Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An Evening with Marva Dawn, Robert Webber & Dan Kimball: Explanation & Comments

(See the previous two posts prior to reading.)

You will notice that we did not spend much time talking about worship. However, for those who are familiar with Robert Webber, you will have noticed that the evening followed his often used analogy of the ancient four-fold pattern of worship. There were rituals of gathering, rituals of communication (service of the Word), rituals of relationship (service of the Table), and rituals of departure.

Bob and Marva were both committed to this pattern. Marva’s commitment went beyond the pattern to the “proper” and “traditional” ways of accomplishing the pattern (e.g., “The Lord be with you,” her insistence that Dan quit playing in his food, and her preference for filet mignon.) Dan was obviously not committed to this pattern, though he was committed to the content of the evening.

You will also notice that Dan showed up early, in that he and the emerging worship movement are “out front, on the cutting edge.” Bob was chasing behind, because he is, self-consciously, trying to help shape some of the emerging worship movement. At the same time, Bob was trying to pull Marva along. I see Robert Webber as trying to be the mediator. Marva Dawn was determined not to be early or late, but right on time. That is also reflected at the conclusion of the evening.

One of the reasons that Dan wasn’t content to be in the living room, though he did still carry on some conversation, was simply to reflect his insistence to be “hands on.” The cross in the mashed potatoes was another attempt to express emerging practices in worship.

One thing that they all had in common was the critique that much of the contemporary “seeker movement,” along with much of the rest of the Church, had lost much of the “meat and potatoes” of the gospel (i.e., the content of worship).

Perhaps obviously, I am in much more agreement with Robert Webber. I want to be open to “new (postmodern?) expressions” of worship, as reflected in the emerging church. However, I am committed to the ancient four-fold pattern. The freedom of expression needs the historic patterns of worship to help guard it from becoming something less than Christian. Unlike Marva Dawn, however, I am much more interested in blending elements and styles within the pattern. I agree with all of them that the true content of worship must be restored.


Eric + said...

Hey thanks! A great read to start the morning. It is always great fun to be called heretic by people who don't know you, who have never met you, and who hide behind the secrecy of their anonymous blogs (except for Tim Worth) who at least puts his own name out there.

I have talked with some of my friends about the need to clarify between emergent and liturgical. I really don't equate the two other than that the emergents (whoever they/we are) are open to liturgical elements in their worship.

The liturgical concept and patterns have been definitive of Christian worship in all times and is not limited to any particular culture, ethnicity, or worldview.

Anyway, thanks for this contribution and clarification. I have began a series I hope to continue for the next 8 weeks looking at the AEF Call to understand what it is calling for and why it is being issued. Your input there would be most appreciated.

Your fellow heretic,


Michael said...

I appreciate your creativity. I also appreciate that you have Webber as being a via media between Kimball and Dawn.

I am one who is very much shaped by the historical pattern and forms of catholic Christian worship. I also consider myself emergent. It has been noted by Len Sweet [Post-Modern Pilgrims] and some others (I think of Ed Stetzer [Planting Missional Churches] at least) who have identified a turn (I can't say re-turn because it doesn't fit) to or towards liturgy because of its depth, beauty, and allows/welcomes mystery.

Emergent is a myriad of different approaches to worship space and form. Unlike contemporary forms of worship there is more than one way to be emergent in expression. Sofas and coffee tables in concentric circles isn't the only expression of emergent.

Some "emergent" churches aren't really all that different than "regular" churches, other than they wear jeans, have a rock-n-roll band and they celebrate the Lord's Supper every week.

I'd say that in weaving these two streams, it is more probably more obvious that we (my church community) are more liturgical than we are emergent. In fact, I'd say that probably the majority of our community don't even really know what that even is. They just know that we are different than most Nazarene churches.