My last two posts (here and here) focused on the liturgical structure for Lent at Pilgrims. This post focuses on analyzing our liturgy through theory and method. I'm not going to evaluate what worked, what didn't work. These next two posts is about looking at Pilgrims Lenten liturgy through a conceptual lens (note: I try to keep my posts to 500 words, hence two posts for analysis). Here goes:
Improv: Improvisation is the artistic method that creates a state of saying "yes....and." Improv involves intuition, and spontaneity. It has structure to create safety in order to take risks. It involves making things from what is at hand, making something out of nothing. Improv is comedy. It's jazz. It's hip hop. It's cooking. It's theater. It's parenting. It's MacGyver and the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew (go, 70's!) fighting the bad guys.
It isn't just one thing--it's many things. Though, I guess, it really isn't a thing. It's a process. It's a way of making and creating.
We had lots of improv in our liturgy during Lent. We used an improv game to create a primary experience of improv. After the storyteller told the Gospel by heart, we did a Biblical tableau. People were invited to call out a particular moment in the story (structure: particular moment in the story) and come up in front of the sanctuary and strike a pose (improv) that reflects that moment. Then others came up and shaped out with their bodies their own interpretation of that biblical moment. One rule (structure)--had to be touching each other via hand, foot, shoulder. Bodies had to touch.
The Biblical story came to life in front of us through risk-taking, vulnerability, and saying "yes" to the invitation to build. Those are in and of themselves Biblical values. Improv creates space for the Holy Spirit to be seen, touched, and experienced.
Deconstructing Power: Power and liturgy go hand-in-hand. Liturgy can affirm hierarchical, dominating, and life-sucking, can't-afford-food-for-my-kids power. Liturgy demands relational power--the kind that creates space for people to connect and feel their own capacity to create Holy change. Deconstructing power means dismantling constructed sources of power.
Like improv, deconstructing power came in lots of ways in our liturgy. One way was moving the furniture out of the way.
Read this post for background. Goodbye pulpit. Hello small, rickety communion table. Hello trying to figure out where to place your body in the space. Liturgical furniture is one way of creating a border--a marking point between preacher and people, liturgist and folk, communion and all who share.
Jeff preached note-less sermons. He moved mindfully around while preaching. I was sick the Sunday I preached. I sat in a chair as close as possible to the front pews. Liturgists stood without the pulpit and had to decide where to stand and place themselves. Gospel storytellers had room to move. We started the call to worship from the back of the sanctuary, at the font, and moved up the aisle to our crosses.
A pulpit gives a visual anchor it also grounds energy, spirit, and power in one place. Our bodies are in one shape behind the pulpit--standing. The power source is located in one spot. During Lent, our bodies were all over the sanctuary, creating and symbolizing power in it's most shared, relational existence. The is the power of the Gospel stories during Lent.