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The Worship MallContemporary responses to contemporary culture
By Bryan D. Spinks
Church PublishingCopyright © 2010 Bryan D. Spinks
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBlended, fusion or synthesis worship
Exactly what may or may not constitute this form of contemporary worship is difficult to define with any precision. According to the late Robert Webber, he and Chuck Fromm, the CEO of Maranatha! Music, first coined the term 'blended' worship in 1987, and the style was initiated at a conference they subsequently organized at Irvine, California. They had discussed the idea that if traditional and contemporary (praise and worship music) styles of worship represented thesis and antithesis, the likelihood was that a synthesis between the two would occur – and so 'blended' worship was born. In response to Robert Webber, Sally Morgenthaler was of the opinion that the term 'blended' was too tame, and indicated that 'fusion' would be a better term. Synthesis is also appropriate; however, these terms themselves beg the question of what is being blended, fused or synthesized.
In an earlier book Webber had set out in more detail what he meant by 'blended' worship, and how it might be achieved. The subtitle, 'The Creative Mixture of Old and New', provided a clue. Webber had migrated from an evangelical background to the Episcopal Church, though he never entirely abandoned his original constituency, and it was to the American evangelical constituency that he addressed much of his writings. He was convinced that in a postmodern culture, the older Billy Graham model was no longer working, and that the younger evangelicals (Gen Y) wanted something more traditional and more deeply mystical in worship. His view was that the classical structures of the eucharistic liturgy which had been reappropriated by the Liturgical Movement, and typified in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, were more appealing than revival style worship. He identified the ritual as a journey, moving from Gathering, to Word, to Thanksgiving, and on to Dismissal or Sending. Traditional or classical worship had the Trinity as its object of worship, and combined the language of mystery (Father) with the languages of story (Son) and symbol (Spirit). These needed to be blended carefully with contemporary praise and worship music, which, when used properly, also conveys a journey through the gates of the Temple, to the outer courts, inner courts and into the Holy of Holies. Webber gives an example of a blended act of gathering:
Entrance Hymn with Procession The experience of coming before God Greeting, Call to Worship, and Invocation
Songs of Praise and Worship The experience of God's transcendence
Confession and Forgiveness The experience of God's forgiveness and relationship
Opening Prayer Transition to the Word.
Examples of Gathering Songs include 'God is Here' (Fred Pratt Green), 'King of the nations' (Graham Kendrick), 'We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise' (Kirk Dearman) and 'Lord, I Lift Your Name on High' (Rick Founds). Entrance Hymns might range from 'Praise to the Lord, the Almighty' (Joachim Neander), to 'The Lord is Present' (Gail Cole), and 'Make Way' (Graham Kendrick). The Call to Worship might be divided between leader, people and all together, and might be presented with an overhead projector. The confession of sin may be said, but may be followed by a song of lament ('Purify my heart', Jeff Nelson).
Webber was very critical of the idea that blended worship was simply singing hymns and choruses, and not a seriously planned amalgamation of two styles of liturgical journeys. However, ultimately what he put forward as blended worship appears to many to be a Eucharist of the classical shape, interwoven with hymns or choruses which are sung to contemporary music styles. Sally Morgenthaler, who was concerned to explain 'emergent worship', noted that postmodern culture likes pastiche, and emphasizes panchronicity and pangeography, and might prefer a less linear model to the one proposed by Webber. Her suggestion of 'fusion' might suggest more flexibility and much wider music resources than Webber envisaged. The question might be asked, for example, is a folk Mass a blended service? How far does the music determine whether a rite is blended or not? These are not easy questions to answer, and it is difficult to draw hard and fast delineations. I would suggest that a 'fusion' or 'synthesis' service might be one where music and prayer texts are carefully woven to appeal to the contemporary spiritual desire of openness, without surrendering the deep structures of the liturgical tradition. This can best be illustrated by the following examples of what I would describe as blended, fusion or synthesis worship.
THE FINNISH LUTHERAN THOMAS MASS
This service was first celebrated in April 1988 in the Mikael Agricola Church, Helsinki, which has subsequently been the home of this rite, where in the winter months it is celebrated every Sunday, in the evening. It is also celebrated monthly in other major towns – but it is an urban rite, and has not been successful in rural areas. Juha Kauppinen explains:
In comparison with traditional church services, the St Thomas Mass places a particular emphasis on prayer and music. Whereas the aim has been to modernize the language of prayer and music, they nevertheless reflect the ancient traditions of the Christian Church. Every mass includes the celebration of the Eucharist, as well as an opportunity for confession and anointing with oil. The sermon is not as central as in a traditional service. The mass is also significantly longer than a traditional service: it may last approximately two hours.
The Thomas Mass is named after doubting Thomas, and is aimed at lapsed communicants; a high percentage of Finns are confirmed in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, but only a small percentage regularly attend church. This rite was aimed at attracting those aged between 25 and 40. It takes the form of a traditional Lutheran Mass, slightly reordered, with informal additions and contemporary music from many sources, including Taizé, South Africa and the Finnish mission areas, as well as Finnish folk music. Preparation is undertaken by between 20 and 40 laity, who take part in the processions in and out, all carrying candles. On the occasion I attended this service, about 12 clergy also participated. After the choir and band had sung and played 'warm-up' music, there was a robust introit, during which the lay planners and clergy processed in carrying candles, preceded by a large Taizé cross. After the celebrant prayed the traditional confiteor, the choir responded with a dignified Kyrie. Then two lay people in turn led a more informal confessional, each time responded to by the choir singing the Kyrie. After this came the time of prayer, counselling, confession and anointing. People left their pews and went to side altars or side prayer tables (which were furnished with a cross or an icon, and candles). There they wrote down prayers which they placed in baskets – or they filed up to the communion rail for counselling and anointing. Meanwhile the choir and band sang and played appropriate meditative music. That part of the service may last up to 20 minutes. At a particular point, those in charge of the side altars brought the baskets with the written prayers to the centre where, from a microphone, a selection of those prayers was read aloud, and after each reading the choir sang a response. The unread petitions were placed into one container and taken up to the altar. Lections followed and an informal sermon was given. The Eucharist followed, with robust music for the Sanctus, and a more restrained Agnus Dei. Usual attendance in Helsinki is between 700 and 1,300.
Because of the high degree of lay planning and the use of live, professional musicians, this is very much an urban rite, and those who attend are mainly middle class. A survey discovered the importance of music in the celebration:
Many of those who attended the mass pointed out that the songs did not have the function of linking different parts of the mass together. They were experienced as significant and independent parts of the mass. The songs had the nature of preaching, prayer, and meditation. This was a new experience for many.
This rite is very much 'blended' or 'fusion'. Formal Lutheran mass prayers are juxtaposed with colloquial, informal, personal prayers and petitions. There is great lay participation at every stage, though many clergy are also involved. The music is global, and the use of candles and icons provides a meditative atmosphere. The overall service is colourful and filled with sound and movement.
THE U2 EUCHARIST/U2CHARIST
The appropriateness of rock music in Christian worship continues to engender very different responses. John Blanchard and Dan Lucarini stress the negative associations of this music genre – drugs, sexual immorality, concern with the occult, and an anti-Christian stance. They argue that rock music in worship encourages worldliness, self-promotion, is purely entertainment, dilutes holiness, and widens the generation gap in church, and therefore needs to be kept out of the Church. However, Mark Joseph draws attention to a whole number of singers and bands who, rather than being consciously 'Christian bands', inhabiting a Christian subculture, have preferred to compete in the secular market and marry lyrics reflecting a Christian world-view with rock music. Such bands as Creed, Jars of Clay, and Delirious? do not withdraw from contemporary culture, but live, move and have their faith commitment within it. One of the most prominent and successful of such bands is U2. Using their lyrics and music, the 'U2 Eucharist' or 'U2charist' has evolved. This is not simply a blending of liturgical rite with any rock music or with rock songs as per the Webber model; it quite specifically blends the more overtly Christian lyrics and social challenges of this particular band with the traditional liturgy. Beth Maynard points out that U2
are simply artists who find it natural to draw on Biblical imagery and raise religious issues in their work ... They wrestle with spiritual themes and set nuggets of Scripture in the midst of their work, but they compete in the marketplace rather than preach to the choir.
For example, '40' from the 1983 album War is named after its inspiration, Psalm 40, and has a refrain from Psalm 6.
The band is Irish, and Bono (Bonovox, Paul Hewson) came from a mixed Catholic/Church of Ireland marriage. He, together with The Edge (David Evans), and Larry Mullen, found faith with Shalom, a non-denominational charismatic community, but after their initial success, members of Shalom suggested that their vocation was to give up rock music. The band decided instead to leave Shalom, and take their Christian commitment to the world. The fourth member of the band, Adam Clayton, came much later to endorse Christian values. Bono wrote an introduction to the publication of the Psalms from the version of Eugene H. Peterson. He has also been the spokesperson, and most vocal member, about the convictions and messages found in the lyrics. Commenting on U2's 2001 Elevation tour to Rolling Stone magazine, Bono said:
It feels like there's a blessing on the band right now. People are saying they're feeling shivers – well, the band is as well. And I don't know what that is, but it feels like God walking through the room, and it feels like a blessing, and in the end, music is a kind of sacrament; it's not just about airplay or chart positions.
