Friday, January 26, 2007

Random Scribblings

Ok, these are just random thoughts that I've had over the past two days while reading a couple of different books. They're not really related to each other in any way, just thoughts I want to be sure not to forget:

  • (musing while reading Authentic Worship in a Changing Culture) In my thesis about the necessity of participation I should spend some time on the social reasons we don't participate. What in the broader culture makes it difficult to participate? Are we being re-programmed by society to be passive consumers? Were we originally programmed to be active participants, especially when it comes to worshiping God?
  • So, it's not just about participation, is it? It's a study about what happens in Christian Worship. How do we plan worship that is more than a series of events that don't mean much. How do we plan worship that tells the story in such a way that we meet God in His temple? How do we facilitate worship that is a community gathered around the word and table to be fed and nourished by God? AND WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT ANYWAY?!?!
  • Two books, What Are the Essentials of Christian Worship and Christian Worship:Glorifying and Enjoying God, state this important point - Jesus is made known throughout the New Testament (Luke's Emmaus Road story for example) to the people through preaching the Word and through breaking the bread. These two elements are necessary for the other
Maybe I'll get to answer all these questions at some point.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Insights from a book

Today, I've been reading Christian Worship: Glorifying and Enjoying God by Ronald P. Byars. It is part of the Foundations of Christian Faith series published by the Office of Theology and Worship of the Presbyterian Church (USA). I chose it because Byars is a theologian in the PC(USA) and I need to have dialogue with some theologians in my tradition for this paper. Additionally, it's a good book. I'm halfway through and so far he has talked about
  • ch.1: The point of worship - why do we worship? His argument (and I really have to agree wholeheartedly with him) is that God has hotwired us to worship. That worshiping God is a basic impulse that has flourished (in good and bad ways and every way in between) throughout most of human history. But, according to Byars, in our modern society we've scrambled that impulse with the ever present impulse to get money and buy things. But, even as we work to suppress our instinct to worship, it continues to well up inside of us and now we're seeing a resurgence of a desire for the mystery and real connection with God. He covers a lot of other important stuff in that first chapter, but I don't want to totally give away the whole book
  • ch. 2: the shape of worship - different styles, tradition versus traditionalism, etc. He talks about the importance of naming God as Trinity, about how Christian worship is rooted in loads of tradition beginning with Jewish Temple and Synagogue worship, and how Christian worship should be a healthy combination between Word and Sacrament.
  • ch. 3: This one he focuses on the importance of Word and Sacrament, with a brief description of how those two elements came to be in the New Testament church, how it became distorted in the medieval church, the Word loosing out to the Sacrament. Then in the Reformation, despite the reformers original desire to recapture the New Testament ideal of Word and Sacrament, the Sacrament fell by the wayside in favor of the Word. "... the Sacrament, without the Word, can easily slide into superstition. However, it's equally true that the Word, without the Sacrament, can loose its essential character, too." (Byars, 45.)
Sometimes I'm a little put off by his jabs at non-denominational, contemporary, non-traditional churches. I see him trying to paint a balance picture and equally lay out the weaknesses of the more 'traditional' churches (in a North American Protestant last 75 to 100 years sense), but it's not quite equal. Other than that, there is plenty of good stuff here when you overlook what I sense is a (perhaps only slight) bias. I think one of the best points he has made so far is that we worship a God that is bigger than anything we can possibly imagine.

I have to side step and tell about a conversation in our staff meeting today. The staff is also doing the Bible in 90 days together and today met together to talk about it so far. We were asked if we had any problems or struggles (other than drudging through all the rules and sacrifices and begats) with what we had read so far. We're in the middle of Deuteronomy right now. I mentioned that I really struggle with the violence - the Israelites wiping out whole nations of people. That's a hard pill to swallow, especially in times like these when we're at war. One of the staff members said he doesn't like it either but has to just believe that God knows more than we do, and that if he understood everything that God does, then he'd be on the same level as God and what kind of god would that be. That really made a lot of sense to me - it didn't make me feel any better about the violence, mind you, but he had a very good point. As if to make sure I heard his point, shortly after that meeting, I read in Byars book the following in relation to balancing understanding with faith:

"Nevertheless, when we have gathered information, processed it thoroughly, and reached as much understanding as we're likely ever to reach, is it really possible to understand God? And if we could understand God, would God be God? Could we worship and serve a God whom we are capable of comprehending?" (Byars, 28)

Well, I could go on all night...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Posting every day? Perhaps not...

Ok, I know I said that I would post everyday, and I'm sure the hoards of people reading this blog are so disappointed that I have not held to that promise, but well, sometimes my high aspirations don't hold up in real life.

