Sunday, Nov 02, 2003: “Experiential Worship and Sacred Space”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary

Experiential Worship and Sacred Space

Led by Lilly Lewin

Sunday, November 2, 2003

Lilly has been involved with alternative or experiential worship for the past three years. The initial idea came from a 40-year-old Englishman called Johnny Baker. He observed that most of the people worshiping in the churches were elderly and that the church was obviously not appealing to the younger generations. This gave him the idea to start alternative forms of worship where the service would be more appealing to younger people. It was based upon making the service more memorable by involving all of the senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) to make the scripture readings “come alive.”

In order to make this practical, one of the ideas that Lilly uses is to keep her eyes open for things which we see every day that can be used in the worship service. She reminded us that Jesus often taught in parables. The description of the Last Supper was another example where the senses were employed. The Episcopal Church is blessed in that the colors of the church calendar are a good way for us to remember the various church seasons. The idea of experiential worship is to help the parishioners to live out the experience so that it may be more meaningful and so that they will want to come back again and again. It is not meant to be a substitute for the main service, but rather an alternative for those who would otherwise not attend.

One idea Lilly used to create a Sacred Space was to make the participants wait outside the sanctuary and take a number, much as you would do in a restaurant. The question was asked, “How long would you wait for Jesus?” Another example was during Lent when everyone had to walk through an area covered by sand before going into the pews. Then everyone was asked to sign their name to sheets of paper that were passed out containing a picture of a fish, attesting to the fact from Luke, chapter 5 that we must be willing to be caught by Jesus before we can go out fishing for others. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit and heir to his eternal kingdom. Sacred Spaces is now done on a quarterly basis at Christ Church, Glendale.

When reading scripture we should ask ourselves, what does its say? What are the images that can be derived from the reading? What are the action steps and what lessons should the parishioners take with them? Items from a party store are sometime handy to convey the messages. One example is a piece of clay, which can be held in the hand, exemplifying how God can mold you. Sometimes drawings or sketches can be useful. Writing down prayers can give them a new dimension.

The question was raised as to those parishioners who like the service the way as a more traditional form of worship. Once again, Lilly emphasized that experiential worship is not meant to replace the traditional worship liturgy. Rather it is to offer an alternative form of worship appealing to those who are dissatisfied or uninspired by the traditional service. This is a way to allow the church multiple opportunities for satisfying people’s spiritual needs. The Episcopal Church has all the pieces necessary to make come alive. Lilly concluded the session by noting that it was St. Francis who stated, “Preach the Gospel wherever you go, use words if necessary!” Everyone thanked Lilly for her very informative and uplifting presentation.