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the trinitarian aspect of convergence worship
Topic Started: Aug 4 2008, 04:04 PM (1,988 Views)
HelenaZF
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"more is more"

CEC worship should be trinitarian. Our first Patriarch, Archbishop Adler in his final messages was urging the communion to refocus their worship songs and use songs that are sung "to" God rather than "about" God, or about us and our response to God. He recognized that many CEC churches had gotten pulled off-track into the Vineyard, Emergent Church, and other contemporary worship styles that focus on our response and offerings to God, rather than to God Himself. This is not the direction that he felt the Lord was taking the CEC. It is time for us to take this to heart in our song selections as we plan our Eucharistic services.

At this most recent convocation in Orlando, the keynote speaker, Dr. Simon Chan, stressed the importance of Trinitarian worship, and the need for song leaders to select and compose new worship music in that vein. [Audio links to THURSDAY and FRIDAY sessions with Dr. Chan, two one hour sessions in MP3 format at each link]
Dr. Chan's notes:
http://cechome.com/convovation/Theology_of_Convergence.pdf
http://cechome.com/convovation/Practice_of_Convergence.pdf

What is trinitarian worship?
Trinitarian worship always focuses around the nature of God, the fullness of the Godhead, and the things He has done. In contrast, what some call "Unitarian style" worship focuses on our response to God and our response to the things He has done. Trinitarian worship is addressed normally to the Father, centered around and focused toward the Eucharist. It is not about anything we can do for God or offer to God. It is about joining the eternal celebration that is already in progress.

Andrew Thompson
 
The emphasis in trinitarian worship is not on ourselves and our own action; it is on Christ and Christ's action on our behalf. Trinitarian worship is not about our response to God. Worship happens just fine without our involvement, because worship is at the center of the Triune interrelationship. Christ is the great and perfect worshiper. To use an illustration, the perfect party is already going on, and we, through unworthy of inclusion, have been declared worthy and have been invited to join in the celebration. We attend wearing someone else's name tag. It is not about us. By extension then, it is most certainly, not about me.


As CEC song leaders, we have the challenge to examine our song choices. So much of what is available in the contemporary music realm has a unitarian basis, and we may not even be aware of it. In fact, many "I" based songs masquerade as worship songs--they sound like worship songs and feel like worship songs, but when you examine the lyrics, they are all about "me" and my response to God. One of the things I would like to do in this forum is develop a list of good contemporary worship and praise songs that fit the trinitarian model, and another list of popular songs that don't, in order to help our music leaders sort this out.
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DeanZF
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We have yet to scratch the surface of what Dr. Chan referred to as trinitarian worship, and I'm champing at the bit to start. He clearly defined what most churches do, where many sing "Jesus Only" songs, and there are lots of songs that dwell on the Holy Spirit as well. Christomonistic and Pneumatomonistic (not sure of the spelling on the latter) worship, focusing only on Christ or the Holy Spirit. I'll correct spelling when Dr Chan's notes become available.

I personally can think of very few songs that speak exclusively to the Father. There are many from early Charismatic Renewall days that have three verses, addressing each member of the Trinity and there are the ever-present, ever-useful doxologies that talk to or about all three. A few CCM songs made strong references to Father (e.g., My Father's Eyes by Amy Grant), but I still must admit that I'm a bit at sea when it comes to this concept that Dr. Chan threw in our laps at the Convo plenary sessions.

If you're reading the entire thread, you'll probably figure out that this is a hot-button issue for both Helena & me. We've heard the quote, "Words MEANS something" a lot in the last few months, even from certain US presidential candidates. What we say and what we sing is as important as what we preach and how we share Christ. If we use our own thoughts and feelings and communicate those loosely, with inaccurate language, what do we communicate? On the other hand, if we use Scriptural phrases, Scriptural images, Scriptural names and labels, we can rely on the power that Father vested in those words. Remember that He told us that HIS WORDS would not return to Him void and purposeless.

Remember that there is power in just using Messiah's given name. Yes, there is power in the blood, but even more in His Word! When we employ Scriptural lyrics or even close paraphrases of Scripture, it's as though we are serving as bows for His "word arrows", launching them toward targets known and suspected, launching them with expectation that they will accomplish their eternal tasks.

There is a time for "I" songs and "we" songs, but usually not within the context of worship. Worship is about HIM/THEM. That's a crucial point. Songs of intercession, repentence, rejoicing, thanksgiving, and others have a stronger dose of "I" and "we" included in their lyrics, as well they should. That's where they belong!

When folks choose music for services, it needs to fit the form of the service. In a communion setting, what sorts of songs and words would YOU use? I will come and bow down (I is used only twice in that song, the bulk of the lyric talks about how unique our God is, that there is nothing and no one that compares), Holy, Holy, Holy songs, blood & bread songs, "Commune with Me" by the Dearmans (with GOD singing to US!!), and other songs focused on meeting with Him. Would you use a song of repentence? I would not, since we have already repented and were forgiven just a short time ago. Would we use a thanksgiving song? Possibly, but would that not be better AFTER communion as we recall how He has just stooped down to be with us and in us through the sacrament? Would we be using an evangelistic song or a call to worship? Or a "don't worry be happy" song? There are better fits, IMO.

