Curating Creative Worship
by D. Mark Davis
Creating Creatively via the Creator’s Creativity
On June 1, ministers of Word and Sacrament, elders, and worship leaders in our presbytery will have the opportunity to lean into one of the more exciting, but challenging, joys of church life – curating creative worship. As the latest iteration of the “Directory for Worship” in the Presbyterian Book of Order says, “Christian worship has always been marked by a tension between form and freedom.” That tension can push worship services in several directions for good or for ill – from stale to chaotic, comforting to provocative, predictable to innovative, or boring to exciting. There is value in ordering worship by the word and tradition and there is value in leaving space in worship for the Holy Spirit to bring unexpected insight and inspiration. As the “Directory for Worship” continues, “In whatever form it takes, worship is to be ordered by God’s Word and open to the creativity of the Holy Spirit.”  The focus on both, God’s ordering and God’s creativity, invites us to design worship that is marked by order and ardor, form and freedom, tradition and something new.
The joyful task of planning worship becomes particularly challenging when it is a weekly event. A Sunday worship service that hits on all cylinders, with powerful music, passionate prayers, and a genuinely palpable sense of the presence of the risen Christ right there among us, is followed by a Monday morning, when we have one week to do it all again. Pastors and music directors are often amazed at how small our music repertoire can feel after a while and the struggle to keep things fresh is an ongoing one. It is often wise to keep a template for the order of worship, or to work from the previous week and simply change out texts, titles, and names, because who needs to re-invent the wheel each week? At the same time, predictability and efficiency in worship planning can lead to stagnation in worship itself. If you ever feel yourself experiencing these challenges, you will want to attend our presbytery meeting on June1 and hear Dr. Marcia McFee speak about creative worship.
Marcia McFee is a professor, worship designer, author, preacher and ritual artist. Drawing on a first career in professional dance and musical theater and equipped with a Master’s in Theology and a Ph.D. in Liturgical Studies and Ethics, Dr. McFee is in wide demand as a workshop leader, guiding worship planners to explore many creative portals through which our worshiping communities can journey with the Spirit. Dr. McFee will present a workshop at 2:30 pm at our June 1st presbytery meeting, then lead our presbytery in worship following our business meeting and supper. One thing I have learned from Dr. McFee is to introduce early on during worship a “threshold moment,” which introduces people to the theme of the day at the beginning of the service, so that every part of the service is seen through that thematic lens. The simple act of setting expectations will affect the experience that people have dramatically.
The June 1 workshop by Dr. McFee is a great occasion for pastors and anyone involved in worship planning to learn, grow, and rejuvenate the joy of worship planning. Please do not hesitate to invite anyone involved in worship planning in your congregation to be part of this experience.
For those interested in learning even more, you can read Dr. McFee’s book, The Worship Workshop: Creative Ways to Design Worship Together. This book helps worship committees, planners, and designers evaluate the state of their current worship, get more people involved in the planning and designing process, explore the diverse designs of congregational worship, learn the history of worship, and utilize the arts and artists in worship. Purchase it here.
 Book of Order, 2019-2023, The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), pt.II, W-2.0102.
Are you Burned Out, in a Rut, and Frustrated by Sunday Mornings?Then you need to “think like a filmmaker!” In this book, Marcia McFee provides time-tested strategies for creating and sustaining sensory-rich worship that offers unforgettable messages each and every week. Applying these lessons to vital communication of the Greatest-Story-Ever-Told will not only inspire pastors and staff for their work, but will invigorate the congregation’s excitement for Sunday mornings. Purchase it here.
This book helps worship committees, planners, and designers evaluate the state of their current worship, get more people involved in the planning and designing process, explore the diverse designs of congregational worship, learn the history of worship, and utilize the arts and artists in worship. Purchase it here.