It's hard to post much during the week because frankly I don't get a whole lot done other than just plain old work. Friday's are 90% of the time reserved for studying, but this week I didn't even have Friday to study. I had to travel to Texas for a concert and other family stuff. However, while I was there, my sister, who's on the faculty at TCU was able to check out about 30 books for me. I plan to "WebberRead" them first to cull out what I need and what I don't. So I have lots of resources for my studies this week. I'll let you know how it goes...

Some thoughts that I had this week while reading Webber's Planning Blended Worship: I should include in my plan for the team continuing education past the initial 6 weeks. This concept was also mentioned in Planning Worship Together, where they even suggested that 15 or 20 min. of each meeting should be devoted to continual study to keep the group fresh and up to date. One thing I won't address in the actual project, but need to keep in mind as I work through this is deciding what kind of turnover we should have in the group, and when new people join the team, do we need to do the 6 weeks training again? Or is there a better way to assimilate them into the group?

One challenge I know I'll have to address is how much do I try to cover in the 6 weeks? How much history, should I try to hold strictly to the 4 fold order, should I find one of the many books I'm using and use it as a template for how to structure the class?

Lots of questions at this stage. Will I ever answer them all? Probably not.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Great inspirational picture

My husband found this picture for me today to add to the lovely calendar that my classmate Val had made for each of us with inspirational photos and sayings to keep us motivated. I'm hanging this one on my wall!!

All Iced in and no where to go

Well, we're supposed to be all iced in right now, and there certainly is ice on the ground, but not yet the 'crippling ice storm' that all the news channels are telling us we are in the midst of. We even canceled church tomorrow morning - that's crazy talk! I betcha God shows up for worship tomorrow wondering where the heck we all are. It was supposed to have been sleeting and freezing raining all day long, but none just yet. We had some on Friday, but nothing since then. Oh well, no complaints here. It just means that I get 4 solid days to work on my thesis. (Friday is my day off, so I studied then; Today, everything was canceled, so I'm studying today; same with tomorrow; Monday is a holiday, so that makes 4 empty days with nothing to do but study... well, and memorize a bunch of music for a family show next weekend. and a whole bunch of other stuff I can actually do from home, and really should. ugh... I thought I had all this time. not so much, apparently.)

So, here's what I've been doing (seeing as how this blog is where I'm supposed to be logging my thesis activities): I've searched the local libraries, both public and at universities, for books that I might need. OCU doesn't have squat, OBU has some things, and the Oklahoma City public library only has the non-religious books. So, it looks like I'm gonna have to spend some moola. Today, I read about 90% of this one book called "Designing Worship Together." One big issue cropped up for me today. As I've been thinking about this project and beginning the work towards it, I've had in my mind just the 6 or so weeks we would be studying together and then the 4 weeks we would spend preparing the 4 Sundays in question. Well, this book has made me realize that I've not put any thought to those 4 Sundays in relation to the rest of the year. Does my plan totally ignore the year as a whole? Is it too focused on those 4 Sundays? How can I address this? Do I need to be thinking about what this group will do after the project, or just worry about this project and wait till after it's done to think about its purpose at that point? Should we, in addition to the 4 Sundays formulate a plan for the next year, broad goals over all, but also begin planning Advent while at the same time focusing on the project? Also, instead of planning November in October, should we start the training earlier and have two months to plan for November, giving people perhaps more than a week between planning meetings?

These are some questions that I need to keep in mind as this project takes shape. I'm sure there will be more, but I don't want to forget about the big picture. It would be my hope that out of this project would be a functioning planning team that would look at the year as a whole and plan worship far in advance - much like these books I'm reading are suggesting - not just one month in advance. So, perhaps we need to start together much earlier. Hmmm... it's a head scratcher, all right.

In addition to all this reading I'm doing for the thesis, my church is doing the Bible in 90 Days program, and my husband and I are both participating. Basically, you read approximately 12 pages a day, and in 90 days (well, 88, really) you've read the whole bible. I know what you're thinking - "you're crazy, you already have to read a bijillion pages a day for your thesis, what are you thinking?!?!?!" Well, I see it like this: I'm hoping that reading the bible every day will actually be incredibly helpful and powerful for me. It's kind of like when you tithe. You struggle to pay your bills each month, have to be careful about every penny you spend, so how can you possibly think of giving money to church. Well, God provides and I have found that seemingly miraculously some months there is enough left over to live on after I've returned a portion back to God. So, I figure, if I give some of my reading time to God by reading His Word, then I'll have plenty of energy, eyesight and time left to read the other stuff I'm supposed to be reading.

Ok, i've got 12 pages to read now... Good night.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Flying is no fun

I'm too tired to blog today. Northwest thought it would be good to have me fly from Jacksonville, Fl. to Detroit, MI. and then to Oklahoma. So, I've been on a plane all day. Got some good reading done, however, in the PFR reForm journal. Not all of it usable.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

My list...

