"We decide that because we met God in long sets of intimate worship songs projected on a screen, that must be the way to meet God. And yet, this comes with so many assumptions; of class, literacy levels, music education levels, even taste in music. It’s important that leaders imagine something different from their own experiences – and that’s where the word ‘indigenous’ comes in.”
Sara Hargreaves, Engage Worship
This article is taken from an interview with Sara Hargreaves. Sara and her husband Sam co-lead engageworship; with the aim to resource local churches for creative, innovative and world-changing worship; engaging with God, each other and the world around us.
What does worship mean in a non-church environment, and how do you make it feel natural to people who may be new to it?”
“It starts with our understanding of what worship is. A crucial word is ‘indigenous’ – in other words, how can you take activities that your community feels passionately about and turn them toward glorifying God? It’s about not forcing assumptions about church onto communities. Are they into craft, outdoor pursuits, cooking, playing, campaigning…? Music is a fairly universal interest across communities – but what kind of music? If you find some answers to this question, you might have found a fresh form of worship that fits within a fx context.”
Do you find it’s a style of leadership that comes naturally to people? It sounds like it needs a lot of creative thinking…”
“It’s not easy, but it’s vital. Think of Victorian missionaries imposing their worship styles on new converts. We see pictures of African Christians in the 19th century, sitting uncomfortably on wooden pews, singing Western hymns and even wearing wool suits! Such a ridiculous way to quench these new Christians’ own creativity and ways of expressing themselves. The missionaries had the best intentions: this was the worship style that meant something to them, where they had met God.
Despite our scorn, we do the same thing on a regular basis! We decide that because we met God in long sets of intimate worship songs projected on a screen, that must be the way to meet God. And yet, this comes with so many assumptions; of class, literacy levels, music education levels, even taste in music. It’s important that leaders imagine something different from their own experiences – and that’s where the word ‘indigenous’ comes in.”
Have you any thoughts, though, on how a Fresh Expression can develop an expression of worship that fits within local culture but is also distinctive? How can a Fresh Expression make sure they don’t become so like its context that there is nothing transcendent about the worship – nothing that points beyond ourselves and those around us?”
“I think it’s about holding another word in tension with my first point! This word is ‘core’. There will be some things which are ‘core’ to expressing your faith, non-negotiables, which your group won’t be church without. Some things, like style of music, should be negotiable – it doesn’t really matter if we sing worship to God in R’n’B’, folk tunes, or hymns – but decide on what is core and then decide if and how these can be expressed in an indigenous way.
I heard a good example of this here at the ‘Dying to Live’ conference from a leader who wanted to celebrate communion on Easter Sunday, despite this not seeming particularly ‘fresh expression’. She ended up informally inviting her community to share Holy Communion in her home instead her usual FX venue, and come Easter her living room was packed out. The Lord’s Supper is not going to be an indigenous expression in most secular communities (although eating is), but this might be a ‘core’ activity that sets you apart from the local rotary club or WI.”
Indigenous and Core – two great words for any fx leader to focus on when developing worship in their context. Any more last pearls to share?
“Ok, lastly – plan something sustainable! You might decide that the indigenous way to express worship is to create an animated movie every week, but is this form of worship sustainable? If you’re passionate about growing something lasting in your community, have sustainability as one of your values to avoid the burn-out so often associated with entrepreneurs and pioneers.”
engageworship is a new expression of the Music and Worship Foundation, furthering the vision and values of MWF for a new generation with the aim to resource local churches for creative, innovative and world-changing worship; engaging with God, each other and the world around us. Head to their website using the link below to find out more and access their resources for all ages.
EXAMPLES OF FRESH EXPRESSIONS
Fresh Expressions are rooted in and shaped by the context in which they’re established which means no one Fresh Expression is the same. If you’re looking for inspiration of what’s possible or some new ideas of ways in which you can grow or develop your fx then these stories are a
great place to start….
Fresh Expressions of Church take several different forms; from new housing to rural, urban to suburban, messy church and third age to forests, coffee shops, beaches, pubs, barns, online and even church buildings. However, several key features unite them to provide further clarity around what a Fresh Expression is..