Boxes. There is nothing too exciting about a regular old box. As I type, a number of them are stacked around my office—mainly small packages of hardware and building supplies for our current renovation project.
But then again, we all know that an ordinary cardboard box can become something extraordinary when it is enwrapped in the imagination of a child (or one of the Walker brothers!). A simple box can become a princess castle (trust me, I know), a time machine, or even an ancient village from the Old Testament era (again, I refer you to the Walker brothers).
You know, sometimes worship styles that are labeled “liturgical” and that are patterned with weekly repetitions— like lighting a Christ candle, reciting the Lord’s prayer, and singing the Doxology and Gloria— well, sometimes people feel like worship in this style confines us to a pretty dull box. And, it’s true, with any worship style, we can confine ourselves to boxes that can feel rather dull, ordinary, and lifeless.
But with a little imagination, liturgy, like a cardboard box, can come to life with a kind of joy made possible when the created exhibit attributes of the wonderfully creative God who made us all.
We’ve witnessed a wonderful dose of Godly imagination at work in our worship these last several weeks. We began October with a celebration of World Communion that included gifted percussionists sharing talents with a tambourine and steel pan drum (amazing!). We have been greeted by beautiful altar arrangements like the one Leah Henderson made from vegetables as part of our world hunger emphasis (true, a few children weren’t convinced that broccoli was the proper ingredient to induce worship of thanksgiving, but still…). And this past Sunday, we had an extraordinary morning of worship as we remembered the saints who have gone before us and celebrated life with the living saints who surround us week after week. From children singing, beautiful instrumental music provided by Susan and Sarah, well-known hymns, and an anthem that called us into a time of still, quiet reflection… to a spirited “When the Saints Come Marching In” jazz procession, communion in the Memorial Garden & Columbarium, our a-cappella singing of the Gloria, and the meal and jazz music we shared together on the front lawn. Wow—now that’s taking the liturgical box and coating it with imagination worthy of worship before the God of all creation! It reminds us that we can be both committed to a style of worship rooted in tradition and experience fresh and vibrant expressions of worship that touch not only our minds, but also our hearts and bodies.
All of this good work in worship has stemmed from our monthly Worship Studio gatherings. Everyone is invited to join us on the second Sunday evening of each month at 6:00 in Kelley Hall. We gather for an hour around biblical texts and seasons of the church year to share ideas. I encourage everyone to come with ideas from the arts (music, visual art, literature), with remembrances of UBC’s long traditions, what we have learned from other churches, and a good dose of our own UBC imagination (and we are full of it!). Indeed, much work has already been produced out of our Worship Studio gatherings that will shape our worship in Advent & Christmas—from new hand made banners and decorations to ways of ordering our liturgy and even some creative co-mingling of preaching and carol singing.
Can worship in traditional liturgical patterns feel like living in an old cardboard box? Well sure, it can (and for that matter any style of worship can feel that way). But it doesn’t have to—nor should it. I am thankful for a community willing to work together to shape our worship and turn it into the imaginative, holy work of the people who gather here each and every week.
Have I mentioned lately how much fun I have serving alongside you!