Monday, May 14, 2007

Definition of Participation

I’m focused right now on finding a good definition of participation. What does it really mean to participate in worship. I would love to hear some of your thoughts about participation. Here are some of the different definitions that I have found in various publications:

From Dr. Constance Cherry’s lecture, “From Passive to Participative Worship”, found on the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship website

She defines participation as:

  • to take part in
  • to share in
  • to partner in.

What is a partner?

  • A person who shares or takes part with another
  • a companion in dancing (a dance partner)
  • or a player on the same side in a game (a contest partner).

Craig Douglas Erickson has this to say about participation in his book Participating in Worship: History, Theory and Practice, though it’s not a definition per se:

“The personal motive for worship is crucial to the level of participation experienced therein. The starting point for authentic participation is the individual Christian’s own heartfelt and genuine response of praise and thanksgiving before the presence of God… Participatory worship is founded upon pietas or piety – that personal trust in and reverence for God that inclines the heart to true worship and devotion. Piety is that quality of openness to God that is itself a gift of the Spirit of god. Without piety participatory forms of worship are of little avail. This is not to deny the evangelistic potential of the liturgy,, which is considerable. Nor is it to suggest that liturgy is powerless to prompt and awaken the disposition that is proper to worship. Rather it is to emphasize the fact that major responsibility for participation in worship lies with the individual Christian. This responsibility involves much more than a momentary or nostalgic desire or the fulfillment of one’s Lord’s Day obligation. Authentic participation in worship arises out of the heart that is actively engaged in the Christian life with all of its moral and spiritual demands, including preparation for worship through prayer, Bible study, meditation, and fasting. (Erickson 3-4)

Sally Morganthaler, in her book Worship Evangelism: Inviting the Unbeliever into the Presence of God has this to say: (some of it is my paraphrase):

“[Worship is] the act and attitude of wholeheartedly giving ourselves to God, spirit, soul, and body. Worship is simply the expression of our love for God, which Jesus said, should involve all our heart, mind and physical strength” (Morganthaler, Worship Evangelism, 47, quoting Gerrit Gustafson)

“Thus Christian worship is not only offering all that we are to a Holy God (spirit). It is an intentional response of praise, thanksgiving, and adoration to The God, the One revealed in the Word, made known and accessible to us in Jesus Christ and witnessed in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (truth).” (Morganthaler, 47)

Morganthaler emphasizes that worship is not a one way street. It is a relationship, one that requires action. We can sit and listen to good music, a good speech, etc. and perhaps be inspired to worship, but worship and inspiration are not the same thing. “Corporate worship does not just inspire and hope that people will do more than activate their brain cells. It provides definitive opportunities for response.” (Morganthaler, 49).

It seems to me that some recurring themes among these definitions are:

  • Intention on the part of the worshipper
  • relationship instead of a one way street
  • that the participation stems not from a desire to get something, but in response to something – God’s initiation in our lives.

Ok – your turn!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Friday Five

Ok, this is totally off topic, but I've recently joined a blogring called RevGalsBlogPals. Check out the nav bar over there on the right hand side. Anyway, every Friday, they do a Friday Five and it's just a fun little game that lots of the bloggers in the ring play. It's a good way to float around the ring and meet other (mostly) women involved in a Christian vocation. So, on with the game:

There are two types of people in the world, morning people and night owls. Or Red Sox fans and Yankees fans. Or boxers and briefs. Or people who divide the world into two types of people and those who don't. Let your preferences be known here. And if you're feeling verbose, defend your choices!

1. Mac? or PC?
Well, I've been a Mac user for a number of years, and have always turned my nose up at PCs. But, then I married my sweet husband who just happens to work in the IT field and mostly on PCs. He can work with a Mac, but all the computers in our house are PC. So, now I guess I'm reluctantly a PC user. But, I still think Macs are much sexier :)

2. Pizza: Chicago style or New York style.
I love any kind of pizza, thick or thin crust. Just depends on what city I'm in, I guess.

3. Brownies/fudge containing nuts:
An abomination unto the Lord. The nuts take up valuable chocolate space. Not only that, but nuts impart an odd flavor to the brownie/cookie/fudge. I don't care if I can pick them out. I CAN STILL TASTE THE NUTS!!! EEEEUUUUWWWWW

4. Do you hang your toilet paper so that the "tail" hangs flush with the wall, or over the top of the roll.
Over the top. Does anyone actually hang it the other way on purpose?

