I’ve been cooking this up for quite a while. Many know that my particular church’s context involves two services on Sunday, unique in musical style yet similar in liturgy. Many also know my passion for traditional worship as well as modern worship. I’m always looking for ways to bridge them, and I’m especially looking for ways to tastefully import elements of traditional worship into the modern worship grid. One of the ways is, of course, my setting of old hymns to new music. But I’ve also been doing a little liturgical experimentation. I will launch a new experiment in early 2010. I’m going to import a beautiful tradition we’ve already set in our classical service, and then amplify it a bit.
I’m in the middle of writing a modern worship-styled song* that will accompany a very traditional act to take place at the very beginning of the service. We call it “The Entrance of the Word,” taken from the Scottish Presbyterian tradition of walking in with the Bible, open-faced, down the aisle as a symbolic reminder that we approach God only through the mediation of the Living Word (Christ) as revealed in the Written Word (Scripture). We hope also to flank the person carrying the Bible in each week with two acolytes—older children who can light our candles as the Word is placed on its stand, to symbolize (a) the illumination the Scriptures bring and (b) Christ, the Light of the World, is the only mediator between us and the Father (1 Tim 2:5). I’ve been consulting some of my Lutheran and Catholic friends to gain proper perspective on the acolyte piece as well as to figure out some of the logistics.
Personally, I love the juxtaposition of something which looks quite stately, “high church,” and traditional with a bold, rockin’, modern worship entrance song. Some might find it jarring and odd. But perhaps that’s just because we’ve always viewed traditional acts and symbols as incongruous with modern sounds and instrumentation. I, for one, will continue to be a sounding board for more and more of these traditional-meets-modern ideas, because I continue to sense that such a confluence of worship streams strikes a chord with the sojourners in our postmodern world…and I’m speaking of Christians and non-Christians.
*Interesting songwriting side note here: This entrance song has evolved into something pretty awesome. It began in my head with a simple opening line: “By Your Word alone, our eyes have seen Your salvation.” I tried to write a song about how the Word of God leads us into worship. It just wasn’t working. So I looked at that opening phrase and noticed that it was an application of one of the “solas” of the Reformation: sola Scriptura. I started walking down that path and sought to offer four more roughly parallel phrases which would then draw out sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, and soli Deo gloria. It worked really well! The net effect is I have a nearly complete song, which I’m calling simply “Sola,” which will be a marvelous tool of educating our congregation on core biblical principles. This is a pastor’s dream! (And, it will make a marvelous opening track on our 2011 album, too. 😉 )
Love amped up symbolic traditions, but I’ll have to eventually draw the line at kissing Orthodox icons. It’s just not my bag. ; )
Having spent the first half of my life worshiping God as a Catholic and now as an Evangelical Presbyterian, I am intrigued by your adding the acolytes and your song to service next year! Merry Christmas!