Just offering a little as fuel for discussion. Yup, I'm opinionated, but not inflexible. Well, most of the time. :)
Blessings!

Dean
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DeanZF
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I am still chewing and stewing about the whole "trinitarian" worship thing. What does it mean? What does it imply?

I've not found a really succinct definition, or even one that is vague. Sometimes, I'm a really black-and-white kind of guy--I LOVE to have rules, boundaries, and limitations (to quote a certain "Dog Whisperer"). I can do almost any job, but if I know the expectations, some rules, some guidelines, even a reasonable expectation of the goals, I can do that job more efficiently, with better outcome. I'm searching for the expectations here, talking out loud, not trying to create a definition, and certainly not proclaiming one!

I went back to Dr. Chan's notes and found an interesting paragraph:
Simon Chan
 
If convergence is to be actualized and the movement is to mature, convergence churches must take up the challenge to produce song-writers and musicians who understand the liturgical (that is, trinitarian) structure of worship. To borrow from the contemporary evangelical-charismatic world of worship is not going to advance convergence. David cannot fight in Saul’s armor! Good songs are those that are composed for the liturgy. The liturgy must determine the form and content of our songs. But what often happens in so-called blended worship is that the liturgy is made to fit into a christomonistic or pneumatomonistic paradigm of worship.

If "liturgical" equals "trinitarian", it's helpful to check further back in Dr. Chan's notes to see that he sees liturgy as a complete worship form (my label, not his), where we address the Godhead, not just Father, or Son, or Spirit. He took us to task about looking at the triune nature of the creed where we profess belief in all three members of the Godhead. In the Lord's Prayer, we pray to our Father. In the liturgy of the Table, we commemorate and re-member the Son. Throughout the service, we talk about our interaction with the Spirit, Who empowers us to walk out our faith in everyday life.

Helena & I have talked about this a lot. We sense that it's very, VERY important to the CEC, to our own parish, and to the entire body of Christ, but putting that sense into transportable, understandable terms is not easy. I'm trying really hard not to presume to have "THEEEE" definition here. I do want to put another thought out on the table, though, maybe more a concept and image than a thought.

We got to talking about how we both feel that Dr. Chan was expressing so much of what we have practiced in our own musical ministry for years, and what we see, by-and-large, in the CEC parishes with which we've come in contact. Our personal emphasis is on what we've called "throneroom worship" for years. It's Revelation 4 & 5 scene: throneroom, with Father on the throne, Son seated at His right hand (the place of honor), with the Spirit blazing before them in the form of the seven firepots or lamps. And in that place what else do we see? Thrones of the 24 elders, the glassy sea of the throngs of the saints victorious and the variously described creatures flying toward and froward, proclaiming the holiness of our/their God. Their songs and proclamations do not include the words "I" or "we". Most of them are descriptive of or proclamatory about God, done in the third person and yet still addressing the Sovereign God. And the others address God in the second person, "Worthy are YOU to..."

I've made a few jokes over the years about the four living creatures who "day and night [do not] cease to say, 'Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, Who was and Who is and Who is to come.'" The quartet with one song. Same song for eternity! They probably know the words really well! No need for a teleprompter. How many of us get bored when we use the same song list, one day a week, for a month!? :P

Liturgical=Trinitarian. Throneroom=Trinitarian, when we keep in mind what that heavenly throneroom looks like.

Dr. Chan also drove several more arrows into this particular target. He talked mostly about music but I think that he would agree that ANY of the worship arts would fit into what he was sharing. He also talked about some other things:

  • Good songs are those that are composed for the liturgy.
  • We need to develop/encourage song-writers and musicians (Dean translates: worship artists in general) who understand the liturgical/trinitarian structure of worship.
  • Liturgy must determine the form and content of our songs, rather than be conformed to or modified by the songs.
And again, this is all the expression of one who is not involved in a liturgical congregation! He sees the enormous value and need, however.

Liturgy must determine the form and content of ALL of our artistic offerings. Context is important. In real estate, it's "location, location, location." In Christian worship, it's about context, in my opinion. Liturgy IS the context. How does my artistic expression and offering fit in? And how do we express this trinitarian thought appropriately.

Because we live "in" time and are not currently involved directly in heavenly worship with the triune expression of the Godhead before us, it can be hard to deal with more than one member of the Trinity at one time. And it's certainly going to be hard to change old habits and thought patterns from the "I" oriented stuff to the "You" focus or even the "He/They" focus. Does a somewhat balanced approach of artistic expression fit into the trinitarian model? This week we sing "Holy Spirit, Thou art welcome in this place" and next week, we do "Only Jesus can satisfy", and the week after, we focus on Father by singing "Ancient of Days". Does that satisfy a trinitarian expression? I wonder. I hope so.

Certainly more chewing and more pondering to come.
Blessings!

Dean
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