'A long obedience in the same direction'

MC Eastern Canada's Annual School for Ministers tackles 'worship as spiritual formation'.






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Publication: Canadian Mennonite
Author: Rogalsky, Dave
Date published: April 18, 2011

Mennonite Church Eastern Canada's annual School for Ministers, held in late February at Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, was the third event this winter focused on spiritual formation. The events were designed to get pastors and other leaders thinking about their work as forming individuals and congregations as Christians and as Christian organizations.

From Feb. 22 to 24, Irma Fast Dueck, associate professor of practical theology at Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg, Man., spoke to the need to create worship in which people have the opportunity to encounter God. "There is something more at work" than planning and leading, she said. Pastors and church leaders need to come to worship planning and leading with humility, as "something difficult to name, a mystery" meets the congregation in worship.

"Worship is a waste of time; it's useless," she said, meaning that worship should not try to do anything other than provide an opportunity to meet God. "We are created for companionship with our Creator," she said, adding, "Worship is good in and of itself."

The early Anabaptists knew this, Fast Dueck said, as they yielded themselves (gelassenheit) to God in their worship. As such, worship is an experience that changes and forms people. She described early 20th-century Mennonite worship as orientation, disorientation and reorientation:

* ORIENTATION - solidifying Mennonites' intellectual self-understanding as they moved out of their communities into the world. H. S. Bender's "Anabaptist Vision" was part of this.

* From the 1960s on, DISORIENTATION became the norm - a fixation on innovation and creativity in worship, that tended to be music-driven, intimate in nature, casual and informal.

* Now RE-ORIENTATION, or renewal, is taking place with worship again being seen as the place to renew the congregation's relationship with God and experienee God anew. The assumption is that people are longing for a relationship with God and that worship can provide a place to meet God with body, mind and emotions.

Fast Dueck's second presentation focused on the use of ritual, embodied worship. In her final presentation, almost negating her earlier comments about worship not getting things done, she focused on "10 spiritual practices of public worship," a list of things that worship does for the congregation, including teaching about generosity, justice, mercy and the universality of the church.

The three-day event also included worship, and workshops on lament, preaching, rituals, storytelling and prayer.

Author affiliation:

STORY AND PHOTO BY DAVE ROGALSKY

Eastern Canada Correspondent

WATERLOO1ONT.

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