I haven't posted for a while here because I've been busy preparing for, flying to, and then fulfilling my obligations at a speaking engagement in...
wait for it...
I think this makes up for that whole worship wonks don't know when and where to meet thing.
Then again, the conference wasn’t for worship wonks. Sponsored by Hawaiian Island Ministries, it's an annual gathering for church leaders of all sorts, with all sorts of interests. But they did have a handful of specialized tracks: a “youth” track, a “ministering to military” track, a “parenting” track, and the worship track. It’s a really well-run show, featuring some outstanding people – and I don’t just mean the speakers, but the organizers and the attenders, too.
And everything they tell you about Island hospitality is true. The Hawaiian Convention Center is a spectacularly beautiful building; the people are warm and friendly – where else do you get introduced to speak by someone who gives you a hug, a kiss of peace, and then puts a floral garland around your neck? I think we should adopt it in all the churches of the mainland: the liturgical lei.
I gave three related talks on worship, and found my sessions well-attended (and well-received, I think) by some earnest, eager-to-learn people. Many came in without having been intentionally reflective about worship before, and found their circuit-breakers popped by rather simple ideas (e.g. worship is more than≠ music; or that a “congregation = audience; leaders = players” mindset reinforces an alarmingly God-free picture of what happens in worship). At the same time, they knew more than they thought they did, and offered some spiritually insightful responses when I asked them, for example, why they came to worship each week.
Though I made use at times of material developed by or for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, I was actually brought to Hawaii under the auspices of the Brehm Center at Fuller Seminary. So in addition to the three general talks I gave, my colleague Ed Willmington and I led a cohort of a dozen or so students in some more intensive training as a first-step on their way to receiving, 18 months hence, a certification in Worship, Theology and the Arts from Fuller.
I think programs like this are important. In so many churches, especially evangelical churches, those who are the worship leaders have no theological training, and a subtle sub-cultural anti-intellectualism ensures that they won’t be going to seminary to get any. But they have a holy fear about what they do, and are very appreciative of the opportunity to deepen their own understanding and practice of worship. I know our cohort will be going back to their churches eager to see what God will do with some of the tools they acquired in our time together.
But now the conference is over, and I have one free day to spend in this tropical paradise – Palm Sunday among the Palms. Think I’m going snorkeling with some sea turtles and dolphins. Hosanna and Aloha!