Think about how many ways people gathered around the world to celebrate Jesus and their relationship to God BEFORE covid-19. People gathered in great cathedrals and under large trees and in the open air. They gathered in house church settings, small church buildings and in coffee shops, pubs, and even art gallery spaces. There are formal and informal gatherings, contemporary and very traditional, both low and high liturgically and many liturgies in between. None of these are better than another, they are just unique ways of being together that are particular to a worshiping community. Whatever the worshiping community or the church, we all have traditions and liturgies and ways of worship that we love. And just one of these ways to worship is singing. But there are SO MANY other ways to worship beyond corporate singing.
Jesus took me on the adventure of creating and curating worship beyond singing starting in 2001.
Up until then, I’d loved singing and worshiping with my voice, with my hands lifted, belting out songs of praise. I was a part of a church community that believed 20 minutes of singing worship wasn’t nearly enough! If we could sing longer, or host entire nights of singing worship we would! Then God surprised me and took me to a small Episcopal church and rocked my world with liturgical worship and old hymns. I fell in love with the beauty and rhythm of the church year and the Lectionary.
And then the Holy Spirit invited me to start an entirely new worship service called “Sacred Space” without a musician of any kind… no worship band, no choir. It was a way to learn how to worship beyond singing. We sometimes said we did DJ church because we created a soundtrack for our gathering with walk in songs and walk out songs that were meant to set the scene for what we would experience and learn about during the gathering, like a prelude and a postlude on an organ. We followed the lectionary, but instead of a sermon or homily, we used interactive prayer stations to experience the gospel passage. I became the worship curator, helping people experience God with all their senses and helping people see that they could share their gifts as acts of worship, like poetry, art, photography and playlists.
It was DJ church because we still used music and songs, but we listened to them and allowed the Holy Spirit to teach us through listening to someone else sing the words and viewing the lyrics on the screen. Since this was way before the pandemic, participants could sing, but many didn’t really enjoy corporate singing anyway, so the choice to just listen was very welcome. Worship songs became contemplation and often prayers.
As a worship curator, I’ve learned that there are so many other ways to express our love for God beyond corporate singing! We are all just so used to ONE way that we often cannot see beyond it to envision all the opportunities that not being able to do corporate singing can give us!
We can learn how to worship without singing and beyond singing!
Covid-19 is a great opportunity for MORE PARTICIPATION! We all get to respond beyond using our voices. And for people who don’t enjoy singing, this is what they’ve been waiting for!
THIS is an opportunity to show our communities how their varied gifts can be gifts of worship too, beyond those who are usually up front, and those who have the gift of music and singing.
We GET TO experience music in an entirely new way!
For those who love singing, you can learn a new way to worship with music and beyond!
Worship beyond singing will also give your music worship teams, of whatever flavor of music, an opportunity to just “be present” in worship, rather than working.
Here are five ways to use Music in worship beyond singing.
1. JUST LISTEN to a Song or Hymn. Print the words in the bulletin or post them on the screen. Allow people to listen to the music… use a recorded sound track withe words and music. JUST LISTENING… allowing the Holy Spirit to inspire. We too often don’t pay real attention to the words we sing and need time to hear.
2. SHARING WHAT WE HEARD: Part two of Listening to a song, hymn or worship set, would be to listen together and then have people share what they heard or noticed as they listened to the song. It’s like a Lectio Divina with music.
3. CREATE FROM THE SONG: Along with Listening to a song, hymn or worship set, have people draw or journal about what a song means to them. Or invite people to write a prayer or poem, or draw a picture as a worshipful response to the song or “worship set” you listen to in community. These pieces of art, poetry, etc can be shared instantly, or could be shared later on Facebook, Instagram or on your website.
4. CREATE A WORSHIP PLAYLIST: Have people in your community create a worship playlist you can share online or even in your worship gathering to go with the theme of your teaching/preaching series or with the themes in the lectionary. Have them pick three songs that reflect or express the theme to them… as the worship curator, it’s your job to select the playlists to share in the big group but all could be posted online for the community and others to enjoy and use in their own worship time.
5. MUSIC STORY TIME: Have people share a favorite hymn, worship song or other song that has meaning for them and have them share this song with the congregation. LISTEN to the song together and then have the person share why this song means something to them.
Part 2 HISTORY LESSON: Give them the history of the hymn or song. Doing a history lesson on a hymn even if your normal singing worship doesn’t include hymns. It’s great to know and understand more about our worshipping heritage.
You might notice that these things involve lots of participation! You can get people to bring in their own supplies, like clipboards or journals to use for writing, and bring in their own art supplies too so you don’t have to worry about cleaning things or spreading germs.
You will want to build a team and find someone who wants to be the worship curator to help coordinate this new way to worship if you or your worship music person doesn’t feel comfortable with doing this. The worship curator helps bring all the pieces together to create a beautiful painting of worship.
There are SO MANY other ways to worship beyond corporate singing. and beyond the music worship ideas above.
I’d love to help with you expand your worship and figure out what can work for your church in the middle of this crazy season. This is what I love to do, help people of all denominations and flavors move their worship beyond singing. Just contact me.
©lillylewin and freerangeworship.com