Thursday, March 17, 2011

Worship in a Visual Culture

We continue with excerpts from the recent issue of Liturgy: Emerging Worship, drawing this week from Jay Gamelin's article "It's the images and the actions that matter." Gamelin is the pastor of Jacob's Porch, a Lutheran Campus Ministry at Ohio State University. His comment seems especially apt this week as the various news media are filled with images from the devastation in Japan.

"We are a visual culture, a culture that sees its world instantly. We are visually connected to our world and to the images that tell us more than what words alone can say; often believing images more than words if they are not in opposition to one another....

To match what we see with what we have heard is a new thing in this era. What we see offers us a new world-view, a way of seeing our lives intimately connected with the whole world.

A defining characteristic about emerging churches is that they are as likely to be invested in what worship looks like, its movements and spaces, what worshipers wear and how the flow reflects symbolically on the matter of worship, as the words spoken. It is one reason why the word experience has crept into our vocabulary of worship. This generation does not simply want to be told that they worshiped but they wish to enact God's creation, the fall, the redemption through Christ, and the restoration we are called to through the Spirit in worship. The visual clues and movements become icons, symbols that point beyond what is at face value...Symbols speak as loudly in some places as words might themselves, and this I would assert is the central them that ties together what could be called emerging worship."

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