Saturday, December 19, 2009

Billboards and Christmas

A comment about St. Matthew's in the City's billboard. Firstly, well done! No other church bill board has or will make it on to national news, nor will they provoke the outcry and discussion this one has. They have achieved their aim.

Having said that, I wonder if this really is what I would want to talk about at Christmas. I understand their passion about the theological issue, but it seems to me that of more significance is the celebration of good news coming among us, and what that might mean for individuals, and communities at this point.To be honest it all felt a bit like a well staged publicity stunt, that some groups should have just ignored, rather than attracting more attention to it.

Anyway, here is what the Bishop of Auckland has to say about it all.
The Bishop of Auckland, the Right Reverend John Paterson says there are a multitude of issues for a city and the wider church that he would rather focus on in the season of Christmas than a billboard.
The Bishop is disappointed that St Matthew- in- the-City has decided to continue with the display of a billboard on its church grounds with a replacement billboard.
?Discussion of theological perspectives and diversity is encouraged in a respectful way, but this approach is insensitive to communities across the Anglican Church as well as other denominations,? says Bishop Paterson.
?The season and story of Christmas is one that celebrates the life that is brought by Christ and that is the spirit of Christmas that I seek for the Diocese and the city of Auckland,? says Bishop Paterson.

Monday, December 14, 2009

the flow of worship

I was at a youth service the other week. A youth band from one church did the music, and they were good. Except all the songs were praise songs. Even the last song was a praise song. There is a place for praise songs, it is the beginning of the service. But to have every song praising God felt like it took away from what else was happening in the service. And at the point where we were supposed to be being sent out to join God in mission we again praised God. Somehow musicians need to work out that they are not the centre piece of worship but add to what is happening. The clear message I got was "this is the real worship, everything else just fills the space." I know that is not what the guy leading it does think, but we do need to do better with the choice of music played.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

welcoming God to worship

I was at a service a couple of months ago. The leading musician, or "worship leader" welcomed God to the service at the end of one of the initial set of songs. I have heard this phrase before, and maybe have used it. But what struck me this time was, who are we to welcome God to worship? Isn't worship something God invites us into, and welcomes us to? Isn't God at the center of worship? When we welcome God, suddenly we are the center of the act of worship. We call the shots. It becomes about us!!! and not about God. And then I listened to the songs, and while they talked about how great God is, they all pretty much described God in relationship to the central figures of us. I was surprised by all this, and shocked. It reinforced for me one of the the things I wrote about in my dissertation, that those who have responsibility for leading and organizing worship (in its fullest meaning and not just singing praise songs) need to be biblically and theologically literate, and to have received training and supervision in worship.