Room of Requirement

3 comments Written on March 16th, 2012     
Filed under: Better Together, Resources for Worship
Today’s post is written by Jo Anne Taylor, Director of Music and Worship at Bethlehem Covenant Church in Minneapolis, MN.

Remember the Room of Requirement in Hogwarts Castle from the Harry Potter books?  It was there when needed, and it contained whatever was required at the moment it was needed. Sometimes, The Covenant Book of Worship becomes my worship planning Room of Requirement – I go there when I need something specific, and I need it now. I am sure that other pastors and worship leaders often turn to this invaluable resource for planning specific elements of a worship service, but how many of us have actually read the thoughtful essays on the theology and practice of worship that introduce this book?

As the Better Together group discussed The Covenant Book of Worship this week, questions were raised about its relevancy to the growing variety of worship cultures evident in the Covenant since the book was published nearly a decade ago. One member of the group, who served on the editorial commission, reminded us that “the essays aren’t trying to give voice to our breadth of current expression as much as connect us to our theological and historical roots” and this is much different than compiling a book that attempts to define some middle point in the full range of worship experience within our denomination.

That’s the beauty of the Evangelical Covenant Church: we do not seek a middle ground, a norm that compromises all views and satisfies none.  In the foreword, Glenn Palmberg writes, “Our shared vision is for worship that is biblically and theologically grounded, has integrity of expression, is focused upon God and sensitive to the gifts and needs of those who gather” (The Covenant Book of Worship, vii).  Whatever culture, whatever worship style, whatever size, God invites us into his presence. Come, let us worship.


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3 comments “Room of Requirement”

The conversation continues in Better Together, and the question arises, “Just how do you use this Covenant Book of Worship, anyway?”  Is it a script to follow verbatim, or a set of suggestions to foster creativity in worship?  How do you view this resource, especially if your congregation’s worship style does not fit into one of the forms described in The CBoW?  And where does a multicultural approach fit into the mix? Thoughts?

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From my perspective the CBoW is somewhere between script to follow verbatim and and a set of suggestions to foster creativity in worship.   Though, I wouldn’t say that it is at odds with the CBoW to make creative use of the verbatim in rites outlined.   I would like to think that the rites described in the CBoW should be able to be performed in various context either of style of worship or cultural context, if one can get away from the need to read or recite the CBoW verbatim.
Though, this is entirely theoretical assumption on my part, as i have not attempted to text it out.  So, anyone else have thoughts on this.  Is it difficult to perform the rites of the CBoW in various contexts.   
Note: I’m bracketing for the moment possible theological divergence or disagreement with the CBoW, for instance those who may disagree with a sacramentalist view of Christian worship, and would more see things in terms of ordinance.  I would bracket this because I believe that such theological questions can and do cut across worship style and cultural context.  So let’s take things slow, for the sake of clarity.

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Our church has (at least) two distinct worship cultures, which we currently call “traditional” and “modern.”  I think I’d prefer to call the first “heritage” because one thing they value is heritage pretty strongly – the way they grew up understanding the Covenant: Swedish and liturgical (“traditional” doesn’t capture that to me).  They strongly value things like the CBoW because of its heritage, and we use it regularly for things like infant dedications or baptisms, and while I’ve never seen our senior pastor actually USE it for communion, I’m pretty sure that’s because he memorized what was in there so he wouldn’t have to hold it while he held the elements.  Our modern culture is distinctly different; while some value the heritage, they don’t much care for liturgy or ritual unless it’s given new life each time with creative freedom.  Now, we DO do communion very much the same way every month in this gathering as well, but I think that they’d be interested to see what communion could look like if we were to vary the format of it.

All that to say, our “at least” two worship cultures value the CBoW very differently.  I doubt that most of the modern people even know of its existence, while the heritage people like the pastors to use it.

My view is that it can and should be a guide to foster creative freedom.  It’s a place where we can look back at our heritage and while we value that heritage, it ought not limit our creativity.  God says things like “sing a new song” and “I make all things new” and at the very LEAST this means not letting ourselves get trapped into one way of doing things all the time.  Yes, there is value in the rhythms of the predictable, but there is also danger there of getting too comfortable.  One thing I think the CBoW even says to this is that it has variations on the liturgy contained within, so that you DON’T have to do the same thing every time … I take this as a suggestion “be creative” within our sixth affirmation.  For our heritage crowd, we can use the CBoW more verbatim because it values that culture.  For our modern crowd, we use it as a launching point to creativity.  For other crowds, I guess it would depend on the culture and what they value …

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