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Releasing the Poets: A Call to Nurture Creativity in Worship

Releasing the Poets: A Call to Nurture Creativity in Worship

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Releasing the Poets: A Call to Nurture Creativity in Worship

The image of Andrea Bocelli, standing alone on the steps of a deserted Milan Cathedral on April 19, singing the simple yet profound words of “Amazing Grace,” has captivated millions on YouTube. This performance, though not formally part of a worship service, resonated deeply in a time of global fear and uncertainty, exemplifying the profound impact worship can have. Similarly, when President Barack Obama sang “Amazing Grace” in Charleston, South Carolina, following a tragic church massacre, the audience joined in, creating a moment of collective healing and unity. These instances highlight the “why” of worship—our intrinsic need to seek solace and express our emotions through song and creative expression.

The Why of Worship

We gather in worship as broken and hurting people, seeking healing through Scripture, teaching, and the fellowship of friends. But most importantly, we come together to sing our prayers to God. While the truth of Scripture and the encouragement from our pastors and friends are vital, it is the song that moves and inspires us, awakening our imaginations and drawing us closer to God. This is why, in times of trauma and pain, we must pray for God to raise up not only prophets to speak truth but also artists and poets to inspire hope and courage.

Discovering Your Community’s Worship Story

Begin the journey by understanding the stories and culture of your congregation. Take time to listen to the experiences of long-time members, recent joiners, and children who have grown up in the church. Discover your congregation’s history and what draws people to it. This initial phase, even if conducted over Zoom, will provide invaluable insights into what makes your community unique. No effort to renew worship will succeed without a deep understanding of your congregation’s identity.

Reflecting on Worship

The next step is to reflect on worship itself. Through sermon series, Sunday forums, or small groups, delve into the elements of worship, the tradition your church represents, and its contributions. Study Scripture to understand how worship developed in the early Christian community and consider the earliest creeds and hymns. Recognize that liturgy—the order of worship including prayers, songs, and scripture readings—shapes us week by week. This is the responsibility of the entire congregation, not just the pastors or worship leaders.

Expanding Your View: Listening to the Culture

As part of a larger community, it is crucial to understand how your worship reflects or interacts with the surrounding culture. Explore how your neighborhood has changed and its specific characteristics and needs. Historically, liturgy and culture have influenced each other. Churches that have prayerfully listened to their culture often experience renewal and, in turn, impact the culture around them. Consider the Psalms in Calvin’s Geneva, the choruses of the Great Awakenings, Black Spirituals, and modern Praise Music. These innovations connected deeply with their communities and sparked renewal in both church and culture.

Opening the Gates to Creative Space

To truly release the poets, churches must create spaces for creativity in worship and imagination, especially for younger members. Ask them about their music preferences, movies, and even platforms like TikTok. Worship thrives when it embraces creative expressions from all generations. Theologians and artists from the Middle Ages to the Great Awakenings have shown how art and theology can intertwine, influencing both worship and popular culture. In my own church, we blend Bach, hymns by John Wesley, and Spirituals, ensuring that our worship is enriched by diverse artistic contributions.

Dreaming Out Loud: Re-imagining Worship

The final step is to re-imagine worship for your specific community. This should be a culmination of reflection, prayer, and ongoing conversations among all members. Nurture spaces where poets and artists can create lyrics, images, and dramatic dialogues that lift hearts in praise to God. By following this thoughtful process, your congregation can find inspiration for deeper worship, akin to Andrea Bocelli’s moving performance on the steps of the Milan Cathedral.

Conversations that Awaken Re-formation in Your Congregation

  • What does Scripture say about worship?
  • How did worship develop in the earliest Christian communities?
  • What are the earliest creeds and hymns in the New Testament?
  • What is the tradition your church represents, and what are its unique contributions?
  • What elements of worship are distinctive in your church?
  • What makes your congregation special?
  • What do people love about your church’s life and worship?
  • What different styles and ideas of worship exist in your congregation?
  • What sparks engagement with God in your worship services?
  • What hidden gifts in your congregation could ignite worship?
  • How does your worship reflect the surrounding community?
  • How has your neighborhood changed, and what are its needs?
  • Are there innovations in worship that could connect with your community’s longings?
  • What kind of music do different members of your congregation listen to?
  • How can you create space for creativity in worship across generations and preferences?
  • How do you envision worship being re-formed in your midst?

As you embark on this journey, may your congregation find new ways to be inspired and to inspire, fostering a worship environment where all can connect deeply with God.

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More Articles to Check Out:

Why Does Visual Imagery Belong in the Church?

Unlocking the Power of Inspired Phrases and Melodies in Worship Songwriting

Suggested Reads:

Webber on Worship Volume 1

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52 Devotions from the Psalms

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