Proskuneo Christos

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Oh wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Weekly Report 10

Ben Robinson
Weekly Report #10
11-27-05 through 12-4-05
"Helping Serve Communion"

This week I also had the wonderful opportunity to help serve communion. I was excited yes also somewhat apprehensive. The Eucharist is a sacrament which is highly significant and very powerful. I believe in the historically orthodox position that grace is communicated through the act. I believe an ordained minister should give the blessing over the elements but that it is fine for a lay-person to help serve the elements.

Some of my contemporaries disagree with me on this last point. They feel that it is fine for a lay-person to conduct an entire communion service because they themselves have at times done so and the service "was meaningful to all of us." When is the theoligical accuracy of a ritual determined by how "meaningful" it feels to the person participating in the act? Can our emotions not deceive us? Can we find something meaningful even if it was done with little respect to the act? I think so. Can God work in the same way through communion by means of a lay-person? Yes. But the question is really not whether God can but whether God will. It is clear that God has chosen to work in various ways in this world, some ways that are very specific. I am not supposing a blind sacerdotal approach to the Eucharist but I do believe that for such acts as sacraments God predominantly works through ordained ministers.

Certainly there may be exceptions, particularly when there is no ordained minister available (i.e. some middle eastern countries). However, exceptions are exactly that; exceptions. We should not make them the rule.

The experience itself was quite beneficial, even if I disagree with the theological position of my practicum church. I brought the juice around to the congregants. Communion was served by means of passing the elements. While this is also not my preferred method of serving communion, the experience still was valuable because I was able to be in the role of one serving his brothers and sisters.

Through this practicum I learned that the theology behind our praxy is very important. I also saw, though, the power that the Eucharist has to bind together congregants as a community. Communion seems to inspire in a community a change in perspective. Thanks be to God for His grace.

Weekly Report 9

Ben Robinson
Weekly Report #9
11-27-05 through 12-4-05
"Praying During Service"

I had the wonderful opportunity to lead the congregation in prayer this Sunday. I prayed the invocation as well as a simple prayer asking for God's providence in the situations that those in the congregation are going through. I decided to use an invocation that I had previously submitted for class. It is as follows:

Holy and ever present God! We acknowledge Your transcendence and rejoice in both it and Your promise of immanence. Open our hearts and our minds, that we may gladly receive that which You have spoken and continue to speak. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I have found that I much prefer a "scripted" prayer over "spontaneity." Perhaps years of prayer being ushered as spontaneous babbling has conditioned me to be attracted to prayers that contain theological merit. The way a church prayers reflects the attitudes and depth of its people. I want to be part of a congregation which is seeking to not just know what they believe, but understand what they believe. I have found that often we say the right things without knowing what we are actually saying. This is a serious problem that the evangelical church is going to have to confront very soon.

As a result of this practicum, I learned that prayer is crucial to a service. It not only displays the character of the congregation but most importantly calls upon the Holy Spirit to be the present and driving force behind a service.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Weekly Report 8

Ben Robinson
Weekly Report #8
11-20-05 through 11-26-05
"Discussion on Communion"

This practicum I actually accomplished last week but used it for my practicum experience this past week.

I had a discussion with my practicum advisor regarding communion. I asked him about the methodology and theology behind the practice at College Wesleyan Church. He informed me that College Wesleyan serves communion every two months, although in the Cathedral service it is served weekly. The main method of serving the communion is by passing the elements among the congregation. The method used in the Cathedral service is that of intinction.

My advisor explained to me that the reason they serve communion so irregularly in the main service is because it is viewed as merely symbolic. I found this quite disturbing for two reasons; 1) the Wesleyan Church as a denomination views communion as a sacrament and believes grace is communicated; 2) theologically I am very opposed to viewing communion as a mere symbol or ordinance and find this rejection of historical orthodoxy to be a serious error.

How can a local church be affiliated with a denomination if it does not share the theological convictions of that denomination? Does the church simply not know the position of the larger church polity? Or is it okay for the local church to vary slightly in theological matters? Is it okay for a local church to vary on such a serious theological doctrine?

Whatever your answers to the previous questions I feel they need to be adequately addressed by each and every one of us as pastor-theologians. I learned from this practicum that denominational affiliation does not necessarily dictate praxy and that that is an issue which requires further unpacking.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Weekly Report 7

Ben Robinson
Weekly Report #7
11-13-05 through 11-19-05
"Video Camera"

I had the privilege of operating the video camera during both services this past Sunday. Basically, I showed up knowing absolutely nothing about how to run a camera but did it anyway. It’s really not that hard, but nonetheless I was clueless about the technical aspects.

