Here is the run down of Ed Phillips presentation given at our last up/rooted gathering in November, which in reality was much better than this virtual reproduction.
He began by mentioning that one of his current crusades concerning worship/liturgical thought is to rid the phrase “worship experience” from our lexicon. He pointed out that instead of speaking of a worship service we now talk about the worship experience. (and example of this is the “Passion Experience Tour.”)
To discuss this shift Ed pointed us back toward 19th century revivalism, especially Charles Finney. Finney’s goal was to make converts and he used “novelty” and “technique” to do this. These two concepts changed the face of worship. The first is the desire for “novelty” or the “new.” This really is the modern project, to find something new. Applied to revivalism, it is the desire to wow people with something different, exciting, and outrageous, so as to lead people toward a decision. This directly effects worship through the concurrent rise of the “mimeograph”, a cheap way to create pamphlets, or worship bulletin, which can be changed from service to service. This is a marked change from the past when- before the printing press people had to embody the patterns of worship within the community, and after the printing press books, prayer books, were kept for a lifetime or pasted down- but now worship patterns were constantly changed to create a “novelty” of worship. The second concept was that of using technique to manufacture conversion. And worship became one the most useful, and fashionable, techniques for making conversions. Worship then only becomes instrument of something else (conversion), rather than being an end in it self (participation in/with the eternal worship of God.)
These movements of “novelty” and “technique” place the emphasis of worship on our experiences of worship rather than the reality of God. Our “worship” becomes a copy of real worship, rather than a participation of the original. This shift also makes worship something we make happen, rather than a participation of what is already happening in heaven. By this our worship becomes virtual reality (a copy of reality pretending to be the real thing- like fake flowers). Ed used the example of covering us a stained glass window with a screen, and then projecting the “same” window onto the screen.
This last point was the launching pad into the collaborative portion of our gathering. We steered around the discussion of “should we have experiences in worship,: and talked about the relationship of art and ketch, high/low art, icons, and much more.