Last Wednesday, Union Presbyterian Seminary hosted author Diana Butler Bass for a discussion about her latest book “Grounded.” In this book, Bass discusses the transition from a top-down theology (as she describes it, a three-level universe made up of heaven, earth, and hell) to a more horizontal theology where we are searching for and asking how God is actually WITH us. To be honest, I had not yet read her book but enjoyed sitting back in our backyard on Thursday to begin.
I don’t know if it is my love of quotes or the fact that I am spending a great deal of time contemplating how to minister to individuals on both ends of this transition that Bass writes about, but when I began perusing the bulletin at Pittsboro Presbyterian Church (led by Rev. Troy Lesher-Thomas, M. Div. ’99) this past Sunday, I couldn’t help but take notice of the quotes in the left hand column.
These three inspirational quotes got my mind going in those moments before the celebratory introit. The quotes are not based in scripture, but they can (and did in this case) urge the reader to consider not just what it means in their own life, but how God can be and is experienced in life.
Quotes are only found on the first page of the bulletin which contains the Welcome, Call to Worship, and Prayer of Confession. With this opportune placement, the quotes serve to create a bridge between life outside of the sanctuary and this Holy space and hour of worship. These quotes in the margin can welcome individuals who might feel as if they too are in the margin, offering a new window into how worship can look.
In the moments before worship on Sunday, when I could have easily been freaking out about my first ever Palm Sunday sermon, I was able to relax and begin to let my worries go as I read the quote
“You are the creature of circumstance or the creator.” (Cavett Robert)
“That’s right!” I thought, and with that I realized that I could create a meaningful worship circumstance by handing everything over to God. I can only imagine how that quote sat with others in the sanctuary as we prepared for worship, or even as they looked over the bulletin on Monday morning before it found its way to the recycling bin.
I do agree with Diana Butler Bass– we are in a period of transition in the way that we approach theology. There is a great desire to know that God is WITH us and not just somewhere looking down on us. There is a great desire to connect the worship hour with real life; to be challenged by worship, but also feel that it is relevant to our lives. Simple things like including a few quotes that might help someone take a moment to reflect on their week and move into the worship mindset can (and I would argue DOES) help us minister to individuals in all phases of this transition.
How do you see this transition in theology playing out in your worship setting?
How do you minister to individuals in the different phases of this transition?
Share your thoughts here!
Rev. Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer