One of the other seminars at Greenbelt 2010 that I went to was about making worship more interactive for the participants. Too often the congregation is simply invited to consume what the service leader has arranged for the week, and only asked to participate by singing loudly and listening attentively. Conversely, most of what the world is doing at the moment invites us to participate. Twitter, YouTube and Facebook don’t actually supply any content until the user adds it. TV news stations are now constantly asking for us to text in our views so they can be read out. Participation is the way that many social gatherings are going.
The seminar investigated some forms of ‘unfinished’ worship – unfinished because the service would develop as the congregation guide. There were some simple ideas and some more complex. We were taught a song which the worship leader led us in the first few lines, exploring the character of God. We were then invited to contribute other lines which reflect the character of God that was on our hearts, thus making the worship more personal. People were invited to shout verses of praise from the psalms, so the praise is personal and biblical.
There was a simple way to respond in worship. After handing out playdough each person was invited to model how they felt in relation to God at that time, and these were all brought to the front and placed around a playdough model of Jesus. Another person suggested using a bit of freely available software – Apotheosis – which creates images of fractals. Again, the participants are invited to say which ones best reflect their journey. There are loads more great ideas on engageworship.org.
Many of these ideas might be useful with an existing congregation rather than using with the unchurched straight away. I do have a couple of concerns though. First, it is important what we believe so the service leader must be able to interpret or guide contributions that might leads us away from God as revealed in scripture, rather than towards him.
Secondly, society tells us that my opnion counts and that I am the centre of the universe – this is how I relate on blogs, facebook, twitter and we even have personalised eBay and Amazon accounts which are tailored to our own individual tastes. Facebook analyses our own content so it can tailor advertisments towards us. (That is, they are tailored to what the marketers think are our tastes based on other people whose tastes are similar to ours. Following this through means that we will become more like what they think we should be like – but that is another discussion) Christians know that it is God who is the centre of the universe, not ourselves. We have to be careful that this form of worship speaks not just to western individualism and that it doesnt’ confirm us in our self-absorption, but points to the communion we find in God and in the fellowship of other believers. These concerns will have to be kept in balance when planning an unfinished service like this.