Sunday, October 30, 2011

Never comment, never draw attention to yourself

If I could control the world of worship leading, here are two things I would control (after inventing a means of making worship leaders do what I programmed them to do):

(1) Never comment on stuff happening before or during leading (like, "I have lost my notes so I do not know where I am" or "It hasn't been a very good week, the choir had a bad practice on Thursday night so tonight will be a bit problematic.")

(2) Apart from introducing oneself by name, never draw attention to oneself while being the leader (like, "It's my first time leading tonight" or "I am feeling a bit nervous.")

Of course another way forward here is for me not to be in control and not to invent the means to programme leaders to do what I want them to do, rather, worship leaders take responsibility for not doing these two things!

Positively: "Just lead, and lead people to God."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Transitions are more important than you think

If I were Robbie Deans and (another big "if"), if it was timely to have a review with the Australian players this morning about how the game went last night - I can imagine they just want to get on the plane and go home - then I would talk about 'transitions' in the game. For instance, the transition at the beginning, from nothing happening to the first interaction between players and the ball: Quade Cooper kicked off in the first second and got it wrong because he kicked the ball out on the full, handing the initiative over to the All Blacks.

But we can say similar things about liturgy, in which 'transitions' are crucial to the flow of the service.

The obvious transitions in the eucharist are at the beginning, the Peace and at the end. The less obvious transitions are from sermon to intercessions, and from breaking of the bread to the post-communion.

Rather than me say how I think these transitions should go, I encourage constant review of how transitions in your services are going. In particular, I note that some transitions are handled the same way, week after week after week, so that the transitions become embedded traditions in the liturgical life of the parish. If the transitions are, in fact, not done well, then it can become quite difficult to improve them because , like any tradition, such transitions can be all but impossible to change.

Here are some review questions:

Do the transitions serve visitors and strangers in our midst well? Transitions can be moments for 'in house' stuff (chat, jokes, notices with first names of people to see after the service) which may be brilliant for the regulars and unnerving for visitors.

Do the transitions serve God and our worship of God well? Transitions can be (so to speak) secular moments in a sacred space. For example, a notice about how to receive communion may intrude into the moment prior to receiving communion as the culmination of the grand narrative of salvation recited in the Great Thanksgiving.

Do the transitions serve the dynamics of the service well? A long transition, for instance, can destroy the flow of the service, especially if the next movement in the service does not 'pick up' the service.