For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt
This is my first blog for the online worship course I am taking (see the above lengthy subtitle that will herald each of these posts). There is a plethora of reading, listening and watching to do each week which is enjoyable, but after a few days of this input, it sort of gets muddled in my head for two reasons: first, because I inexplicably just don't remember specific details about things that I read or hear after a few days, and secondly, I am also taking several university courses at the same time and there is only so much my brain can process and hold! For this reason, I take notes and try to write down the things that strike me as important.
But there are some things that do not have to be written down; they are the things that impact me in a deep way and that often hit me like a good, refreshing slap just when I need it or a warm cup of soup in the middle of a cold and lonely day. They can be phrases of hope, the glimpses of glory, and the flashes of truth that make my soul quiver with life, recognising that this is exactly what I have been looking for. It may be a convicting shudder, or an obvious fact that makes me blink twice, or a new way of blending human and divine with a beauty that takes my breath away.
This week it was a simple sentence uttered by Brenton Brown during the webinar last Wednesday. Many interesting things were said and it was all good, but the sentence that screamed out at me (and I am paraphrasing quite liberally here because I didn't take notes on this!) was when he said that he loves the awkward worship times, those small groups where no one has a guitar and you start to sing a song and no one really sings out with you and if they do, it isn't pretty. Yep, been there, done that, don't want to do it again. Except that when Brenton said it this time, I really DID want to do it again, because I glimpsed the simple beauty of it. Without instruments, all we have to bring is ourselves and our voices, that most vulnerable of offerings for musicians and non-musicians alike. There is no fancy picking to hide behind and get our cues from. There is no clear-cut arrangement that puts everyone at ease because they know what to expect. And at that moment, this nakedness of worship was what I was longing for.
So that night at home group, without any musical aids whatsoever, I started to sing. It was the chorus of a fairly well-know song and I sang it slowly and for once in my life, unself-consciously. It was a gift I was offering to God - to do the thing that put me at my most uncomfortable so that nothing got between the words, the voices, the hearts and our God. Others joined in and we struggled with some words and some pauses and some notes being too low, but nobody seemed to care. I looked around the room at one point and saw people that usually find it hard to engage with God leaning back with eyes closed and a visage of peace on their face.
Sometimes we set out to make beautiful and skilled music and that is pretty much what we end up with. That night, I don't know if any of us were thinking about the music. I was thinking that this amazing being that I call God, far from being diminished by a group of scratchy and humble voices, shines brighter whenever humanity bares itself.
This is a photo that isn't so great of me and is really good of the fire. And that's the point.