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Existential Punk


i love this idea of curator. i spoke with Steve Knight who recently attended the EVDC 09 meeting to discuss the future of Emergent Village in the USA. He said someone came up with the idea of curator. i don't know the details but i am sure they will be fleshing everything out. So, when i saw your post today i got really excited! i look forward to your future posts from the curating book!

Questions - Does grace meet monthly? How many people do you have in your service planning groups and how many curators? All it takes is 2 meetings to plan your services? How long about are each meeting?

i am asking because Katryna and i want to start something to our context similar to Grace and Ikon when we are back in Sacramento. Will you pray for us to meet people interested in being dreamers with us?



yes usually 2 meetings but that's as much about leading busy lives. and we've also got quite experienced at it. it's not hard and fast rule at all and for something a bit more special we might take longer. in some ways it would be ideal to be able to take much more time! we do one service like this per month and one that one person plans and is a lot simpler.

i think if EV claim to have just thought of curation there will be some wry smiles - it's been a discussion around alt worship for around 10 years now at least! sounds like the EV gathering was good though from what i've heard. hope you are well...

Steve Lancaster

The most insightful presentation I heard, at a conference on interactivity in museums (V&A, 2003ish), was by a guy arguing that the way you encouraged interactivity was to arrange your exhibition (service) in such a way that visitors to it got caught up in the playing of open-ended games. So, for example, though there might be rules (liturgy?), these would be simple, like the grammar of a language, out of which one can compose a business report or a Shakespearean tragedy or a limerick or ... you get the picture. The holy grail in museums was to create an exhibition where visitors felt able to change the rules of play when they got bored, like children with a dressing-up box.

So rather than an old-fashioned exhibition, where there was only one 'right way' to view it (frequently not even sign-posted - sound like any services you know?), the speaker advocated curatorship that allowed multiple routes through creatively placed exhibits, with opportunities for role-playing and an emphasis on empowering the visitor.

Anyone who wants to see the latest in curator- and librarianship (definite overlaps), get up North to Newcastle upon Tyne! The revamped Great North Museum (with lifesized interactive Hadrian's Wall, and T-Rex) opens on May 23rd, and the new Central Library a fortnight later on June 7th.


Jonny, can't believe how timely this post is, I've just been searching for the Mark Pierson reference to the notion of worship curation this morning! Its a concept that has been so helpful for us at Ambient Wonder.
Cheers! Heather


Heh. "On the day of Grace" indeed.
Thank you for posting this.

steve taylor

jonny, does 1 person do all that "curating" work? looks like heaps and heaps,



it's not really steve. we do one service like this a month. some are easier than others of course. i did a quick count in my head and reckon we have 8 people who curate at the moment. so you're only doing this maybe two times a year so can put the effort in to make it something special. i think of worship that is extravagant in terms of creative effort like breaking the oil on jesus' feet - it's worth every bit of effort...

steve taylor

thanks jonny. u know i'm all for this curation, but i'm also a thinking type of person. i was reflecting thus on one of the alt.worship critiques of worship-as-normal as being the preserve of a few eg preacher and worship leader types.

and so reversing that thought - the danger of curation becoming equally that consuming in terms of time?

so it's not the length of time, more like the fact that this time is still tucked up in 1 person, whether curator or preacher.

does that make sense?



jonny - do you reckon you could ask those you interview a question on my behalf? i'd really like to know how people manage the process of creativity in a group... taking a group beyond what it thinks is possible; pushing beyond the obvious into something richer; sifting through all the good ideas and letting the crap go. I'd love to know how others manage the dynamic of that, especially when groups are starting up. I know that after a while the group starts to do that stuff as a whole, but i'm interested in how others who have formed new groups have navigated that first part of a process.

does that make sense?


I *love* it when my professional (ahem - ok, working) life starts to collide with real life in this way. We've spent hours and hours at work talking about curation in projects and exhibitions over the last decade; there is no hard and fast approach, or one model held up over another. Some curators in the arts/ culture can be so precious and territorial, but I’d say it's far from the norm to be as open and collaborative as Jonny’s Grace process indicates (unless it's truly a group show).

Steve - I hear your comment and I think it's a concern too, all of this "expertise", or at least function, located in one person. It's a definite gift and skill (and privilege) to be able to act in that capacity. Many people in S1 would tend to shy off doing this role because it seems just so huge sometimes... Having said that, some of my most moving and meaningful worship experiences have been when the curator really acts as the curator, no more - pulling together the framework for worship, the order in and of the space, and allows others to bring the content without control. I think Grace's 9 service works like this (Jonny?) and we've done services like that – making something all together from scratch in one night - in S1 too. The curator simply sets the theme and order and space and allows those who bring the content to surprise everyone, even the curator!

For an S1 example, see: http://www.sanctus1.co.uk/blog/2008/07/next-to-nothingness-were-all-made-of.html


Is it really that much more time than running any well crafted event for a large group of people? doesn't every worship need a coordinator? someone with a birds-eye view of what's happening, who people can check back with; a reference point...

I know that the curating thing has a whole other dimension to it - coordinating the creative process is only touched on in jonny's list, but it's the hardest thing. Maybe it's not for every community. But I also know that the people who talk to me about curating get far more energy back from the process than what they think they put into it... if you work with a team of people that you love, if you're not doing it every week or even every month; if this is how you work out what you believe and who you are - if, as someone recently said to me, life makes more sense when you're doing this - then it's time well spent... and if not, there are plenty of other ways to plan worship...

Steve Lancaster

Jonny, guys, anyone you know of thinking about a curatorial approach to pastoral work as well as worship?

Reading up on multiplicity - the idea that many of the internal dynamics we experience are down to the various 'personalities' we can express in different situations, pursuing their own agendas. The theory's radical, but based on pretty good neuroscientific evidence, and definitely worth exploring - Rita Carter has written a very readable book on the subject.

I'm therefore pursuing the idea a bit further - if our minds are a little like a church congregation, could the same exploratory approaches to outside Church be applied internally as an exercise in spiritual growth?

Does this resonate with the Grace or Sanctus experiences? Might it help?


thanks everyone for the comments. i think your point is interesting laura that there are a number of approaches styles to curation. these could be open and generous or tight and controlling. in that sense curation is just as open to being a power play! but it doesn't need to be.

steve (l) i like the idea of extending thinking around curating to the leadership role, not just worship planning. but i don't think i want to explore it in these posts. one of my words for leader is environmentalist - by which i mean the leader(s) have the responsibility to create the environment for a community. maybe that's close to what you are proposing?

steve (t) i can't think that i could be in a community where a higher percentage of people participate in worship creation than grace. curation has opened this up (and our ethos which includes a value of participation). it's also a role taken by a lot of dfferent people. so your fears are not my experience - the opposite is true. but of course coming back to laura's point, a more insecure curator may be too controlling or find it more difficult to let go of tasks and that could create a problem. but as cheryl says for most of us involved in this it's energising, it's time well spent, hopefully it's a jar of oil extravagantly cracked open on jesus feet.

Steve Lancaster

I think so, yes, Jonny - environmentalist, ecologist - exploring the way/s we interact and bringing back the rare medicinal plant from time to time, too...

Will certainly follow these posts: quite like the idea of worship curator as environmentalist ;)

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