Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Subversive Liturgy?

"The day the "world changed" was not September 11th but way back in 33AD. The most significant event in our pasts is not our most shameful transgressions but the death and resurrection of Jesus. Our pasts are defined not by our sins but by Christ's victory. God's story is the lens through which we understand our current world..." (Shane Claiborne, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)

A few months ago i spent some time with my fellow curates in looking at Worship. I thought a quick read of this book would be helpful in continuing the conversation. As a priest in the Church of England, I spend a large chunk of my week planning the service, either the sermon series, the music way in advance, the All Age worship, Collective Worship, or the service looming in a few days. I feel a pressure in this to always come up with something creative and new, to keep the services fresh. Yet our said communion and evensong have a set format which has some seasonal variation but no scope for wholesale change. There is something good about this too. We have four services (Sometimes 5) on a Sunday, if each of them needed to be constructed from scratch then this would be unmanageable. Even if the framework was used from Common Worship.

In worship we join in the communion of the saints, which reminds us of our place as inheritors of the promise from those who have gone before us, but also reminds us of our calling to tell another generation too of the hope within us, we stand in-between those who have gone before us and a generation not yet born, but are also tasked with sharing the good news to all.

It is easy to restrict ourselves to a reduced diet, by that I mean both liturgically and scripturally. Think about it for a minute, it is easy to stay within the gospels(though obviously you can edit out the bits you don't want to preach) when it comes to our preaching and it is easy to say familiar words each Sunday (whether you have set liturgy or not). During our session at St John's one thing that came up time and again is that liturgy should help us remember we are part of the big story. Just as it is easy to preach David and Goliath as a moral tale, the bully got his comeuppance, do we then conclude by saying that by our own skill and cunning we too can slay the giant we are faced with? Is David a moral example to follow or is the story so much bigger than that?

Here's a link to the companion website for the book

Leitorgia- Is often translated "the work of the people" or "public worship" both express part of it, however what I enjoyed about Shane Claiborne's introduction is the way he asks us to overlay our annual calendar with the liturgical calendar. It helps remind us that though January the 1st is the start of the calendar we use in this part of the world, the liturgical one begins in Advent. The working week begins on Monday, but Sunday is the beginning of the liturgical week. Though Easter floats around because of the moon (why do we still do this?), Easter itself asks us to look at the one who made the Sun and the Moon and is the source of all life. The liturgical calendar is in fact subversive. It asks us to look at our lives and see them as part of the big story. We centre ourselves upon Jesus Christ, As we pray and read scripture we are drawn into a story, the stories of the children of Israel are our stories. We too wander in the desert, turn away from the grace of God and forget who we are. Just like the disciples we too reject and abandon Christ, but just like the disciples and the children of Israel we too experience the grace and mercy of God who calls us "chosen and dearly loved". We too can join in the family prayer:
Our Father
Who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven
Give us today our daily bread
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one
For thine is the kingdom the power and glory
Forever and ever

Friday, 20 September 2013

Run forest run

I am not a great runner, i just took up running to give me head space and for general fitness. Yet since I have started I have caught the bug. I love it but now I am hitting the point where I am looking at ways of improving my running by tracking what I do and getting comfortable in my running.

  • You can learn from my mistakes!

So it is a case of spending lots of money? 

Well no, I started with an ordinary pair of trainers with a pair of trainer socks.

This brought a painful problem, blisters, but since then I have brought a better fitting pair of running trainers and 3 pairs of anti blister socks. Not a massive outlay, less than £10 for the socks and £40 for the trainers. No more blisters!

I started with a couple of pairs of old shorts, one I still run in but I had to buy a second pair as I needed one with a secure pocket. Again no need to spend a lot of money just find a pair which are comfortable.

As we have had an amazingly warm summer I needed a running vest as it was too hot/ Again run in what's comfortable for you, cotton t shirts don't work for me as I sweat a lot!  Short sleeve means you will need a sweat band especially if you are like me.

