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Worship and Arts Forum

I work at a large church which incorporates various music genre in our services; choral and instrumental, contemporary, gospel, etc.  We would like to bring all musicians/artists/worship leaders together for some kind of large meeting - a worship and arts community of sorts.  I would love to hear ideas from other church musicians who are successfully running some sort of meeting.  Format, scheduling, content, any other ideas?  Thanks.
Replies (5): Threaded | Chronological
on August 14, 2013 3:55am
I'm doing this over the next two Sundays.  Ideally, I'd have 3 Sundays, but I need to get it done before the church gears up into the program year.  I'm doing this with all the adults who attend bible study and the adult forum between services to reach the widest number of people.  It's in the summer which means there may not be as many people there as I'd like, but the next available time would be in December, and that just won't work.
 
We're a Lutheran church, and Luther, who provided the impetus for the Reformation, viewed music as integral to worship, but viewed the other arts favorably as well, particularly art and architecture.  My first session will provide background and rationale for including all the arts, including music of all types in worship. I'm going to solicit and help form criteria for judging the appropriateness of particular pieces for worship from all styles in order to help persuade those who don't care for contemporary Christian that it's not all bad if what is deemed appropriate is used as the basis to select songs and instrumental music for worship.  Hopefully, it will also help contemporary advocates understand that just because they love a song, it's not always appropriate to the message of the day or the mood for a particular time of the church year.
 
My second session will focus on art and architecture, drama (one of my program goals is to form a drama ministry), and dance, followed by principles of participatio actuosa, or the active participation of the entire congregation in worship, including the art of listening (information I think every congregation needs to hear), singing, movement which helps to physically ground what we express verbally, and the work of lectors, some of whom consistently fail to proclaim the word with proper preparation.  
 
The reason for all this going out to everyone, whether in music or not, is because some people may choose to get involved once they understand some of those basic principals. It also helps to avoid worship wars, in which traditionalists bad mouth the contemporary and the contemporary advocates bad mouth the traditionalists.  I'm hoping that by helping THEM form criteria, they'll be more open to music of all types.  In my previous 2 churches, worship wars were going strong, with, believe it or not, more disdain from the youth for the traditional than vice versa.  Or maybe they were just more verbal about it.  Regardless, there were always hurt feelings and/or defensiveness, and none of it was necessary.
 
I have always found that if you present a research-based rationale for what you do, people are more agreeable and more willing to work together, whether a non-singing, non-musical, non-artist congregation member or an active participant in a music or arts program.  Both are part and parcel of the same team.  Afterward, it will be easier (hopefully) to have all the musicians work together for the betterment of worship rather than just existing separately from each other.  I recommend searching the elca.org website for issues you think are the most critical for your groups to work on and the ELCA's Use of the Means of Grace and Principals for Worship, both of which you can find in PDF form at the website.  Although some of it is of particular import to Lutherans, the vast majority is applicable to churches of every faith.  Another great resource is Rory Noland's The Heart of the Artist, which brings up issues that can negatively affect the teamwork we all want for our ensembles, even though Rory's congregation is mostly contemporary.  
 
While none of this may be what you're interested in focusing on, I've worked for 31 years in 7 or 8 (but who's counting?) congregations with every style of worship, and had the framework been laid as I am doing in my current congregation, to which I am new, many, many problems could have been avoided.  Hence, my decision to address this to everyone before we focus more on our ensembles, most of which don't come back to "work" until September.  
 
I am signing off on what may be the longest post in choralnet history.  Over and out!
 
Mandy Hull
Director of Music and Worship
Community Lutheran Church
Sterling, Virginia
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on August 15, 2013 8:21am
Amen and Bravo, Mandy!
I particularly like your statements: '"Regardless, there were always hurt feelings and/or defensiveness, and none of it was necessary." and "I have always found that if you present a research-based rationale for what you do, people are more agreeable and more willing to work together, whether a non-singing, non-musical, non-artist congregation member or an active participant in a music or arts program.  Both are part and parcel of the same team.  Afterward, it will be easier (hopefully) to have all the musicians work together for the betterment of worship rather than just existing separately from each other. "
If you or an assitant can share some results that we might learn from, please do!
Godspeed and best wishes!  They are lucky to have someone as savvy as yourself!
on August 14, 2013 12:51pm
You might want to look at the ideas of Marcia McFee, who lead a recent UCC Musician's Association Conference in thinking about the process of worship planning in a team without burning out -- one of her main points was when decisions need to be made, have a small group; for brainstorming/ideas, use a large group. Another vital thought was planning iin "series" -- use one idea/image for 6-10 weeks of worship, then have your artists/dancers/various musicians/speakers work with that idea... you can find her online. 
on August 15, 2013 8:12am
Sounds great, Dori; I'm in!
Are you familiar with F.U.M.M.W.A. ?     http://www.umfellowship.org/   In 1979, they expanded from an organizations largely devoted to church musicians, to one encompassing all aspects of worship: scripture, sermon, music, dance, Drama/Christian clowning, choric speech, art/visuals, etc.  You can sign up for "Five on the Fifth" ideas through email.  They are not closed; it is open to other denominations (not just U. Methodists).
-Lucy
on August 15, 2013 8:18am
Dori,
 
Have you heard of the Sacred Dance Guild?  They encompass all religions and if there is a chapter in your area, could be a wonderful resource for you.  Here in the Midwest, they are very active with at least one or two events per month, year round.
 
Marie
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