Worshipping (Photo credit: Chiceaux)
This post will be the first in my contribution to Harry’s series,Musical Jesus.
When I was in seminary, our final project for Worship class was to come up with a theology of worship. I remember working really hard to make mine, and the worship bulletin as trinitarian as possible. I recall my professor, who had did his dissertation on the spirituality of the Puritans, recommended that I alter my views of the Eucharist to reflect a more Calvinist perspective. Of course, let me just reject everything I have ever believed about the Lord’s Supper just so I can affirm Reformed sacramental theology! Yeah, um, that didn’t work out from the time before, so now, I don’t think I am going to give it a second shot. #SorryNotSorry. Ah Reformed folks are so objective, aren’t they?
What my theology of worship failed to take account back then as I reflect now, is to discuss worship, doctrine, and ethics properly, and to put worship in its proper place, as something that is Eschatological. By eschatological, I mean that worship is the purpose and end for human beings, and just I have begun to argue the past few weeks, justice work from one Christian perspective should lead to worship. It is in this light that I can re-read Soong Chan Rah’s’s The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing The Church From Western Cultural Captivity as a theology of worship.
There are two approaches to worship that USian churches primarily rely on according to Professor Rah. The paradigm from the dominant culture is the colorblind approach, which “assumes that all believers have their identity as Christians ; therefore, no concessions need to be made for cultural differences.” White ecclessial powers establish the norms of worship, while all other forms of worship are labelled “contextual.” Stepping aside the problem of race/colorblindness as dismissing POC experiences, this approach to worship essentializes problematically white Christians, as if white people like the same music, whether it be traditional hymns or contemporary. What about Christians who prefer the life of the “mind” over “emotions.” The ” ” marks are used because I just don’t believe in such a simple dichotomy. So when we talk about diversity in the context of worship, it’s important to talk about gender, class, and age as well.
Rah’s other approach that he points out is the racial reconciliation approach. In this approach, Christians are away that sin has disrupted USian’s quest for worshipping the Lord. Justice must be practiced intentionally, sin must be confessed continually, and all walks of life should be represented in worship services. Multi-ethnic worship settings should seek to embody the kingdom of God, the One Church of Many Tribes we see in the book of Revelation.
In the colorblind approach, we discover that White Supremacy is harmful to both the majority as well as racial minorities. In the second instance, we get a glimpse of Christ’s reign in the here and now. However, I think we should do well to expand the second paradigm to a General Reconciliation-oriented style of worship. Having witnessed a few worship wars from the front-lines and sidelines, I must say that I was at one point, guilty of ageism. Ageism as a response to ageism is not godly behavior. It’s actually the exact opposite.
Scripture encourages from beginning to end, inter-generational education and worship experiences. So to both sides, whether it’s the senior citizens who want to stay with traditional hymns or the fly hipster young couples who are down with CCM, I say, you’re both doing it wrong. I was doing it wrong. I am beginning to find separate worship services, the division between “Contemporary” and “traditional” as bothersome. Blended worship services, where we are able to serve Christ together should be the ideal. I don’t know how far I would go, as a former children’s minister, having a separate service for them could be a good thing, and but the lack of presence of children, thus rendering them invisible, can be seen as bad. I will have to give it more thought, in light of Jesus’ teachings.
So let’s say you’re not blessed to live in the great state of Texas, and live in a state like Maine where there’s like a population of what, 1% PoC? One could say that one’s context does not allow for multi-cultural worship each Sunday. One practical idea could be working with a congregation from a nearby state, that’s minority-majority, and cooperating with them long-term (no, short-term anything in Christianity is a no-no, and yes, I’m referring even to mission trips). Intentionality is important. Don’t know where to start? That’s where denominations are useful that they can perhaps be a mediator in helping to find a good fit (ideally). As I reflect on rebooting my Theology of Worship, I want to explore the ways worship services could be multi-ethnic, inter-generational and hospitable to persons across class differences.