  • Join a club or run with a friend

Running on my own lost its appeal. As I tracked my running I found that I had improved by around 5 minutes  for 5km, but plateaued, I was also getting bored. The same routes after 5 months were getting dull. So I went running with a better runner than me and ran another 5 minutes quicker for the 5km and gained a new route too. It felt great. But I can usually only run first thing so not easy to arrange a running buddy for then. So a running club seems the way forward, for two reasons. 1/ Membership brings membership to SPORT ENGLAND and reduced entry to running events but 2/ More importantly people to run with. This has been the biggest boast. Talking to others who run, which is inspiring. One of the runners is on his 18th Great North Run!

  • Tracking:

So far I have tried Nike+IPod & Mapmy Run using the GPS on my phone.

Neither option has been seamless.

I don't have Nike trainers, I have odd feet and find they are not very comfortable, so I have the nike trainer wallet with the Nike+ sensor in it. This is fine plugging in...
However, I have stopped running with music or podcasts for two reasons, running hazards-plenty of them around from people reversing out of drives to uneven surfaces. Most races and the running club have a no headphones rule, so need to run without!

MapMy Run has been great for logging my runs providing the GPS works properly on my phone and the 3G can connect, this isn't always possible, two of the local villages have poor 3G reception. However, once you have established a few training runs and map them providing you time the run on a stop watch you can deal with any issues this throws up.

Yet it is becoming a pain for training. ie circuits or club training. This is because of introducing laps, cool down periods, and not knowing the routes well. This isn't a long term solution.

So watch this space I have two options I am looking at GPS watches to deal with this issue...

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Sing the songs

The thing about song writing, which is nice, is that you can take real life-which we all know can be imperfect and messy- You can take real life and shape it to how you want it to be- Jarvis Cocker
Radio 5- Octoberfest Sheffield

Pulp were one of those bands which I listened to a bit when I was a student, I liked some songs, didn't like others but I always thought it was a 100 times better than anything by Boyzone, but I was hardly their demographic!

Last year's Diocesan Conference on "Living Worship & the Transforming Mission of God" was thought provoking and I have been having a few thoughts. I can't do justice to the sessions by Paula Gooder on Psalm 145, Matt 28 and Rom 12. Though I must confess to reguarly pointing to the Psalms for real life praise. I realise this short blog post may be my only post on it but it is something I am playing with in my journal.

Bernadette Farrell the liturgist & community organiser (ie hymn writer and justice campaigner as an imperfect paraphrase), talked about:
The world as it is and the world as it should be, justice brings it together
On our table we discussed living worship as opposed to what? I felt this was probably best summed up by if it is not living worship it is not worship. However, that means I have to ask myself some significant questions as someone who spends a lot of time arranging corporate worship. I realise it is not about the style of the service or the quality of the music team(our music team are great) or even about the amount of time that has gone into preparation. I am also aware that it is not something we always feel (though the person next to us might). I think it goes back to what we think worship is all about. I maybe naive but I would say that many of our services do not tick all the boxes and some of our hymns and chorus' are a little twee... not so much longing for heaven or providing a picture of the world as it should be but an airbrushed version.

Off the shelf services can tick every box when it comes to the words that are spoken, reminding us of the justice and mercy of God but it has to be inhabited. Which is where Jarvis Cocker's quote comes in. I think Christian liturgy should not remove the imperfect and messy but help us to see the world as it should be.

At last year's conference I received some sad news about someone we loved. I was angry with God I had no words of my own, but was reminded simply of the verse "Jesus wept" John 11.35. The Psalmists could be angry with God he is big enough to deal with that and if Psalms mean praises, then even in the midst of  our expressing our hurt, anger and pain we are still praising God. I sometimes think we arrogantly assume that when life stinks, when we see the evil one, steal, kill and destroy that God is not aware of this or unmoved by it. He is and we should be too.

How can we sing the songs of the redeemed in the land of Egypt? Gospel music has had this at its heart, there is plenty of songs which include lament but also hope. We may feel life at times is dark and weary but the light cannot be extinguished. After Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, he raised him from the dead. Jesus' words can change our lives. God can and does bring life out of death.