Credo: Trite music blocks our ears

This from The Very Rev Dr John Shepherd is Dean of Perth, Australia, in the TimesOnline (UK). In an article entitled, “Credo: Trite music blocks our ears to the divine in the liturgy,”  Dean Shepherd writes about the importance of art, and not just are but good art, within the Church, particularly when it comes to our music in the liturgy.

It is in the liturgy that we are able to enter into another consciousness, probe a deeper reality, strive for a sense of transcendence which lifts us above the mundane, and in the words of psalmist, sets us on a rock that is higher than ourselves. Our worship enables us to enter another time and another dimension — a realm of experience beyond our ordinary human experience, beyond all our known thoughts and understandings.

In monastic terms, the liturgy is the path towards an exalted “ecstasy”, a flight into the cloud of unknowing, the place where God is, and where the true contemplation of the creative stillness of God is possible.

And this is a reality which is beyond the ability of historians, theologians, linguists, biblical scholars or even pastoral liturgists to express. Their contributions may even hinder rather than help. The intensity and intangibility of this experience can only be expressed through the arts.

The whole article is good to read!

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Derek Webb

“What Matters More” by Derek Webb… considering the controversy surrounding Jennifer Knapp and her coming out.  I understand why some consider this song “controversial,” but again it simply comes out of the camp that gives no quarter to anyone who disagrees with them on their interpretation of Scripture, God’s will, and homosexuality.  Good song, me thinks.


Just some interesting articles and other stuff.

Here is an article on “sin” in “Dallas News.”  The reporter has various local religious leaders write a brief blurb on their denomination’s or religion’s sins.

Here is a link to the “Q Gatherings,” sponsored by Gabe Lyons, on of the authors of “unChristian,” a book that challenges our commonly held notions of the perception of Christianity and the institutional Church by the majority of the emerging generations.

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Thoughts of Subway Riding this early morning

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 3:  Passengers wait for...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I really do miss riding the subway, daily.  I even kind of miss the crowdedness of the trains during rush hour – all of them.  To ride the train is to experience all kinds of cultural and social forms – great rudeness and even more kindness… frustration and wonder… selfishness and compassion… the very young and the very old – it is all here.  Perhaps I’m waxing nostalgic, since I rarely ride the subway these days, but on Monday night as I was traveling to and from seeing Willie’s musical (Willie Martinez is a parishioner and Jazz leader – he is the drummer for the
band), “This Side of Paradise” about Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, it felt good sitting on the subway and watching the people and their interactions, seeing the “up and coming” cultural changes, the vast array of cultures and dress and languages and attitudes, and knowing that this is New York City, the center of the known world.

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I’ve been thinking over and through aspects of “contemporary” Evangelical worship practices.  This past Sunday, I was home in Ohio for Mother’s Day (I surprised my Mom – and she was!) and attended the church my sister and her family attend.  It is a growing Church of God (Anderson, IN) with a new building and all the “spiritually correct” stuff that is supposed to draw large crowds.  It was a fine enough service.  The band was very good.  The worship leader was a young guy and I could tell that he really enjoyed what he was doing – his personality was infectious.  As I watched the crowd, they were actually singing.  In many of these kinds of worship services, I’ve noticed that a large majority of the people simply stand and watch the band rather than interring into the worship experience, so I was glad to see that there was more going on than just a “spiritual concert.”  The preacher gave a good sermon.  Babies were dedicated – it was Mother’s Day after all.

North Point Ministries is a very large mega-church.  They’ve done a parody video of themselves, as I understand it, and it captures the new wave of doing church that is supposed to be the “relevant” and “contemporary” thing to do. This too, shall pass.  Not that there is anything wrong with it if it is done well and within context, but if, as is happening, everyone jumps on yet another bandwagon that is supposed to save the church in America, then it once again becomes inauthentic and just another passing fad, a puff of wind.

Here is the video parody:

“Sunday’s Coming” Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.

By the way, my sisters church service was a whole lot like this – including the cool video with relevant questions.  I don’t get the impression that the pastor thinks he has all the answers, however. 

Part of me really liked it – it was fun being back in that environment, even without the all encompassing Charismatic-Evangelical aspects that are not part of the Church of God, Anderson theological belief concerning the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Yet, I’m not there any longer.  To me, it smacks of religio-entertainment.  People come to God through it, people grow in their relationship with God and one another in the midst of it (if the pastor preachers well, that is), but I would rather be involved in a “full-bodied” experience that I’ve come to know in Catholic worship in its Anglo-Catholic form.  We all participate and we all do the work of worship and liturgy together. 

