this was what i can remember of my spiel on worship as part of the dialogue, trying to bring a bit of a missions perspective i guess...
i was introduced earlier as though i represent something new. but i'm 43! alternative worship is 20 years old. the future isn't with me. if you think i'm the new thing you're wrong. this is focused in my own mind by my teenage sons. the oldest DJs dubstep, fidget house and bassline, is into new media, animation and is a stencil artist. or my younger is a poet writing poignant hip hop. how does their world connect with worship? what will they create if given the space to express their creatvity in worship to god?
when i was standing on the millenium bridge it struck me as a picture of the challenge we face in worship. when i look one way i see st pauls's cathedral. it reminds me of the gift of tradition that has meant that the dangerous memory of jesus has been passed on to me. but culturally i don't fit there. if i look the other way i see the tate modern on the south bank in london which is always buzzing. culturally i love it, am at home there with it's postmodern, creativity. but i want to mees things up and bring the riches of the christian tradition across the bridge and the cultural world of postmodern london into the church. this gap between church culture and the wider culture exists not just in traditional churches, but in modern charismatic ones, pentecostal ones and even in the new african churches.
we need (to use john taylor's phrase in the primal vision) an adventure of the imagination that enables us to reflect on how to grow worship in and out of the local soil of the various cultures we live in in every day life so that this split is broken. cross cultural mission holds clues as to how this is done (both good and bad praactise). when i travelled to india in 2005, i am came back with the phrase the 'colonised imagination' in my head because of the disappointment of how english i felt the worship was. in many parts of the world we see the same problem and need to recover a missional imagination that enables indigenous worship and leadership. but it's an issue on our own doorsteps. we expect people to join in with our approach to become like us - the colonised imagination is alive and well.
this issue of the challenge around gospel and culture is particularly acute at the moment because of the huge cultural changes of the last 20 years. it's made the gap feel wider. how do we cultivate worship in postmodern times?
one of the windows into this change is technology. i'm not talking about the actual use of technology but more how our instincts are changing. the new electric environment (to use a macluhan phrase) is connected, relational, where community is the content, with an architecture of participation and self publishing and creativity. what might worship look like if it was an environment of gift exchange and participation rather than an environment led by experts along provier/client lines? could these new instincts help us re-discover the body of christ with her distrubuted gifts?
tradition is a good thing - but it is also something that can get stuck and needs to be renewed and broken open to remain alive. it might be helpful to consider the well know bell curve of change. a small percentage of early adopters and pioneers engage with something new. this filters through to a wider group and gradually change takes place even though there will always be a small group who resist change. perhaps we are in a wider change process like this around worship?
one of the key groups of people in moments of change are artists. artists, creatives and tricksters will pave the way to the future evoking grief and amazement (to use walter bruegemann's themes of prophecy in the prophetic imagination). is there space in our worship and churches for these kind of artists? what are we afraid of?