Jesus said: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples: and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Semper Reformanda – always reforming! Reformation has a great deal in common with freedom. Whenever I hear that word “freedom” the lyrics of an old folk song pop into my head: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
I suppose there is always a price to pay for freedom. A church that holds up the value of always reforming, is a church that will choose freedom over tradition. Sometimes, choosing freedom over tradition can feel like losing; losing traditions that once seemed precious to us. When it comes to worship the truth has set us free from all sorts of traditions that we once valued. Sometimes we discover that the traditions we once believed were so very important fall away.
What follows is a reflection on what we have lost and what we have found.
Liturgy has the power to from us in ways that preachers can only dream of. The truth is worshippers don’t go home humming the sermon. What we sing in worship matters precisely because music has the power to both open us up and shut us down to change. As our theology evolves, so too what we sing in worship must evolve. But familiar chestnuts are familiar for a reason. Our favourite hymns are singable! Sadly, so many of the best loved hymns inscribe theologies that posit a god that few of us are willing to worship. But rather than throw the babies out with the bath water, we can give the best loved hymn tunes a new lease on life with texts that do not re-inscribe theories of atonement that we are trying to leave behind. I have been asked to share some of the resources that we have found helpful at Holy Cross and over the next few weeks I hope to post several resources.
It hasn’t been easy to find new words with which to resurrect old hymns. But there are two resources that warm the heart of this particular worship planner. Both “Inclusive Hymns For Liberating Christians” and “Inclusive Hymns for Liberation, Peace, and Justice”are the work of Jann Aldredge-Clanton who is responsible for the hymn texts and Larry E. Schultz who provides a few new tunes for Aldredge-Clanton’s texts. I highly recommend both volumes for those progressive Christian worship planners who seek to use music to open people to the possibilities of more expansive theologies. Aldredge-Clanton’s texts go far beyond “inclusive language” for God and for people.
Jann Aldredge-Clanton currently serves as adjunct professor at Perkins School of Theology and Richland Community College, Dallas, Texas. Her vivid imagery opens the mind while familiar tunes comfort the spirit.
The good news is that although these resources are not easy to get in Canada, I ordered mine from Amazon.com in the U.S. and the shipping charges were minimal. Better yet, with the purchase of 10 or more you get permission to reproduce hymns for worship.
Here are two videos that provide of just two of the pieces sung in very different worship styles.
A few years back, I came across Michael Morwood’s book “Is Jesus God? Finding Our Faith” and his insightful and concise articulations of a theology which speaks to the heart of this 21st century follower of the Way, led me to his other works: “God Is Near: Trusting Our Faith”, ” From Sand to Solid Ground: Questions of Faith for Modern Christians,” and “Tomorrow’s Catholic: Understanding God and Jesus in a New Millennium,” for which Morwood was silenced by the Roman Catholic Church in his native Australia. Subsequently, Morwood resigned from religious life and priestly ministry with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. While I find his theological work both refreshing and enlightening, Morwood’s prayer books “Praying a New Story” and “Children Praying a New Story – A Resource for Parents, Grandparents and Teachers,” to be a God-send in my work as a liturgical planner.(for more info follow this link) Over and over again, I have turned to Morwood for assistance as I struggle to write public prayers which do not re-inscribe old theologies in their language, imagery and metaphors. I have used and adapted Morwood’s work and been inspired to compose new prayers.
Here’s a sample of Morwood’s work: A Christmas Prayer which we have used at Holy Cross Lutheran Church as an “Affirmation of Faith” during the Advent and Christmas Seasons.
Do we have the courage to confront our doubt in worship? This is the challenge that Peter Rollins who describes “the game” of certainty and triumphalism that passes for worship and insists that God must function as a “feel-good” entity rather than One who helps us engage our suffering, the Mystery, our doubts and uncertainties. Rollins calls for worship leaders who are willing to engage the dark night of the soul and create liturgies of unknowing. Are worshippers ready? Perhaps their hungry for opportunities to confront their realities in worship.