Thesis class completed: check
Thesis proposal worksheet completed: check
Thesis adviser secured: check (Hi Bob)
Thesis fear and dread knocking at the door: check

Actually, I'm doing ok right now. I'm still riding high on the wonderful-ness that is the Tuesday night Healing/Communion service. The Nu class did a fantastic job putting their service together and we were all very blessed by their hard work.

It's a strange place to be standing at this bend in the road. The course work is all done and I'm officially ABT (all but thesis). I've always thought that saying someone was ABD or ABT sounded like they had some kind of disease that wasn't talked about in polite company. Now, I stand at the beginning of the long road ahead - writing and executing the thesis. My adviser said that he found the thesis process to be exactly half of the degree - the course work being the other half. That's just a little bit daunting. I've already put in so much work thus far. Am I really only half way? However, for the first half, I felt like I was climbing a mountain with blindfolds on. Now, I actually feel like I can see most of the trail from here. This just might be doable. Not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but doable.

So, here is my proposed timeline:

Thesis proposal turned into my supervisor: April 1st
Thesis proposal approved by Dr. Borchert: May 1st
Worship Planning Team chosen and committed to the task: May 15th
Chapter 2 approved, course curriculum and pre-course questionnaires written: August 1st
Worship planning team training sessions begin: Around August 15th
Worship planning team planning sessions begin: Around Octber 1st
Worship services conducted: November 4, 11, 18 and 25
First Rough Draft of Thesis turned into to adviser: Feb. 1st
Final Rough Draft of Thesis turned into Dr. Ray for final approval: March 1st
Graduation: June 15th, 2008

If I can get a whole lot of writing done by August 1st, the rest of the paper should pretty much write itself after the project happens.

But now, on to more important matters... I get to see my husband finally in about 20 hours!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Ok, to get a picture into my profile, apparently I have to post a picture here first. So, here's the one I'm choosing to use. Hopefully this will work...

Welcome to my new blog

The purpose of this blog is to provide a sort of accountability journal for the work I will do to complete my thesis project for my Doctorate of Worship Studies. My goal with this blog (and I invite you to hold me accountable to it) is to post every day about the progress of my thesis project. Perhaps some of my posts will make it into the thesis itself, or into the evaluative process of the thesis. At any rate, it is my prayer that this blog, and any conversations with you will help keep me on track, focused on Christ and my goal, and positive throughout the process.

First, let me tell you about myself. I am an organist for a church in Oklahoma, though playing organ is only about 10% of my job. I also play the piano, accompany all the ensembles in the church, coordinate the children's music programs, direct one of the children's choirs, co-direct the youth choir, direct one of the handbell choirs and work closely with the rest of the music and ministerial staff to plan worship for our church.

Currently, I am working towards my Doctorate in Worship Studies from the Institute for Worship Studies, in Orange Park, Florida. If you are at all interested in the area of worship studies, I highly recommend this program. They offer both a MWS and a DWS. The past 2 years I have spent on this degree have changed my life, and greatly effected my work in a very positive way. Through IWS God has increased my faith and shown me great mercy and love. I truly feel that God has called me to ministry, to my current place of service and to this graduate program. I have completed all the course work for this degree and now must complete the thesis, and plan to walk in the graduation ceremony on June 15th, 2008.

Now to the thesis. In completion of the DWS we must complete an applied, practical thesis. In other words, our final project cannot be a research paper, but a major project addressing a problem in our current ministry setting. I have one more day left of in-class work here in Florida in preparation for writing the darned thing. We've been at it for 4 days so far, hashing out our ideas and plans with our wonderful professors: Dr. Gerald Borchert and Dr. Keith Ray. They're tough as nails, but that's a good thing. You know that no bad thesis gets through these guys. My classmates have some wonderful ideas and I can't wait to see how their projects turn out.

I know you're dying to know what my project is. Well, here ya go:

Working Title: Planning and Implementing Transformative and Participatory Worship through the Development and Training of a Worship Planning Team at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Oklahoma City, OK.

Biblical sources: Nehemiah 8:8 (dramatic worship affecting congregation – importance of worship being transformational); Acts 2: 37; 1 Chron. 23:3-5 (old testament worship planned by lots of people - argument for team worship planning); 1 Cor. 12:7 (spiritual gifts – argument for team worship planning)

Research method and design (plan and organization; data and how interpreted): Choose a team of about 10 – 12 people of both staff and lay members that will meet together for 5 or 6 training sessions that will guide the group to a thorough understanding of worship and equip them to plan worship. At the end of those 5 or 6 sessions we would then take 4 more sessions to plan 4 worship services (either 4 Sundays in November with a Stewardship/Thanksgiving theme or 4 Sundays in Advent). After those Sundays have past we will meet again for one more session to evaluate the effectiveness or lack thereof of the services.

So, the first step in the journey is to begin writing my thesis proposal. I technically have until June 1st to get an approval, but I would love to have it done way before then.

Please feel free to comment with suggestions, encouragement, resources and prayers.