Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Follow-up from last Sunday - Stop and hear the music

Hi all - last Sunday I used a few video/visual elements in church. I'm thankful for people like Gordon who take time to make things work! We had no tech problems - a wonderful feat given the fact that this was our first attempt. Aaron did an amazing job with the visual offertory. When we have it linked to the music I'll post it.

The bulk of my sermon centered on this clip from a concert that violinist Joshua Bell gave in a DC metro station a few years ago during rush hour. This article gave background information

I drew a metaphor between Bell showing up in an unexpected place/time to give a free, beautiful concert and God, showing up in unexpected places/times to give us peace, joy, inspiration and love.

I noted that in contrast to the obviousness of the Angel Gabriel's visit to Mary, most of us, most of the time, encounter God in less direct ways. God comes to us more like a busker in the metro than an angel who tells us our future.

Key points:
5) God's presence sometimes captures people's attention by surprise (one man who had never appreciated classical music found himself transformed by just 3 minutes of listening).
4) God's presence is often ignored (most people (over 1000) passed by without pausing. Understandably, they all had to get to work and they didn't know they were in the presence of greatness).
3) When people start to notice God's presence, they inspire others. (One woman stopped because she recognized Bell. As she stood and watched, others naturally joined).

I first heard of this Bell concert at a conference. The speaker used it to point out that people no longer know how to recognize beauty. While that might be true, it strikes me as an unfair judgment. I think most people are just busy and stressed and too tired to notice the grace all around. We're a people in need of sabbath. So here are two final points:

2) Even in the craze of the days before Christmas, you do have time to stop and rest in God's presence.
1) Even if you don't take time to stop or notice, God is still there, playing on.

Wishing you peace and joy and a moment of obvious grace in these last days of Advent
- Pr Sarah

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What's Advent smell like? (When are you most aware of God's presence?)

I'm excited and nervous for our worship service at 8:30 on Sunday.

The service will focus on the annunciation: the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary. The sermon and offertory will incorporate the congregation's responses to the question

"When are you most aware of God's presence?"

I've been collecting answers for a couple of weeks. Feel free to respond if you haven't already!

The answers have been varied and surprising. Each time I read a new one I feel as if I've just been given a precious gift.

We're going to use video clips during the sermon (including a clip from Angels in America, pictured here).

The offertory will include visual elements along with the music. We're using projection, but not as a replacement for the bulletin or just to project a power point slideshow.

We're doing it to give people a different way to engage in worship. A few artists in the congregation from the Savannah College of Art and Design are helping.

Our musician will play some music under some of the prayers in order to tie together the overall service. I'm not sure how these changes will be received but I am excited. I love this stuff.

I've been trying to figure out when I first got excited about innovation in worship. I trace it back to the influence of Siobhan Garrigan, the Dean of our Chapel in Divinity School. Daily worship was something of worship laboratory. We got to experiment with forms and language; song and silence. I learned about the multi-sensory tradition of worship. I also saw how tradition and innovation could go hand in hand.

So, what's with the orange slices?

One worship service that has never left me was an advent service that was creative and traditional. I recall nearly everything about it: rich purple and orange colors draped throughout the sanctuary; intimate lighting; music in minor keys; a sermon by John Hare about making the place you are a home.

I also remember the smell: orange. Orange oil and orange slices filled the air with a citrus scent. Is that why I can recall the rest of service so well?

When a variety of senses are engaged, you remember things better. If nothing else, I hope this Sunday's 8:30 service will help people remember that God appears in all sorts of ways - often right under our noses. I'm not sure we can pull off a scent this weekend. Maybe for epiphany? What scent would go with epiphany?

The orange slice painting is from artist Patti Mollica, found online using a search for "orange slices." I was really drawn to the painting and hope she doesn't mind the promo.

Ten for Ten. Ten reasons it's great to be a pastor, in celebration of my 10 year anniversary of ordination.

I'm in there somewhere. I was ordained at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington DC on November 10, 2007, ten years ago today. ...