Monday, November 16, 2009

Mixing genres

That is, do not mix genres in worship services.

Let me explain!

The flow of a service (the smoothness with which one part connects with another) is a key to a great service (that is, a service in which God is worshipped reverently, and worshippers feel connected with God).

Various things contribute to 'flow' (including, e.g., the words/silences used by a leader to link different parts of the service). One of those things is genres appropriate to each part of the service. ('Genres' refers to the kind of content of each part: prayers, notices, songs, sermon, confession, sharing the peace, etc).

It's not rocket science to work out that a 'Go out to the world in mission' song is not an appropriate genre for the opening song of a service, or to work out that the appropriate genre to follow the 'confession' is an 'absolution'.

But genres can get mixed up, and this we do well to avoid. Here is a current 'classic': a wide spread phenomenon in our church (in my experience) in these days of hygienic anxiety about how to receive wine at communion, and other concerns such as offering both wine and grape juice, is the issuing of instructions about reception of the elements at communion.

But where and how are these instructions to be offered? Again, in my experience, it is common practice to issue these instructions at the last possible moment before reception. I suggest this is an unfortunate 'mixing of genres'! What is the eucharistic prayer but a prayer of remembrance and thanksgiving and narrative intended to lead us to a joyful, yet solemn moment of fellowship with God. What are instructions? They are 'utilities' of the service, like domestic servants of a noble house. They should be seen and heard as little as possible, and certainly should not interrupt the important moments of a service. In this particular case their announcement (it is my personal conviction) is intrusive, disruptive, and detrimental to the flow of worship and to the experience of communion with God through reception of Christ's body and blood.

What to do? Here are two suggestions. (1) Print instructions which are not otherwise announced in the news bulletin or on a media screen (2) (Where (1) is not possible) Make announcements just before The Peace.

If this is not a problem in your local church, do not worry, there are other mixing of genres to avoid ... I may post on those another time!

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