Worship Can Be Fun!

A hall full of young people.  A band playing. People talking, texting, laughing.  Tables strewn with paper, magazines, playdoh, markers, pens and pencils, pipe cleaners of all colours.  This is Rideau Park U.C. on Saturday, October 26th when young people and their friends gathered from across Ottawa for The Point, the United Church’s seasonal youth worship service. 

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After singing, praying, and listening to St. Paul enumerate the fruit of the spirit in his letter to the Church in Galatia, the crowd split up and enthusiastically dove into all kinds of art-making.

At one table, a group coloured, cut and pasted, and sketched to create a huge banner.  At another, busy hands worked with play-doh and pipe-cleaners to make colourful and inventive sculptures.  At yet another table, a group of lyricists and musicians put their ideas to music.

Meanwhile, in a quiet room upstairs a dedicated gang  of four wrote in silence, setting down their poetic response to the scripture.

And, in a noisy room downstairs, a larger gang laughed and improvised their way to a skit  illustrating how some of these spiritual fruit might be found in a high school today.

After 40 minutes of preparation, the crowd came back together and finished their worship by sharing what they had created.  Sculptures, drawings, poems and reflections, a banner, new music, drama; they were all there, all a part of responding to the words of the Bible.

Everyone was engaged, and everyone had fun.  There was lots of laughter, and lots of off-topic teasing, but there was also lots of serious intellectual and imaginative engagement.  (At one point, a member of the drama group exclaimed, “Listen, this is Paul, we’re dealing with neo-Platonism here, we need to get over it and move on.”)

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It didn’t look, sound or feel much like ‘church,’ and that didn’t matter at all. What mattered is that, for a couple of hours on a cool autumn evening, a group of young people engaged their minds and imaginations in a creative conversation with the great story of the Christian faith.  Judging by the chatter as they left, they didn’t find it boring at all!

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“The god Monologues”

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The cast has been hard at work since the beginning of February and “The god Monologues” is taking shape. It is going to be engaging, honest, thought-provoking, and fun!

So… what are your questions about religion and spirituality? Is there a God? What is religion? Does prayer work? Does faith affect values? Does spirituality influence actions? Is there only one true religion?

If you resonate with any of these questions, then you’ll want to come see “The god Monologues.”

Here’s what you’ll experience: A cast of young adult actors exploring profound issues of faith, spirituality, belief and values using their own words, and the words of their peers. This is documentary theatre, drawn from real life, exploring real life issues.

Under the able direction of Eleanor Crowder and Anna Lewis, the cast of committed amateur actors have been stretching themselves for six weeks now, as they have explored the breadth of contemporary spirituality among young adults. With two weeks to go, the pressure is on and we’ve doubled the number of rehearsals each week. The result is going to be terrific theatre, and a meaningful exploration of some of life’s most profound and persistent questions.

Sunday, March 24th,

7:00 p.m.

Rideau Park United Church

Free Admission

The audience will have the opportunity to make a free will offering toward the work of Faith and Arts Ottawa.

I hope to see you there.

Exploring God Through Poetry – Again!

Rideau Park United Church – Tuesday, July 10th, 7 p.m. – 9 .m.

A few weeks ago 17 of us: men and women, young and old, gathered at Glebe-St. James United Church to have a conversation about poetry and God.  It was a wonderful evening, with lots of insightful and thought-provoking comments.  We’re thrilled that Daniel has agreed to lead another evening of reading and conversation, this time at Rideau Park United Church (1103 Alta Vista Drive, at the corner of Alta Vista and Cunningham).  Everyone welcome, no previous experience with poetry needed!

Daniel wrote an introduction for the first workshop, here is it …

What, exactly, does a poet do? Does she do anything, or is it rather that something happens to her? In what sense is she in control?

One of the very few arguments that I had with my roommate in first year university revolved around this question. He was a poet. I was not. He insisted that the best poetry could not be controlled or thought out – it was something that happened to you. That made me uncomfortable. I like to analyze things. I liked the definition of poetry as “the right word in the right place”. The perfect poem is a triumph of order – an extraordinary piece of thinking on the part of a master word-smith.

The wonderful thing about poetry is that both of us are right. For every great poem that has been edited 800 times, there is an equally great poem that was written in a drug-induced blur of feeling. For every sonnet that conforms perfectly to a complex and rational pattern, there is a post-modern poem that conforms to no pattern at all. Sometimes, the poet really is a word-smith, tinkering and toiling until the poem is exactly right. Other times, she is a medium, barely even touching the ideas as they flow off of her pen.

Neither of these experiences is limited to poetry. For me, the most obvious metaphor is sports. Sometimes I’m barely even involved. Instead, I’m “in the zone,” reacting to the game before I have time to even think about it. Other times, I’m practicing – trying to train my un-thinking body how to shoot a basket-ball in the smartest way possible. Sometimes I control my body. Sometimes my body controls me.

There is a lot to be said about this dichotomy – about the way that words sometimes enclose meaning, and you like a writer because it makes you feel like you understand exactly what he is saying. And sometimes meaning explodes out of words, and you like it because it makes you feel like you’ll never know what he means. About how sometimes music makes you think about your life, and sometimes it makes you forget about it. Living life is an exercise in being pulled into and out of things. There is the feeling of control, of knowing and succeeding and resting; and there is the feeling of a lack of control, of failing and trying and learning.

God, it seems to me, is in both of these feelings. God made a world that we could understand, a world that we could succeed in. But he also made a world in which we fail, in which we never get to stop trying.