Saturday, March 24, 2012

Wholistic Worship

Browsing through various blogs yesterday I came across this post. I'd actually like to hear more of Rachel's own thoughts and experience on wholistic worship, but what she wrote about the book intrigued me enough to add it to my potential reading list. I think she, and the authors of the book she writes about, are on to an important aspect of Christian life and a significant weakness in most Protestant experience. We have so centralized the preaching and teaching of the word (written small, because to me the Word written large refers to Jesus, the living Word), we have so intellectualized worship, that we have robbed it of much of its richness. Essentially in many of our churches and worship services we have accepted a dualism that places the mind or spirit above the body, as if God didn't create our bodies as well as our spirits and minds. 

This brings us into contact with the whole issue of our theology of the body (i.e. physical body, not the Body as in the Church), which I'm not going to try to address at this time. Suffice it to say, as many others have said better than I could, that Christians in general and evangelical American Christians in particular are really uncomfortable with our bodies. Our practical theology shows that we view them as something temporary and expendable, when in fact, as N.T. Wright reminds us, they are the forerunners to the resurrection bodies we will be given. We will not be raised just as spirits. In some form we will have bodies in God's future kingdom.

I attend a church that places the focus of the worship service on the sermon and, quite frankly, I wish it were not so. I'm not saying there's no place for reflecting on the Book. But when 45 minutes out of 90 is spent on that, it tells us that we don't really think the other aspects of worship are very important. Yes, we do some singing, though not nearly enough, and some praying, though also not enough and generally exclusively from the front, but we do little or nothing that engages my eyes, my sense of touch, my sense of taste (except on communion Sundays, and then it's a very paltry offering) or my sense of smell. There's nothing visual to captivate me. It's as if we're afraid of the senses. Or maybe we just lack the creativity to find ways to incorporate the full body into worship. I admit that I'm weak on ideas, but I know there are others who could easily generate some good ones.

The Orthodox churches don't suffer from this problem. In this post I described my experience visiting on a single day an Orthodox and a Protestant church in Finland. I really like and appreciate this aspect of Orthodoxy, that they worship with all their senses. There are other aspects that I cannot accept and keep me from becoming Orthodox (also not the topic of today's discussion.) But I think we could learn from our Orthodox brothers and sisters in this area. I'd certainly like to see us explore a more wholistic spirituality. 

What is your experience of wholistic worship? How does your worship community engage in worshiping God? What do you like about it and what would you like to see changed? How can we more creatively and fully worship God with all our senses?

1 comment:

  1. One of the fun things about being Quaker is that the focus of our worship is always on the experience of the living Word. We do read from the Bible, but the act of listening to what Jesus/God might have to say to us right now is always the centerpiece of worship.

    However, like many churches, we don't engage all of the senses at the highest levels and I do think we miss opportunities when we don't worship with more of our full selves.