Continuing thoughts…

The influence our manner of life can have on and within the prevailing culture for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, for the sake of the beautiful, for the sake of freedom, for the sake of wisdom:  from where I am at present, I see two primary avenues for the Church to influence positively the prevailing culture in our current contexts, being primarily postmodern and post-Christian.  Since my efforts are being channeled through the creation of the Imago Dei Society and the Red Hook Project, a primary avenue is simple presence – presence among emerging generations so that we understand the new contexts in which the Church must dwell and within the arts because those people within the arts are the moving edges of the culture.

For the Imago Dei Society, our charism is to understand the contexts of the lives of emerging generations.  The best possible way to do so is to be present with those in that cohort.  My goal is the development of ways for re-establishing an enduring presence of the Anglican tradition of Christianity on our college and university campuses.  Focusing on witness and formation in a “pre-Constantinian” like society, we are working to establish live/learning intentional-communities of students that can provide for building strong relationships of fellowship and discipleship.  This also presents to us a means for learning “on the ground” the dynamics of the changing lives and understandings of younger people. 

Our presence on campuses where people of Faith in general, and Christians in particular, continue to be increasingly marginalized (and in some cases overtly objected to) provides a sane witness of the Life in Christ to the greater higher education community and provides support and encouragement for Christians wishing to live openly their Faith without apology.  Whether we like it or not, understanding it or not, accept it or not, university and college graduates will be the leaders of politics, business, science, and industry in the decades to come. To be a positive and forming influence on these holders of society’s future is vitally important in building social structures that work for a sane, compassionate, and good society.

The Red Hook Space (the outcome of the Red Hook Project) will be our presence within a neighborhood context that includes a large number of artists and creative types. Part of the charism of the Red Hook Space is to begin the process of rebuilding trust and conversation among communities of people that have great misgivings of Christians and of the Church, at least as an institution.  The artist community is at the forefront of the changes being realized within our emerging culture – artists of all types are the cultural movers and shakers. 

Being present with and engaged creatively in the arts within the Space helps us understand and be a part of the continually changing dynamics within the arts. This type of ministry helps us live into and live out a primary aspect of being created in the image of God – we are creators with God of that which instills beauty, hope, reconciliation, and inspiration for the good. Our goal is to create wonderful, world-class art in all forms that bring beauty to a culture that is often bereft of it, to be a witness in the positive influence of our Faith in the creative endeavor, and to be witnesses of the creative power endemic in the Christian life (or at least should be).

TransFORM East Coast Gathering

Last weekend, I attended the TransFORM Missional Community Formation Network‘s East Cost Gathering.  It was an “Emergent” gathering of people from all over the work, actually.  There were some great workshops with leaders doing really good work with all kinds of people, but primarily those on the margins of Christianity and the Church.

A whole lot of stuff went through my mind as they blogged and tweeted and tactilely related.  I simply wanted to observe, so I didn’t want to do any of that (although I did meet a couple great people on tactile level). There is still a lot I have to process, but one thing I realized is that I am really not within the American-Evangelical construct of the Church universal any longer.  Even though “Emergent,” whether the conversation or the movement, isn’t really of the politicized Evangelical church, the people still care a lot from their upbringings.  I am not there, any longer.

The median age was probably 35 – a definite GenX group.  So, what is happening among the Gen Y‘ers (29 and younger, as of 2010)?????  That is the question! 

Here is my concern – people are still jumping on the “movement” bandwagon without understanding the “conversation” that makes it all possible, and without understanding what gives life to the phenomenon.  The Episcopal House of Bishops last meeting had as a big part of its agenda the “Emergent Church,” including speakers like Brian McLaren, who I really respect.  Yet, just like many “emergent churches” have copied Charismatic worship forms (overhead projections, praise bands, praise choruses, etc.) or now have “liturgies,” but do not understand the sources behind those worship forms, or how Anglican/Episcopal churches have taken on Anglo-Catholic worship forms and yet without living into source behind the form – all fall flat if just aping the form – I fear that some kind of thing will happen with Anglican/Episcopal churches as they attempt to copy “Emergent Church” forms without understanding the source or power that gave launch to the whole thing – the willingness to be in true Conversation with the emerging culture and generations.

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