Western Territory holds second Worship Arts Retreat.
by Gwenyth and Robert Redhead, Colonels –
Some 140 participants from every division in the Western Territory gathered at Canby Grove Camp near Portland, Ore., from Friday, Feb. 20 – Sunday, Feb. 22 for a Worship Arts Retreat arranged by Marjory Watson, the territorial creative ministries director, and her team. Delegates ranged from officers and corps worship teams to individuals interested in exploring the subject of “Engaging Worship.” We had been invited as guest speakers, together with a worship team from the Southern Territory under the leadership of Marty Mikles, a local liturgical dance troupe and several proficient workshop leaders, to provide hands-on training for a variety of worship arts.
The challenge of corporate worship
After an icebreaker and sung worship, we explored the topic, “Why should corporate worship be engaging?” Recognizing that no matter whether responsibilities are large or small, all of us need to have the big picture of what corporate worship is seeking to achieve: to give glory to God and to provide all who gather an opportunity for an “aha” moment of connection with him. We looked at both pragmatic and theological reasons why all responsible for corporate worship should seek to ensure that it engages people ranging from “mono-lingual baby boomers” to “multi-sensory youthful worshippers.”
Later that evening delegates met in assigned groups to explore the challenges of creating corporate worship that engages the diverse groups of people who gather for worship in their corps.
Saturday morning began with sung worship followed by a liturgical solo dance introduced by the dance troupe teacher. Then we explored together: “How can we create corporate worship that engages?” We drew on our personal experience as the co-chairs of the worship committee of the Orillia, Ontario corps, which has an average Sunday morning attendance of 80, a non-youthful worship team of six, and a mixed age brass band, in order to show how this can be achieved. Handouts covered the Army’s corps worship committee guidelines, a worship survey to discover people’s talents, and a sample preaching schedule to show how these gifts can enhance the message.
Delegates spent the rest of the morning and all afternoon in workshops and taster sessions of their choice, ranging from vocal and instrumental to dance, drama, video, art and song-writing. The evening gathering, which featured presentations by workshop and corps groups and the worship team and dance troupe, was not so much focused on performance as an opportunity for groups to speak about the goals they had in mind for their presentations, how they sought to “engage” the congregation, and for the congregation to provide feedback on the impact they had felt. It proved to be both an exciting and moving gathering.
Resolving to engage
During breakfast on Sunday morning, delegates were asked to sit in their corps groups so that at the conclusion of the meal they could present to the Creative Ministries team the resolutions they were prepared to make to help the corporate worship at their corps to become more engaging, and to make recommendations to the territorial leadership as to how they could assist the corporate worship in the territory to become more engaging.
The final corporate gathering of the retreat was entitled “Engaging Worship.” Delegates arrived so early and so eager to engage in worship that Marty and his team were able to lead an extended period of sung worship at the beginning. This was followed by “An Engaging Call to Worship,” in which the dance troupe interpreted “Be Thou My Vision” and “Will you not listen?” using candles in glass containers that ultimately became a worship center for the remainder of the meeting.
The meeting was divided into three sections in which delegates could engage in multi-sensory worship in a variety of ways, under the headings: “Engaging in Worship that is cleansing,” “Engaging in worship that leads to personal commitment” and “Engaging in worship that leads to a ‘communication beyond words.’”
It was fitting that the worship concluded with a corporate benediction, using what has become known as The Artist’s Prayer:
Let the loveliness of our Lord, our God rest on us,
Confirming the work that we do,
Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do.
(Psalm 90; 17, The Message)
May God answer that prayer.