5. Toothpaste: Do you squeeze the tube wantonly in the middle, or squeeze from the bottom and flatten as you go?
Well, I flatten as I go - my husband does not. So, I have to work overtime to keep the tube in proper form.

Bonus: Share your favorite either/or.
hmmmm Sacrament or Ordinance? Well... both :) Hey, I'm a Disciple of Christ (ordinance) working at a PC(USA) (sacrament).

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Inertia, lethargy, sloth, laziness, whatever

The last month has almost been a total waste for me. And there is no excuse other than my own sloth. Yep - that's one of them 7 deadly sins. Never thought much about sloth, other than wonder why in the world it was a deadly sin, until the DWS 704 The Sacred Actions and Ministries of Christian Worship class.

Our esteemed professor, Dr. Carla Waterman talked about sloth and why it is so deadly - I felt like she was talking directly at me with a piercing directness into my deepest heart. She described it from the standpoint of hope (I hope I can do her description justice). Hope, she described, is like an IV drip that keeps us functioning. We hope (trust) in God and that regular nourishment of hope keeps our head up and our faith strong during difficult times, and fills us with joy during the good times. But, when we give in to sloth, it's as if we turn down that hope drip by saying "Oh, I can't do that, that thing that God wants me to do, so I'm gonna do something else (something I think I can do without God's help, like watch tv, or do busy work to cover up the sloth, or sleep, etc)." We keep turning down that drip (we stop trusting that we can do what God wants us to do), until eventually we just turn it off all together. I go through stages as I slowly turn off the hope where at first I'm just a little too tired to do what I'm supposed to do, then I'm weary and feel emotionally drained and don't want to do the job, finally landing solidly into despair and it's all I can do to get up and function at all. And when I get there, I've essentially turned away from God and said, "I don't need You, You can't help me, and basically I don't believe You are even there to begin with." And that, my friends, is why sloth is a deadly sin.
I've been to that point of despair, and only by the grace of God did I come back from it. I was suspicious that perhaps that despair was reality, and that my faith was just a coverup for the truth about this world. But, when Carla described sloth in this way, as a sin, I realized that she was absolutely right! My despair was a sin - it was an evil that I had allowed to take over my heart and trick me into a falsehood. But, now that I know this, I can see it coming and (hopefully) make choices that will lead away from that downward path and keep holding on to that hope.
Lately, I've been sliding down, as evidenced by my lack of progress on this thesis and by my growing reluctance to even work on it. I even heard myself say yesterday that I was ready to give up because I can't do it. Next thing you know, I'll end up back at that "You can't help me, You don't even exist." But, this time, I have caught myself. I will not let the big Sloth monster take hold again.

So, this morning, I woke up in time to start working again. I've decided that I really do want to go with my original purpose statement:

The purpose of this project is to address the passive nature of our current worship services by designing services that would allow and encourage more participation by the congregation through a trained worship planning team. Worship will therefore support the possibility of transformed lives through the congregants’ participation in the act of worship.

Instead of the newer one:

The purpose of this project is to explore the connection between participatory worship and transformation in the lives of the congregants. Does participatory worship create more fertile opportunity for God’s transformation than worship that is passive?

Here's why - I do want to explore the connection between participatory worship and transformation precisely because I do believe that participatory worship creates more fertile ground for God's transformation that passive worship. I cannot, however, measure transformation within the scope and time frame of this project. What I can measure is if we were able, as a team, to create worship services that allowed for more participation from the congregants. I can even, to a certain extent, measure some of the congregants' level of participation. I won't measure how they 'liked' or 'disliked' the services because that's asking about their preferences, and that's not important to this project. I will ask if they participated, if they felt they had opportunities and safe space in which to do so, how they participated, etc.

Ultimately, and I hope to make this point very clear in my paper, participation is not an end-all-be-all fix. Participation doesn't guarantee squat. Only God transforms lives and God can choose to transform lives anyway He chooses. God can make children out of rocks if He so chooses. What I'd like to show in my research paper (with biblical, theological, and historical support) is that worship that is participatory (the whole person is engaged) helps the worshiper come to a place where he/she is ready and open for God to transform. Passive worship (really quite an oxymoron, don't you think?) doesn't do that, and in fact could even be a hindrance. With that foundation, then I want to develop this worship planning team to create worship services that are participatory because of this belief.

Talking in circles, I know, but perhaps you (and maybe even I) understand a little more clearly where I'm going with this. Perhaps now I can get past this inertia and not slide down the sloth chute. Only with the grace of God...