2006 Worship Symposium. It was delightful to see so many of our friends and colleagues, and the conference itself was, as usual, thought-provoking and inspiring. On top of that it was nice to be away - just Deb and I - while our good friends the Klaasens took care of our progeny.
Debra and I were both presenting at this year's conference. My stock rose considerably in the eyes of some of my worship wonk friends who for the first time this year were introduced to Deb. If I had a nickel for every time someone came up to me and exclaimed how fabulous Deb's presentations were, how insightful her comments, how engaging as a speaker and brilliant as a writer... Well, it would be a nice chunk of change.
My own presentations went well, too -- increasingly so as the weekend progressed. I felt like I really nailed my key presentation by the third time I gave it. I always feel a little insecure about my own material - like half-way through someone is liable to stand up and say: "What you're talking about is so obvious! What kind of fraud are you?!?" But no one did (though there was a grouchy lady in the back row in my second section staring daggers at me the whole time) and in fact, some people had nice things to say.
I basically encouraged worship planners to think about our services as "practice" for life. We do drills in church that isolate particular crucial Christian skills -- confessing sin, attributing beauty to God, lamenting brokenness, praising etc. These are the skills we need as we live the "game" of our Monday-through-Saturday lives.
Borrowing on my experience as an AYSO soccer coach and my membership in a certified Suzuki violin family, I compared planning worship to planning soccer practice and violin practice. There are different ways to work on a particular skill set; some drills work better than others. So how can we modify our worship drills, I asked, so that we are more effectively shaping our wills, ordering our affections, and instilling information? How do we go about shaping our orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthpathy?
My section participants come up with some really good stuff: modifications and introductions to common liturgical actions to help focus our work. For example, applying theological filters to our congregational song repertoire to try to give us a healthy song diet; connecting our congregational offering with testimonies about personal and congregational efforts to help the poor and the outsider. We also talked about ways to use liturgical language in real life: At a wake: "The Peace of Christ be with you"; singing "Let us give our thanks and praise, it is right to give our thanks and praise" as a dinnertime grace. When telling a student who is failing your course that not all career doors are open to all people: "This is the Word of the Lord."