Saturday, January 24, 2009
Worship: Poetry vs. Prose
I have found another blogger I'm really starting to enjoy. I read one of his comments at Michael Spencer's Internet Monk blog and followed his link back to his own blog and have been reading his writings ever since. One of his posts so completely summarized how I have felt about worship that I want to share it with you:
Michael Mercer's Otium Sanctum
I like his idea (one that I've definitely noticed myself) that liturgical worship is more like poetry while evangelical worship can be likened to prose. Now, although I ADORE <3 poetry <3 there are definitely times when prose gets at the heart of the matter more quickly, more incisively. So it's not a metter of "poetry = good; prose = bad" at all. I happen to prefer poetry for worship although at times I can learn more from prose. Both have their places within the church. What I would like to see is a service with a bit of BOTH; they do not have to be mutually exclusive.
Part of Michael's post, besides a quote by Tozer, was a list of what he looks for in worship. I don't consider this list as exclusive of evangelical churches as I know of some (like mine) that do take the inherent weaknesses of "low church" worship (to use an awkward term) into account and attempt to balance them. But's a list to consider, to ponder:
A church with a worship space that puts God front and center, focusing attention on him. To put it bluntly, an altar not a stage.
A worship space that communicates both God's transcendence and immanence, lifting our faces and hearts upward and gathering us as one family together around the God to whom we look.
A worship space that is intentionally designed and decorated with elements of beauty that stimulate the imagination and delight the heart and mind.
A worship service that is personal, hospitable, and authentic, but not "chatty" or "casual."
A worship service that encourages the active participation of all worshipers, not one that reduces the congregation to an audience of spectators and listeners.
A worship service in which the leaders understand the power of words, and use them to lift us into a higher realm of thinking, imagining, and relating to others.
A worship service that is not just all about analysis and answers, but one that invites us into the mysteries of realities that transcend what our minds can comprehend.
A worship service that is filled with Scripture, along with time and space to meditate on what God is saying.
A worship service that honors the sacraments as well as the Scriptures.
A worship service that allows for holy silence.
A worship service that both reflects what the Holy Spirit has taught the church over the ages (history and tradition) and what the Spirit is saying to the church today (creativity, spontaneity, freshness).
A worship service that respects and includes people of all ages and backgrounds.
So I plan to read more of Michael's thoughts -- this series is so interesting to me as a student of worship, especially liturgical worship. So keep on writing, Michael -- I'll be reading.