By Mark Pierson
Published by sparkhouse press
We have been taught by Hollywood that curators are crusty old men in tweed suits with stern demeanors in the back rooms of museums. But a new generation of worship leaders are taking this term and re-skinning it, and this movement is spearheaded by the practiced insights of pastor and New Zealander, Mark Pierson. “The term curator comes from the Latin curare meaning ‘to care for,’” Pierson notes. In reading we come to understand a worship curator aggregates, shapes, fits, designs, edits, and cares for the art that shapes the worship of a community. They pour over the environment, prayerfully using their tools and unique artistic gifting to infuse and awaken the human sensorium—encouraging worshipers on a journey toward engaging with God. Those willing to take on the title of worship curator expand their role to be much more than the in-house musician (“song leader” is the suggested title for the person we currently know as the “worship leader”). They gather myriad pieces of art and contextualize it for their worshiping community with the intent of inviting participation in the communal event of engaging with God.
The strength of The Art of Curating Worship is not necessarily the ideas; there is nothing new here (the Catholic church has been curating art in the service of worship for a thousand years). It’s the language, and the permission. Pierson helps us put words to what has been bothering many people: worship just has to be more than professionals on stage playing songs and praying as we sit and analyze it. But more than that, he offers a concrete, complete guidebook on becoming a worship curator. The art and role of the worship leader is heightened and enlightened, the beauty of services of worship are transformed and reunited with their original intent. Pierson is attempting to rescue worship from the hold of mass media’s influence on our worship practices, and to this end, he does a wonderful job.
Pierson misses slightly as he underestimates the role of music and singing in worship. He is absolutely dead-on in pointing out the over-emphasis that it has been given in the past two decades. But music and congregational singing has been intimately tied to the Church’s practices since Pentecost; certainly even before the birth of the Church, God’s people were singing his praises. Worship and music are intimately united—they always have been and always will be. Still, the focus on more than music is refreshing. And whether or not The Art of Curating Worship reforms your vocabulary, if it reforms your heart and worship understanding, your worshiping community will benefit and will find reform as well.