What's going to happen next...

We had one of the most fascinating discussions at tonight's worship team ministry meeting. The subject was Holy Week and how beloved the Tenebrae liturgy had become to many of the older members of the church. "Here's my hunch," I shared with our group. "Most Protestant worship experiences that are NOT part of the charismatic tradition amount to LOTS of words and abstract ideas. They are not incarnational or sacramental in any way, shape or form.  So what the Reformed reworking of the old monastic Tenebrae service does is make worship sensual. There is Eucharist, song and silence; there is light and darkness; a bold encounter with multiple senses set to an old, old story."

After a moment of silence passed, I added: "It is my conclusion that our folk LOVE the Tenebrae NOT because it is traditional - it is NOT in the Reformed Church at all - as Tenebrae began as part of the monastic Matins liturgy that is celebrated before the Great Three Days of Lent. What's more, at least in this congregation, the liturgy began with the chaos of Messiaen - hardly a sound familiar and beloved by Protestant New England. No, why they love it has something to do with both its sensual and mystical qualities that so much of our regular worship avoids. We can weep in this time - we can feel fear and dread and shame - we can be fully ourselves."
Well, did that ever kick off a rich conversation about how we might extend the fullness of our senses into our Good Friday experimental liturgy!  This year we are going to write five biblical narratives unified by the notion that the totality of God's love is misunderstood.  Grace is misunderstood, Jesus is misunderstood, the disciples misunderstand themselves and the Lord and God's love cuts beyond all our misunderstandings. My hope is that we will write 5 minute narratives about Judas and Peter, Magdalene and the Virgin Mary and Jesus and match contemporary songs to these readings. Each encounter will be saturated in darkness and silence.
"So what should the space look like?" asked one of the artists on the team. "I'm seeing something like barbed wire - or industrial carnage - in odd places around the Chancel.  And it is separating people from being together in community. It is separating the band from the congregation, the readers from the traditional sacred space and... who knows what else?"  We talked about a massive scrim to cut off the Chancel/band from the worshiping congregation as a symbolic experience of how misunderstanding separates us all for one another, from God's love and from hope. We talked about extinguishing candles this year rather than lighting them as a commitment to taking ownership of our own misunderstandings.

I have visions of Pink Floyd's "The Wall" or something our of U2's "Zoo TV" tour for this Good Friday. As we talked more we all agreed that the challenge is to keep this liturgy experimental and fresh - pushing theological and artistic edges - so that we go more deeply into the sacred story in sensual ways.
I have no idea where this is going to go - it is fecund and wild - but after this weekend's Anniversary concert we're going to go back to the conversation with a vengeance.  I can't wait to see where we wind up as we explore ever more sensual and sacramental worship.

Comments

Di said…
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Di said…
Check out this song by Sleepy Sun, 'Acid Love'--I think it would fit with the atmosphere you're describing here.

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