Friday, September 02, 2005

An A to Z of Alternative Worship

An A to Z of alternative worship.

I've been playing with the idea of an A to Z of alternative worship, to help describe what its all about.
I think this one sums it up fairly well.

A = ambience

Ambience is important. Making the worship space warm and welcoming.
Ambient music can be pretty helpful in that task too, as can gentle lighting,
(tealights almost ended up being the T here) and rugs. Which leads me to

B = Beanbags.

Or even sofas. People shouldn’t have to sit on uncomfortable chairs or even more uncomfortable pews.

C = community

Church isn’t about being an island. It is about community, and teamwork. Batting ideas around with other people, praying with them, and crying on each others shoulders when life gets tough.

D = dreaming

Its important to dream crazy dreams about the way things could be. And then work out how to make those dreams possible. Its how we imagine a better world. Or in Christian terms how we “seek the Kingdom”

E = experiential

Worship should be an “experience” . The most wonderful experience ever. Well at least that’s what we’re aiming for.

F = friendly

The worship space needs to be a friendly, safe space. For everyone. Which means being sensitive to the hurting, and not a platform for people’s prejudices. Jesus made a habit of being welcoming to those everyone else wanted to ignore.

G = graceful

There is something wonderful about a worship service which has “flow”. Where
your prayers sprout wings and go somewhere wonderful, in contast to a “strained’ worship service which is desperately trying to be “trendy” in a shallow way and bumps around with no space for prayer. (I’ve done those ones too, but not intentionally!)

H = honest

Honesty in worship is important. Its OK to ask questions. Its OK to bring our doubts, fears, angst and anger to God in prayer.

I = images

A picture speaks a thousand words they say. The Word was made flesh and was visible. Sometimes talking in pictures can be the best thing we can do.

J = junk

There is something amazing about taking bits of junk and turning them into
something beautiful for God.

K = kleptomania

Alternative worship “steals” all the time. Borrowing concepts and ideas, songs and visual ideas from the world outside, but then baptising and subverting those ideas.
Then we can never see them in quite the same way again.

L = labyrinths

The prayer-journey or labyrinth is a very meaningful thing. The idea of pilgrimage, and of time and space spent actvely trying to follow in Christ’s footsteps. Its somethign we have found really helpful.

M = multi-sensory

Good alterntive worship involves all the senses, not just sound, but touch, taste and smell too.

N = nameless

In a way this is linked to community. It is also linked to a concept we talk about but don’t always “Glory to God”. When we plan as a community, and make a joint act of worship, there shouldn’t be one “big-name” that gets the credit, just the Eternal Name.

O = Orthodox

The environment might look different, the music might be more electronic, but
the theology is Orthodox. We believe what Christians throughout the ages have believed. “In One God, Father Son and Spirit.” In everyhtign the ancient creeds said. We pray, we worship we listen to God speaking to us, through the bible, through each other, through the “still small voice” in our hearts.

P = play

Alternative worship tries not to get *too* serious. We follow a man who said “ Unless you become like little children, you’ll never get into the Kingdom of Heaven”. Its Ok to play sometimes!

Q = quality

We aim to try as best as we can to create something of quality, of value. It isn’t always possible to be perfect, but we don’t want to create something slipshod and messy either. (well, not unless we’re working with clay...which is very messy!)

R = ritual

Sometimes the thing that speaks loudest is an action. A prayerful action the most classic of which s lighting a candle, but there are many more.

S = Sacramental

Outward signs of the inward hug that God is giving us, are immensely powerful.
Not just the “official” ones, involving bread and wine, or oil or water. But the unofficial ones too. Such as the sacrament of the smile.

T = technological

We tend to use whatever resources we have to hand to give to God, including technology. Yes, you’ll often find a lot of it in alternative worship, but if that’s all you find then there’s something wrong.

U = under construction

We don’t feel we have all the answers to the perfect worship service. Everything is temporary, is under construction. One day it’l all be perfect but we’ll have to wait for that one.

V = video

St Francis said “preach the gospel at all times” if necessary, use words. Video is one of the ways of not having to use words. If a picture paints a thousand words and there are 25 frames every second then that is 1500,000 words every minute. Powerful stuff!

W = wondering

There should always be space for watching and wondering. What if? How? Why? Who? Its at those times that God speaks to us and inspires us.

X = x ray-ing

Sometimes, as with X rays. Its good to dig beneath the surface. Alternative worship seems pretty good at this. Looking at a well known bible passage and digging beneath it to see things that we had never spotted before. That fringe character there. What was the effect of all this on them? That person there. How did they *really* feel?

Y = yearning

Yearning restlessness will always be there. We have so much, and yet we are still pilgrims. We have not yet made it to the Promised Land. The yearning helps spur us on, further on the road.

Z = zest

That zest for life,that spice, that playfullnes, that fun, is still there, in alternative worship. And over the last ten years, I’ve seen that spice spread to bring a little zest and creativity to more traditional forms of worship too. Long may it last!