June 28, 2006

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The Contemporary Desert Everyone wants heightened spirituality, but don’t know what it takes to get there. Most pastors and worship leaders have such a hectic schedule that it is impossible to slowdown enough for quiet time or solitude. Yet the Apostolic Fathers of faith placed a high value on it. If leaders have a problem with carving out quiet moments can you imagine what the congregation is feeling? Jonny Baker and Doug Gay’s Alternative Worship: Resources from and for the Emerging Church, provides a “ritual” that contextualizes the spiritual practice of being in the desert that can be used as part of a worship service, small group gathering, or as teaching illustration. Items needed: Removed Van seat, a boom box, selection of CD’s (ideally instrumental), a video projector and VCR. Video tape a drive down the highway, even being stuck in traffic, or driving through the city. Description: Traveling in a car is the closest thing for most people get to solitude. “Setting up this ritual will hopefully help people to reflect positively on the space they have next time they are driving alone in the car” (Baker and Gay, Alternative Worship, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, 86) Baker and Gay suggest setting up a station that simulates driving in a car. The guests will receive an instruction sheet encouraging them to use this time to listen to music, reflect and pray. You would set up the van/car seats facing a screen. Place the boom box or a Discman personal CD play with headsets on the seat. The listener can select the music that they would like to listen to. Project the driving video onto the screen from behind the seats, which will simulate a car ride. The goal is that every time they take a drive, they can positively connect this space with an opportunity to connect with God and creating a contemporary desert experience.
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Wading by the Water: Orderly Ardor Here is an idea to strengthen you experience of baptismal renewal. Take a walk! This may not sound very revolutionary, but any movement at all in my congregation carries the threat of something going awry. Our large mainline congregation typically restricts its movement to arriving, standing, sitting, and departing. Now we are about to take a walk together past the baptismal waters as a sign of remembrance and renewal. We are about to reflect together upon the story of Peter walking on water. His first steps brought the threat of sinking. Our steps bring the threat of tripping over someone’s walker or stepping on a neighbor’s foot. – As the pastor receiving Monday morning quarterbacking, I’m not sure which is scarier! Placed in the context of Peter’s walk, our congregational journey will be just a token of the faithful risk we are called to share. Members will bring their offerings forward as they physically move toward the front of the sanctuary. (I’m told there are some African communities where this act of offering is the most joyful and powerful part of the service!) Upon placing their offering (and their heart!) before the Lord, they will pass the baptismal waters and be given opportunity to touch the water and remember God’s claim on their lives. Children will be baptized at the start of our worship service. This exercise will be placed after the proclamation of the Word. It will be a remembrance of the baptismal act that further invites the congregation into the sacrament that was shared. Peter’s success came when his eyes were fixed on Christ. The challenge for us will be to lead with words of comfort and assurance that empower the congregation to take this minor risk of ardor. When we structure the event with order, it will become a moment of welcome and hospitality for the congregation to renew their spiritual life together. Our congregation may not be filled with folks courageous enough to wade “in” the water. However, this wading “by” the water should be invitation enough to remember who they are. The serigraph above is entitled "The River" by John August Swanson. View his work at www.johnaugustswanson.com.

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