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malcolm chamberlain

musings about the emerging church, mission and contemporary culture...

God is at large, intimately involved in his world in ways that the church is maybe just waking up to!

tuning the eye...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

One of the key insights of alternative worship for me has been in seeking to create space for both corporate and individual engagement with God (resourced by meditations, prayer stations and the like), rather than simply imparting a pre-determined 'message'.

I first came across this approach to planning worship several years back when I read 'The Prodigal Project' and was deeply persuaded by Mark Pierson's description of the worship 'leader' as 'curator'.

There Mark asked...

"What would happen to the worship I prepared if I looked at it differently? What if I saw the task not as a mechanical, logical, modernist one of putting stuff in the right order so that it 'progressed' through a form to give a predetermined message with an anticipated outcome, but instead saw myself more like a curator of an art gallery?"

He then explains what he means in using this term 'curator'...

"A curator who considers the space and environment as well as the content of worship and who takes these elements and puts them in a particular arrangement, considering juxtaposition, style, distance, light, shade and so on. A maker of context for worship rather than a presenter of content. A provider of a frame inside which the elements are arranged and rearranged to convey a particular message for a particular purpose. A message that may or may not be overtly obvious, may or may not be similar to the message perceived by another worshipper." (Riddell, Pierson & Kirkpatrick, The Prodigal Project, SPCK, 2000, p63)

In 'How (Not) to Speak of God' Pete Rollins describes this aspect of Ikon's worship in the following eloquent (I wish I could come up with words like this!) way...

"Each service also attempts to remain faithful to the Augustinian axiom that only God gives God. Because of this the services are designed in such a way as to minimize specific doctrinal statements in favour of employing the Christian narrative to create a space for reflection and encounter. In this way Ikon resembles more an optician's surgery, which helps the eye become more receptive and sensitive to light, rather than a painter's studio, which would offer images for the sight." (Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God, SPCK, 2006, p75)

I love that image of worship seeking to tune the eye (and heart and mind) so that it can see, rather than telling the eye what to see. Granted, this approach is more risky in that it opens the worship experience up to whole range of (mis)interpretations, but the stories of many people who have had profound experiences of God in the midst of such 'open' worship keeps me walking in this direction and trusting the Spirit of God who 'leads us into all truth'.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 1:03 PM


Malcolm. Mark persuaded me too. Thanks for your post and the reminder. Have a good weekend.

commented by Blogger Paul Fromont, 8:29 PM  

cheers Paul!

commented by Blogger Malcolm Chamberlain, 8:57 AM  

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