Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Seminar - Focus on the Bible and worship

I am at a seminar week in Sydney at the UCA Centre for Ministry, focussing on the Bible and worship. Gordon Lathrop is they keynote speaker, and his reflections on the interface between the shape of the Gospels and the shape of the gathered assembly have been interacting with my reflections on the shaping of the new Christian community that is The Esther Project. 
I'm still not satisfied that the question about what happens when the Gospels aren't proclaimed in a worship event has been answered. Gordon weeps when the Gospels are absent. I wonder if, in the overall life of the worshipping assembly, the Gospels are present, enacted, proclaimed, even if they are not explicitly present in one worship event they are still present and real in the life of that assembly. 
I've become more convinced at the purpose of alternative forms of church engaging with someone who is less convinced, because of his negative encounters with emerging worship. I am really sorry he hasn't had the opportunity to encounter alt.church that does seriously engage with the Biblical narrative, that does honour the tradition, that in its engaging with the communication forms of our culture takes those forms of communication and twists them and uses them to communicate the radical and transforming message of the Sacred Story. This is what emerging church in my experience aims to do. 
I have been pondering the PhD I propose to do, developing a performance hermeneutic that offers a method for interpreting the text in order to communicate it effectively - what about developing a method for interpreting the text in order to live the story in our individual and gathered lives? I wonder if this might be too much - trying to explore the ways we communicate the Sacred Story in our gathered worship spaces, and also the ways we live out the story in our everyday lives in the world. But perhaps the two are intertwined? A new friend expressed concern at the use of the word 'performance' in relation to the worship event, and that's a fair enough concern. But performing is also what we do when we carry out a task - we perform it. And I think that both elements of the term 'perform' are present in the proclamation of the text in the gathered worship. 
And I wonder if what I am proposing is pointless - shouldn't all hermeneutical approaches be about interpreting the text in order to communicate it? I don't know. I think that hermeneutical approaches are tools for interpreting the text for the interpretation, for the making meaning for our time, not specifically for the purpose of proclaiming it in a gathered assembly. And it is this for which I have a concern - how we communicate the text in our gathered assemblies effectively, using the language of our culture, honouring the oral nature of the texts as they were formed. 
This is some of the thinking the first two days of this seminar week have produced - I wonder what will emerge from the next two? 

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