Thursday, March 23, 2006

response to "e~mergent kiwi: 7 things I learnt from Bono about worship leading"

It's been a while since I"ve had a post about U2 so here's one. There is an interesting discussion going on over at e~mergent kiwi: 7 things I learnt from Bono about worship leading.

The blogger, Steve Taylor, is an emergent church leader and author in New Zealand, and makes a somewhat typically emergent list of things that he sees Bono doing in concert (referencing the Vertigo DVD) which might be translated into a church worship environment. (At least I think it's typically emergent - I'll ask my more emergent-savvy friends and relatives to help me out.)

I'm not sure how much of his list really translates well unless one finds oneself in an environment where there is no community already established and where the starting point for the conversation appears to be contemporary worship. The sort of worship style that has thrown the liturgical baby out with the bathwater. I realize that much of the emergent work, in worship at least, is a reaction to what has happened in worship in the big nondenominational churches over the past 30 years but I'm once again struck by how, for example, "engage through familarity" can be touted as a new concept!

Nonetheless, it is always fun to see the connection between Bono and the church made more explicit.


Beth said...

I think you're right that the assumed starting point for that conversation is rather ahistorical, as are the criticisms. Still an interesting post though.

bethany said...

The best emergent literature, I think, is very intentional about engaging the tradition. But the more I read the more I think that many strains of emergent aren't well-versed enough to do this. After all, many of their worship leaders didn't go to seminary and certainly didn't get WA training. So how are they to know that taize has been doing repetitive choruses as prayer for decades, or that the traditional mass in many liturgical traditions is all about repitition and familiarity and multi-sensory experience. It's only because those who preceded these leaders poo-pooed "smells and bells" that they are suddenly "uncovering" this stuff.

Beth said...

Bethany - great comment. As someone from a liturgical tradition, it strikes me very odd when "emergent" folks take pieces of the tradition and drop them into prayer events in ways that to me feel what I've come to call "ungrammatical." (No, dude, that's a verb, it has a *function* in the *sentence*, you can't just stick it in between 2 prepositions because you think it sounds cool!)

But we all need each other -- the liturgical church "as is" often finds itself woefully unable to offer our riches in a way that helps others want to engage them. Maybe the deal should be: We'll teach you the grammar if you'll teach us how to say more stuff people can hear!

Bob K said...

Beth - I love the use of "ungrammatical" here. That's exactly it. Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

Bob, appreciate you referencing the bono post.

fascinated by the fact that you considering it "ahistorical" - i would say the opposite - that for me the way Bono used intercessory prayer, community participation, reflection on justice - are in fact merely a continuation of very traditional and important elements ie historical elements of worship. one of the reasons i wrote the post was to highlight to emergents that "many liturgical traditions is all about repitition and familiarity and multi-sensory experience." so i would expect some applause from traditional churches, rather than what i read as slightly sneering tone in your blog (but hoping i'm not hearing your right).

i also am not sure about you characterisation of worship as "no community already established."

every sunday morning i feel that the presence of visitors suggests that we need to be honest about the fact that sunday worship is "no community already established" and hence the importance of call to worship as a way of gathering a disparate group in one place. i feel that often worship leaders ignore this. what do you think?

not sure whether you are aware but i also did a followup post about a week later, grounding what the 7 tips meant for regular worship (

yours in liturgical reflection

bethany said...

I think the reason my dad called your view "ahistorical" and others suggested the same is that we know bono is drawing on centuries of historical tradition - probably doing it intentionally. We just weren't sure you did. I think if you look back at your original post you can see how we can interpret it as "oh, wow, we could use repition in worship! this is new!" Perhaps you are just catering to an audience more likely to resonate with Bono than St Basil the Great, but it seems curious that the christian church should learn about its own tradition through the medium of a rock concert.