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Progressive Worship And Music


Chuck
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My wife and I have an opportunity to be involved in a progressive church startup. My involvement could be in music and worship. I came back to Christianity about 4 years ago after being away for 20 or so years, and immediatly found a place leading the worship band at a Methodist church. There were many rewards, but I found it ultimately lacking in depth, due partly to conservative leanings of the new minister.

 

Now that we have a "blank slate" in front of us, I'm finding it rather daunting to redefine worship and decide whether it is truly the place for me. So I am curious to find out how other progressive christians approach worship experiences within their churches and communities. This particular church startup is in a high-growth area and would lean away from traditional music, toward about any styles except country and hard rock. My own leaning is to use "non-religious" music to help people find their pathways to God and themselves.

 

I'd appreciate any dialogue around this topic.

 

Thanks,

 

Chuck

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I am a Progressive Christian but I belong to a conservative church for reasons I won't get into. I especially enjoy music that accentuates the importance of community. Songs that center the attention away from self and towards the community of believers and our approach to God. I really like your idea of non religious music. I think we can listen for spirituality in many ways. Good Luck. :)

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I guess a big unknown for me is what kind of messages or experiences to convey via worship time. Evangelical churches typically come at worship from what I call a "hyper-personalized" approach - Jesus love songs or praise songs. My theology is definitely progressive/liberal, with the notion of Christ as much metaphor as reality. So my "message" is more along the lines of helping others experience the Christ-like nature within themselves and the community. So it is more horizontal than vertical. I also have a minimal "God" vocabulary - i.e. I'm not very good at phrases or putting words/deeds in Gods mouth or hands.

 

What I do bring to the table is a lot of musical experience and a sensitivity to what people are feeling. I led the worship band for a few years in a more evangelical church, and even prior to having my own identification with Christianity, could sense what songs should come next and how things flowed. I'm just trying to translate that into a more "progressive" setting.

 

Is anyone else familar with Ken Medema - www.kenmedema.com ? He's been a favorite of mine since I got to work with him in college some years back. He's an incredible musician and manages to reach into deep places. His original profession was as a music therapist, and he certainly brings that sensitivity to concerts and gatherings.

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Hi Chuck,

Our progressive church is in the suburbs of nyc. We are about 60% white and 40% black, hispanic, asian. We started a gospel choir that sings soul, r and b style gospel music. The words are mostly praising Jesus' name, but oddly, the words don't seem to matter. Our people seem to want something to get them moving and to have the energy level raised. The harmonies and movement seem to be much more important.

 

I hope this discussion continues, as I have been floundering around looking for more innovative worship. White Christian praise stuff doesn't work in my church, and I often feel like I am reinventing the wheel.

 

Jack

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The strength obtained in collective spiritual practice can only exalt people to identify with the Christ consciousness within the individual. In a collective consciousness true believers even if they are ordinary men can be liberated temporarily from their personal problems and afflictions. Music does this, but I feel it should be followed by silence because the music will transport one to a very high level so the silence cements and shows the individuals that it is from within and not outside. To come out of the silence music can bring one back in a nice way to then go on to the next celebration. Have fun with your creative inteligence.

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I read a book when I was in college that really changed the way I see worship. It was one author's take on Jeremiah, the prophet. As I was reading the book a strong theme emerged: God wasn't interested in people's sacrifice (in the temple). God was interested in how they lived their lives in relationship to other human beings. The whole love mercy and do justice. Combined with other life experiences I saw that in the bible (particulalry the prophets) that worship -- rather it was a sacrifice in a temple or singing in church Sunday morning -- isn't what God cares about. Worship to God is about taking that message of mercy and justice and putting it into practice. God cares about what we DO, not what we sing. I don't see a Sunday Morning service as worship. I see what we do with our lives from Monday to Saturday as worship to God.

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