Consolidation and Basic Principles

As I travel back up to Durham I can see the sun setting and flashing colours across the sky. Great worship has led me to re-appreciate the God who created us. I have spent tonight in the wonderful company of a community in York, who started life as a Pioneer Fresh Expression led by a colleague at college. The community has started to consolidate and grown from an outreach into an established community. It’s great to see a storng community which started off by one man and his God now heading towards maturity.

I was invited to go and speak to them about the vision for theatre and church. In preparation for it I had to consolidate what I’ve been wrestling with over the last couple of months. This is such an important stage in any journey and ministry. When I arrived i had no idea which part of my thoughts would ‘hit home’.

It turned out that what I spent most of the time discussing is how theatre can be used in church as worship. This surprised me because most of my thoughts have been about how theatre does church not how can church do theatre. The congregation were a varied bunch some with no or little experience of ‘real’ theatre and others, who I know, that have huge amounts of knowledge.

I started by telling my testimony and a brief explanation of why I am like I am. Then moved onto talking about theatre in worship and why churches shouldn’t do theatre for the sake of doing theatre. I offered an understanding of gifting in the Chruch and how we shouldn’t treat theatre/drama any less than playing music or preaching or counselling. You need the gifts to go with the ministry. I talked about being honest with what God has gifted you in and how best He wants to use them.

I then offered them a suggestion of how theatre can be used in worship and performed a scene from the Noah service I ran at the beginning of term… (I haven’t published that blog post on this website, have I? If you’re interested I can send it to you. You jsut have to ask!) I led into it by getting them to question what they thought the Noah story was about for them, to start asking questions of the basic teaching of the story in order to find life for them. The worship band sang two songs and I entered the space as Noah. I performed a scene on the ark where Noah has gone through with what God asked and now he’s been left with the silence of God. Noah is a broken man and is struggling to understand what was going on. At the end of the story the band led into another song where people had a chance to just sit and reflect and listen to God and how he may have spoken to them.

Apart from the lack of deep praying and planning about the choice of songs I think the demonstration was useful and powerful. One lady approached me and opened up to me about her struggles which she had been spoken to from the worship. I think people, generally were led to a deeper understanding of the story and how God might be working in their own lives. It was great to try out this sstyle of worship with theatre and made me think about how far this can be used.

One question that did come up was how do churches experience this without any ‘trained’ actors? It’s great if you have the gifts but what if you don’t? The same applies to musicians. Someone may be able to play an instrument but it doesn’t mean they can lead worship. There are, also, some churches that don’t have ‘good’ musicians, how do they sing out praises and get led into worship? When it comes to music, my answer would be you don’t need to have live musicians. If the musicians you have are more of a distraction than a help then use a CD or simplify (I’m not a musician so I don’t know if that works.) With theatre what are the options? I think the solution is two-fold. Firstly ministers need t be empowered and equipped to support and discern gifting in theatre. They need to be aware of the power of theatre and to be honest about what is blessed and what is just good because they’ve learnt some lines. Secondly, actors, or people interested in drama, need to be pushed and challenged by models of good drama worship.

I think it may start by offering, at college, a seminar or session on good theatre practise so that those leaving into ministry can have some tools in their pocket to help and encourage good drama worship; to give them good resources and encouragement to support performers and challenge them. Secondly, I’d like to talk to Riding Lights about what they can do in terms of supporting ministries across the UK. They may not be interested but it’d be good to dream some big vision up with them and see what comes of it.

Sorry this isn’t a poetic end to a blog but I can’t compete with the marvellous God who created this light and this sky and who has walked me on a path of excitement and freshness. Having a time to look back over my journey with God is amazing and encouraging and to be released to get excited about the ministry ahead…God has plans! Great plans!!

One comment

  1. I think that the use of creative arts in church, be it theatre, music, painting, sculpture etc. is something that will always need to be held in tension. We must strive to attain the highest quality we can, yet remain open to people experimenting and growing through doing, whilst protecting the integrity of our worship by the need to reach a minimum standard of quality. Music retains an accessibility where the gifted can be used to mask the less able, whilst maintaining a quality required for public worship. I guess theatre sometimes needs to retain an exposure of performers which is less forgiving, but how does one balance the willing, open hearted worshipper who's technical ability falls behind? Would a church using theatre as its principal mode of worship need to lower expectations of its performers to maintain open worship?I'm not sure I have an answer, but its certainly an interesting question!

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