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!

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.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Weekly Report 2

Ben Robinson
Weekly Report # 2
"Shadowing Service Coordinator"

This past Sunday I spent the morning shadowing the service coordinator at my church. Basically, she is responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly and on time. For the first twenty minutes or so of the service she was literally everywhere. One minute she would be in the chapel and the next minute she'd be rushing through the sanctuary. I had difficulty keeping up. After the beginning of the service wound down and Pastor DeNeff began to speak the job became much less hectic. Once the sermon was underway there was not much she needed to do.

I had mixed feelings about the morning. On the one hand the service was incredibly organized and the service coordinator was in a sense "insurance" that everything would remain that way. Yet I also felt as if the service was almost being made out to be a grand theatrical performance. Considering that College Wesleyan Church has 2-4 different venues going on at the same time it is reasonable to expect that there must be some sort of stabilizing force that provides congruence for the various services. And yet I still could not help but feel a bit uncomfortable with some of the manner in which the service was orchestrated. Have we placed such an importance upon making people "comfortable" in our services that we have, in a sense, failed to be true to what a worship service should entail? But perhaps this is my high church lens which is causing me to view these sorts of services with suspicion. There is something about liturgy which does not seem theatrical in the way that this service appeared.

Despite all this banter, I did learn that we take for granted the many "behind the scenes" people who are working at creating a meaningful worship experience for their congregation. While I may not be sure what I feel about some of the finer points I certainly respect the dedication the service coordinator shows and the drive that College Wesleyan has to remain organized and efficient. So this is my thank you to all the "little people" who do the things we didn’t even know needed to be done.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Weekly Report 1

Ben Robinson
Weekly Report # 1
"Discussion with Practicum Advisor about the Organization of a Service"

I had the opportunity to discuss with my practicum advisor regarding the gathering portion of the service and, in actuality, the orchestration of the service in its entirety. He described the service mainly from a technical point of view. Being the executive pastor, my advisor is the one who everybody reports to. He told me that the service theme is decided upon two to three months in advance. The topic that pastor DeNeff will be speaking on is dispersed to the different heads of the various aspects of the service (i.e. service coordinator, worship leader, etc.). These leaders incorporate the theme into their specific area and choose songs, solos, dramas, etc., based upon the topic of the day. The ideas are collaborated and my advisor determines what will actually be used. At times, he said, too many people want to do too many things. These items are then placed into time slots where there is an actual layout of the entire service for when each item occurs and how long it will take. The service coordinator is connecting to the various leaders of the service through a headset and lets everyone know if they are on schedule or not. If things are not on schedule the service coordinator may choose to omit some of the events on the schedule.
I found all of this fascinating yet I feel as if I need to digest it some more. Whoever claims that low church services are not "liturgical" have no idea what they are saying. I was impressed with the efficiency and planning ahead that College Wesleyan does for their services. One are that I wonder about is the matter of forming a service around the theme of the sermon. I’m not sure whether this is completely appropriate or not. Certainly songs can reinforce a sermon topic but when we form the entire service around the sermon it seems we are implicitly saying that everything culminates in the sermon. While the proclamation of the Word certainly is important and central, should it be the pivot upon which the rest of the service revolves? Personally, I think we miss out on the grander focus of worship when we do this. A worship service is not so much about the sermon as much as it is about Jesus Christ. The service should be depend on the sermon but rather should depend upon the reality of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. I’ll take a good high church liturgical service any day because of the focus of such a service. Such services highlight the reality that it is about God and God is about us.
I did learn the great importance of organization and a well thought out service. With the various venues that College Church offers I feel it is appropriate that they are so well structured and are able to handle any hiccups that may surface on Sunday morning. It seems to me that planning ahead is key.