Initially there was a problem with the video feed. Someone had unplugged an important cord and therefore the video camera was not being fed to the various venues operating at College Wesleyan. Unfortunately the techies were not there this past Sunday and so we had to fool around trying to figure out how to get the camera to work. We successfully connected the video feed but then were not receiving any audio. Eventually that was solved as well and I was off and running taping the service.

Another glitch occurred when I realized how hard the camera was turning. The camera pivots on a stand but it was now turning very smoothly and so every time I moved the camera it would stick and create a jumpy motion for the audience viewing in the various venues. Eventually someone came and showed me how to “unlock” the pivot portion so that the camera moved smoothly. Like I said, not only do I not have any technical knowledge about these things but also no one really showed me what I was doing when I first arrived. So I was flying by the seat of my pants.

The second service went much more smooth and I was able to video tape without many problems. One of the things that concerned me was how dependent we are on technology in many of our church services. If the tech fails, the service is in trouble. In fact, if the tech fails in College Wesleyan the other venues will receive no sermon at all. Can we really put that much trust in our technology? Technology can certainly aid us in our ministry endeavors but I am wary of when it becomes the foundation upon which our services rest. A service should be able to function with or without the technology.

I did learn that if you are going to be as dependent on technology as College Wesleyan is you had better make sure you have people around who understand that technology. We had no one, and we struggled to prepare things in time for the service. If you like technology have plenty of techies.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Weekly Report 6

Ben Robinson
Weekly Report #6
"Scripture Reading"

For my practicum I helped Dr. Schenck by reading scripture in the Cathedral service. The Cathedral service is a liturgical service held in College Wesleyan’s chapel during the 9:00 service time. I read an Old Testament passage, a New Testament epistle, and a Gospel reading. Considering my great love for liturgy this practicum was one which I enjoyed quite a bit.

I have begun to listen more carefully to the manner in which we read Scripture during a service. The reality is that the way Scripture is presented does determine in the part the receptivity of the congregation. Therefore, I attempted to read Scripture similar to the manner in which we had been taught in class. I made sure to emphasize different parts and to know where I was headed in the text. I enjoy reading the text in a service and felt that overall it went quite well. I was not nervous and because the service is liturgical I knew right when I would be reading.

While Scripture is a means of grace I believe that we at times hinder the reception of grace when we do not adequately approach the text. Scripture reading is not a small task and should be treated with reverence and awe. The power within the Scripture is not to be mishandled and is no to be underestimated. We should not flippantly approach the text and should always view the reading of Scripture as crucial to a service.

From this experience I learned that people appreciate the reading of Scripture in our services and that the manner in which a reader presents the Scriptures does determine in part the response from the congregation.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Weekly Report 5

Ben Robinson
Weekly Report #5

I had a great experience this past weekend. On Sunday morning I was a greeter at College Wesleyan Church. It was by no means a difficult task but it was meaningful. I’ll admit that at times I did get tired of saying, "Good morning!" And I also got a paper cut from handing out the bulletins as the congregation arrived. But in general I truly enjoyed it. As I would greet the morning crowd they would smile and usher quick thanks my way for simply being there. So I smiled, said hello, shook hands, and handed them sheets of paper that would allow them to better understand College Wesleyan and the activities surrounding the church. Eventually I began to realize that I recognized very few faces. I am not deeply entrenched in College Wesleyan and therefore I was not surprised by this but it did cause me to reflect upon a comment Brennan had made when he was greeting.

Brennan mentioned that he was surprised to see many faces that he did not recognize, even in his small church! I feel that a congregation should be exactly that: a congregation. In other words a congregation knows one another and is involved in the lives of one another. Certainly not everyone can be involved in the lives of each person within that church, but there is a necessity for community in churches. It is too easy to succumb to lone-ranger Christianity in which a person rushes into church slightly tardy with the kids and then whisks his/her way out without saying much more than a brief hello to another congregant.

