Sunday, January 22, 2006

1000 Names

After a busy day achieving, well I’m not sure what really, I head to the wonderful Rob and Myn’s for a rather excellent roast dinner.

So nice to have finally found time to meet up and catch up like this.

Once the plates had been cleared, you might want to sit down for this...went to church.

Yes folks, for the first time in over a year, I crossed the threshold of a God-bothering emporium on a Sunday. Ok Sanctus1 isn’t your average church, but even so.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of truly contemporary worship; stuff that chimes with my culture rather than forcing me to inhabit the world of bearded 70’s folk singers, sub-standard generic pop or whatever (I’d go with old-style tradition over those hells any day), but something about tonight’s affair didn’t gel.

Using sublime music videos as part of your worship is a grand thing, but it needs to make sense. Whilst the Unkle/Ian Brown video for Reign is mesmerising, the only connection it appeared to have with 1000 Names of God was that it has the two words “I am” in it. Maybe I was missing something...

Music Video Codes By

But similarly, whilst I applaud almost any use of clips from Pulp Fiction, a 3 second bit of ‘swearing’ clumsily tacked onto a remark that we sometimes misuse God’s names…well really what did it add?

I feel reluctant to be even slightly knocking it though – the Sanctus crowd are good, good people and in my limited experience, usually far more ‘on-it’ than tonight would suggest. Elements of the service worked (meditative moments such as thinking up our own names for God were excellent), but others didn’t and tacking any old bit of media onto a theme is no more alternative, successful or culturally congruent than singing a Wesley hymn with a disco beat, or your stereotypical vicar recounting some banile experience and forcing a disconnected conclusion through with the words “and that’s a bit like God isn’t it?’.

Still it’s easy to sit on the sidelines and make such observations. The time and effort that had gone into the service was very evident and I really don’t want to disrespect that. But maybe more time thinking through what the worship is and how to engage everyone with it and less time on the flashy stuff for flashiness sake…?

It also occurs to me that perhaps the service had more meaning for those who had prepared it, than for the ‘audience’ (and the disengagement did make it feel less corporate and more performance than I think was intended). Maybe it was the translation of the concepts that was the problem. It’s common enough that the process of creation is more resonant than the end product. Maybe as the outsider I shouldn’t expect to understand? Maybe the real question is whether or not this is really an act of public worship?

Still as I say, there was good stuff too and most things can be forgiven by the playing of Rufus Wainwright’s haunting Agnus Dei (now that’s an example of secular culture well used).

And to be honest I probably wasn’t in the best of moods…which would possible also explain why the person who approached me (that’s me who has never before been to a Sunday Sanctus1 affair, been to mid-week Sanctus1 a mere handful of times and not for months now) and tried to coerce me onto a tea rota didn’t get an entirely positive reaction. Definitely a sign that I needed to escape to the pub…

But then as we all know...I am a bad person.

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