EcclesiaX in Ottawa, organized a very creative liturgy this past Sunday. EcclesiaX is a great little art-focused church in the artsy Glebe area of Ottawa. I've had great relationships with both the planting pastor and Cameron who took over pastoring the church a few years back. Because I was hanging out with Cameron earlier in the week I knew what he was planning, so I was quite excited to be able to join them for this Sunday's service. The text for the service was from John 6 where Jesus tells his followers that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. Cameron wanted to capture just how disturbing that word picture would have been for first century Jews. Above is a picture of what he came up with. We broke bread and shared a communion meal literally on top of an artistic representation of Jesus' body.
I'm no stranger to such creative liturgy. In fact every Good Friday my own church, Freedom Vineyard, puts on a sensory service. That is a service where the participants move around to various stations depicting aspects of our service's theme in a way that is designed to engage all of their senses. What I love about such creative liturgy is that it creates an open space for God to speak to us afresh.
Is that not the goal of worship? To create a space where we can encounter and be transformed by God? Knowing how much work goes into such liturgy I'm not convinced we can or should do something new every week - but I do think it is certainly worth occasionally adding creative aspects to the worship life of our communities. Even if doing so is just to keep us on our toes so that we do not fall into a rut which can limit our experience of God to our expectations.
In creative liturgy the elements are meant to throw us off. To break down the barriers of our expectations. This has the potential of letting us encounter God in fresh ways. I remember the response of a certain young man who had experienced this fresh encounter in our congregation; he was so excited that he began telling people that this was the only way we should be doing things. I think his reaction captures both how amazing creative liturgy can be and the fact that we tend to routinize our worship. While we long for those fresh encounters with God, at the same time, we like the safety of our expectations. This dynamic is always tough for our worship leaders to navigate.
In the service this Sunday I felt encouraged to share my self with those around the table. The image reminded me that Jesus held nothing back in sharing his own life for us. That was the insight I took away from my encounter with God this Sunday. I think it is a very worthwhile insight; it gives me much food for thought. I wonder what forms of creative liturgy have been impactful for you? For the worship leaders who read this, I would encourage you to introduce such elements into your own worship services. We should be careful to never become so comfortable in our worship that we miss the one we are there to encounter. I think throwing such creative elements into our worship can help keep us on our toes.
Frank Emanuel - Ontario Region