The scriptural allusions and reflections in this band's songs may be illustrated by reference to just a few:
'Peace on Earth' – which mentions heaven being needed on earth now, and how the singer is sick of hanging around waiting for it.
'Grace' – which plays with the word as a girl's name, and also something that changed the world, and which makes beauty out of things that are ugly, and which hurt and sting.
'Gloria' – which is about trying to sing and finding wholeness in 'you', and includes the Latin words Domine, Exultate as well as Gloria.
Christian Scharen has commented:
A glance down the list of scriptural quotes and allusions in songs from 'I Will Follow' to 'Grace' makes clear that although U2 is deeply shaped by the world of scripture, they also commonly use scripture in such a way that their songs are iconic, pointing toward deeper things, toward the soul, rather than speaking directly and simply about issues of faith as so much of contemporary Christian music does.
However, it is important also to add that U2 has remained outside any particular church, and is suspicious of organized religion. The band's collective spirituality has found concrete expression in their work for AIDS and relief of debt in the Global South. They see the gospel as blossoming in peacemaking and justice, and thus their songs have a social message too; as Trenton Merricks commented, many of the songs 'shove the problem of evil right in your face'. And it has been argued that the poetry of the songs reflects the postmodern condition.
A U2 Eucharist utilizes the lyrics and music (and often the actual recordings) of U2 in the context of a traditional eucharistic liturgy, usually aimed at youth, but because of the widespread popularity of the band, actually being 'all-age' worship. U2 gives permission for the use of its music on the understanding that all offerings go to relief of poverty. Although not claiming to have invented the U2 Eucharist, Paige Blair, a priest of the Episcopal Church USA, in the diocese of Maine, has certainly pioneered and developed it, and has been a consultant in sharing the 'how to do it' with many other churches, both Episcopal and non-Episcopal. Paige Blair held her first U2 Eucharist at St George's Church, York Harbor, Maine on 31 July 2005. She has explained her pioneering work thus:
The background in brief: my parishioners and I noticed that U2 was popping up in conversation at the church in many different settings – adult education classes, meetings, coffee hour – and we kept finding ourselves talking about how U2 had been important on our spiritual journeys. I had just read Get Up off Your Knees, a collection of sermons based on U2 lyrics, and floated the idea of a service in which all the music, from hymns to 'service music' (like the Gloria or Kyrie) would be by U2, and a number of parishioners in different generations were really excited. So we built a team to design the liturgy and choose the music, and to ask questions like, 'How do we get the sound loud enough?' and 'How do we play the music?' A DJ? A CD? Powerpoint? We chose powerpoint since we figured we'd want the lyrics visible and for people to be hands-free for dancing and clapping if possible. Powerpoint slides with the lyrics of the music and also the rest of the service on them, coordinated with the playing of the music, has been the best tool to allow full participation from the audience. We have provided a paper bulletin with the same information as the powerpoint slides.
By February 2006, we had done three such services, the last of these being a baptism U2 service – it was incredibly moving. In March 2006 we began 'taking the service on the road' to other churches that had heard about our U2charist service and wanted us to bring it to them (such as the service in Providence, Rhode Island). We did two in March and four in May 2006, and the summer and fall of 2006 are looking busy. The liturgy itself is pretty traditional – it has all the usual required elements: A Gospel reading, prayers, and communion from an authorized prayer book. The music is really what is different. And yet not so different. It is rock, but it is deeply and overtly spiritual.
Excerpted from The Worship Mall by Bryan D. Spinks Copyright © 2010 by Bryan D. Spinks. Excerpted by permission of Church Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: Postmodernity, malls and worship xiii
1 Blended, fusion or synthesis worship 1
Appendix: Chanting the Gospel - the Gotland Organum Alan Murchie 25
2 Consciously postmodern: alt., emerging and liquid worship 31
3 Entertaining worship or worship as entertainment? Megachurch, seeker services and multi-sensory wotship 63
4 Praise and Worship songs and worship in the charismatic churches 91
5 On the margins of corporate global postmodern culture 125
6 What is Celtic about contemporary Celtic worship? 159
7 Second-guessing post-Vatican II liturgies 183
Concluding remarks 213