The truth is that there is no such thing as lone-ranger Christianity. Well, there is, but it quickly fades away. I don’t see it plausible for a person to be a Christian without the Church. Dr. Drury wrote of this as an attempt to "behead" Christ. We can’t have Jesus without the Church (the Church universal that is, catholic, holy, apostolic). It is within the Church as a Body, as a community, that God has chosen primarily to work. The Church practices the sacraments, which are a means of grace whereby God transforms and molds us. St. Cyprian went as far as to say, "If one does not have the Church as his mother, he cannot have God as his Father."

All this to say that I feel as if there must be a way in which we can encourage a greater depth of community within our congregations. I want to recognize faces, and I want to know that the people I am greeting recognize me too. This week I learned that greeting is not a difficult task, but it is meaningful and is a great way to immediately communicate to a person entering the church that we care.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Weekly Report 4

Ben Robinson
Weekly Report #4
"Participating in the Worship Band"

For my practicum I participated in singing and playing guitar for the musical portion of the service. Last year I often led the hymns at the church where I preached but it was different participating in the same way yet not being in charge of the service. I was able to choose what songs I wanted to play and when to play them. That couldn’t happen this time. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the time I had.

One of the most difficult parts of the experience was making sure that we were playing together. I am used to playing some songs certain ways and others are used to playing the same songs in entirely different ways. Therefore, we had to resolve some melodical issues before we could proceed. I also find that my voice does not necessarily have very good ranger. That was not a problem when I was in charge and could determine what key we would play the songs in, but this was a different story. I quickly saw that song is not my area of most giftedness but I am thankful for the small ability that has been given to me. Overall things went well and it felt good to be participating in this way again.

I suppose I am still struggling with what to do with the lyrical content of the music we sing. I do not think that the praise and worship movement is musically inferior but I think there has to be a way in which to compose theologically rich songs with contemporary guitar riffs. However, we cannot just sit down and hammer out an entire new compilation of praise choruses so if this is going to happen it will have to happen communally. There needs to be a united effort to bring this to actuality. I believe it can be done and I believe that as our generation gets tired of the theologically bankrupt songs that we sing, the necessity for this type of activity will be pushed to the forefront. Why not push it now? I’m ready, anyone else on board?

Putting aside my soapbox for a moment I would like to note that I learned some humility this week. The reality is that there are some areas where I am not gifted and I am glad for the people who are to fulfill those roles. It’s not easy, so I won’t pretend it is.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Weekly Report 3

Ben Robinson
Weekly Report # 3
"Observing Worship Band Practice"

This week I attended a worship band practice. The practice was supposed to begin at 7:30 but people wandered in until about 7:40. Unfortunately, the sound tech never showed up and so the band had a difficult time getting all the technical equipment ready for practice. The leader of the band, who happens to be an IWU student and a friend of mine, spent nearly half an hour attempting to get two microphones to work. Eventually they got all of the technical glitches out and they could move on. At this point they gathered together to pray and then began to practice.

I was impressed with the way the leader engaged the members of the worship band. It was clear that he was respected and he was very affirming and knowledgeable. Even though he is a guitarist and sings he seemed to know about all the other instruments that were included. He informed the drummer when to enter the song and in what manner. He showed the female singer how to do a harmony to a certain song. He explained how the keyboard should sound and he was the one that ran the show.

I was also impressed by the reliability of the band. Each member knew his or her part to each song and each played it seemingly flawless. The transitions were very smooth and it was clear that the band was used to playing these songs. Overall the members were well prepared and listened to the leader’s corrections and followed them promptly. I thought the group worked well together.

One of my few concerns was the organization of the session. There was very little at points and many times someone would be playing their instrument as the worship leader addressed another member in the band. I found this annoying and distracting and wondered how they could maintain a dialogue with all the ambient noises. I think the practice could have been half as long and the amount accomplished would be comparable if now equal.

Another one of my concerns was the ethos of the songs chosen. "Beautiful One", "Trading My Sorrows", and "We are Hungry" were some of the songs and typify what I mean. As we have been discussing in class these popular songs have certain characteristics; they are subjective, typically personal rather than corporate, and very rarely do they use biblical titles of God. As far as I’m concerned good theology supersedes good melody. By that standard very little of modern worship music is beneficial. In fact, I think we hinder our congregations with theologically weak songs. But we are entrenched in the praise and worship movement and unless we can strengthen the theological integrity of the movement we should look to something else for edification and didactic purposes.

What I did learn through this experience is that organization of a session such as this is vital. The band worked well together but they worked much longer than they needed to. In order for a worship practice to be successful and concise it must be organized well.