. Some of the people in the “Emergent Church movement” caught wind of my experiences, and in 2008 I was asked by Rev. Bob Pierson to present a workshop at the “Emergent Church for the Existing Church” conference which I called “Postmodern Pig Farmers: Finding avenues for the Emerging Church in the Rural Context.” Later that year, I brought Jonny Baker, who co-wrote the material that goes with our experiential labyrinth we have at the church this week, to Oklahoma to speak along with Dr. Ed Phillips, a professor at Duke University who is one of the “go-to” theologians in the United Methodist Church for explaining our sacramental theology (Dr. Phillips co-wrote the official Methodist statement on communion, “This Holy Mystery.”) That enlightening workshop, which we called “Worship in a Postmodern Accent” was the first time our labyrinth now open for use in the Great Hall this Sunday and Monday was used.
All that is to say, I have found much power and meaning in the practical way that we orient worship toward our senses—which is one reason I wanted to focus on that theme during Lent. This orientation affirms the Biblical truth that we are created as bodily beings and not just “embodied spirits.” Our creed states the belief in the “resurrection of the body.” As creatures created by God, our bodies are something we are always going to have—in this life, and in the next life a new body—one that is everlasting and incapable of illness and degradation. As “bodily beings,” we should engage more than just our ears and our mouths in the act of worship. That is one of the “correctives” I find most helpful in “alternative, emerging, postmodern” worship.
Here are some links to previous experiences I have had in this world “alternative worship.” Also of interest would be Jonny Baker’s blog, especially his “worship tricks.” Enjoy!
(These are pretty prehistoric blogs, and apparently, I used to be unable to post multiple pictures on the same post. Also, on the Waldron Church Blog, I think I remember you had no capability of hyperlinking a particular post–but the second “Movement of the Spirit” is there in October)