The Evolving Church Conference

March 24, 2009

I was reading several blog entries about the conference and thought that I should probably take a few moments to write a post of my own.  Since it seems to have recieved some criticism, I think I might make some comments about the opening worship set.

Firstly, I should tell you that the worship team was put together by its leader – Darryl Silvestri – who is one of the four founders of the Epiphaneia Network.  Besides Darryl there was John (bass), Sarah (vocals), Robyn (violin), Dan (guitar), Dave (guitar), myself (keys) and a drummer (whose name eludes me…sorry 🙂  This was a talented group of vocalists and instrumentalists – influenced by a cross section of musical styles and worship backgrounds.

Secondly I would like to say that I appreciate Darryl’s creative approach to worship.  He enjoys drawing on music which is not typical Christian music and, in some cases, is even borrowed from artists whose music is not written to be used for Christian worship.  He places high value on both musical and thematic flow.  His song choices also, most often, have very through provoking lyrics.  His chord choices are not flashy and his arrangements are not showy.

I would like to comment on the content of the morning worship set.  It had a fair number of accessible songs…and a couple of songs people would probably not have been able to actively participate in.  The theme of the worship set was clearly God’s Power – appropriate for the day,  I would say.   The people were invited to recall the debt of gratitude we owe to Christ and his gracious invitation to us, we transitioned into the themes of God’s greatness and preeminence.  Then we declared Christ’s overcoming death and the grave.  Finally, we sang a song based on Matthew 11:28 – Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.

As someone who appreciates a certain amount of formal liturgical flow, I would have appreciated some scripture lessons, a call to worship – maybe something responsive and a couple of thoughtful prayers.  I think that this also would have been something that a large number of those in attendance would have connected with.  I would also say, in regards to the second set, that the music itself was simply a little too inaccessible.  It was too cutting edge for the crowd.  I’m not sure I would have been able to participate very much in the second set if I hadn’t learned the songs in advance…and I think that, regardless of how thoughtful the song choices are, if people are not able to be a part of what is happening it can quickly turn into a performance (if not for the performers, at least for those listening).  I’m sure that this is not what Darryl really had in mind for the second set.

I would like to say, for those who have been thoughtlessly critical about the morning worship set (either in your wisecrack emails to member of the network, weblogs or general friend to friend chat): work harder when you’re in situations which are not entirely comfortable for you.  Many of my best experiences in worship have been in situations I was not able to immediately connect to the concept or content of the worship.  To lash back in a way which degrades both the performer and the offering is unfair and unbiblical.

I hope the day comes where we see a beautiful marriage of plainsong, all forms of classically inspired music, gospel songs, rock and contemporary genres as well as ethnically inspired songs and multiple-language use in worship.  I hope that the music is performed by orchestras, rock bands, choirs, drum circles and other ethnically inspired music forms.  And I hope that these songs are sung, painted to, danced around, thought about and engaged on many, many levels.

We’re probably not as far from that as we think.  Epiphaneia: I think it would be very forward-thinking to branch out next year during your designated worship sets.  You have what it takes to make this happen.

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