Deborah Kapp writes in the preface of her book Worship Frames, “Worship is a congregation’s most important practice. Here a congregation and its members encounter God’s gracious presence and come face to face with frailty, goodness and potential of their humanity. Here they are comforted, corrected, forgiven, healed, challenged, and sometimes even disturbed by the divine and one another. Here congregations and people are morally formed, and from here they are sent by God into the world. Worship is important. Through the action of the Spirit it enlivens congregations and believers.”
Deborah Kapp’s book is one of the books I have read in preparation for a course I will take at The Iona Community on the island of Iona, Scotland. Professor Kapp’s book discusses the importance of frames in worship. “A worship frame shapes the experiential space in which people can, through the action of the Holy Spirit, apprehend God and the meaning of God’s presence in their lives.” One of the most important frames is the opening frame of worship. What is said and done at the beginning of a liturgy is critical in setting the tone and defining the nature of what liturgy looks like in any given community.
I am told that the beginning worship frame at the Iona Community often begins with these words:
The world belongs to God
The earth and all its people.
How good and how lovely it is
To live together in unity.
Love and faith come together
Justice and peace join hands
If the Lord’s disciples keep silent
These stones will shout aloud
The invitational work of this frame is designed to "invoke and celebrate God’s presence, welcome and include worshipers, and help worshipers ready themselves for the service.” (Kapp 2008). I am looking forward to The Iona Community. I love this invitation as it names the theology of the community. That theology clearly is rooted in the knowledge of being God’s own. It is a theology that is open, and ecumenical. It is a community that strives for peace and justice for all people. It is a community that clearly believes in finding a voice to speak for love, justice, peace, and healing. This invitation to worship celebrates God’s presence while at the same time calling the people of God to speak up.
Iona also celebrates a rich tradition of music. One of the hymns in Common Praise that we sing at St. Mark’s is Today I Awake. It is a great opening hymn for worship and one I would use before or after such a great prayer of invitation:
Today I awake and God is before me
At night as dreamt, he summoned the day;
for God never sleeps, but patterns the morning
with slithers of gold or glory of grey.
This first verse is beautiful. The hymn takes a Trinitarian formula and therefore the first verse is focuses on God the Creator. It calls us to remember that God is at work, at all time and in all of creation. Even while we rest, God’s hand is still active.
Today I arise and Christ is beside me.
He walked through the dark to scatter new light.
Yes, Christ is alive, and beckons his people
To hope and to heal, resist and invite.
The second verse again acknowledges the ever present work of God, this time naming Christ as the ever present deity. This verse is a reminder to the singer that she is called witness in hope for things that most have too much despair to hope for, to heal those who are broken and need the healing touch of love, to resist the darkness and evil that we see around us, and to invite others to come into the fellowship of God’s love as known in Jesus Christ.
Today I affirm the Spirit within me
at worship and work, in struggle and rest.
The Spirit inspires all life which is changing
from fearing to faith, from broken to blest.
Now the singer is reminded of the third person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. The promise of Jesus was that he would send an advocate, a friend the Holy Spirit to guide us (see John 14: 23-29). He we are assured in the words that we sing that the Spirit is always at work, not just as we worship but also as we work and play. Here John Bell, the hymn writer, declares that the Spirit does some of its best work in the midst of change. The imagination here is wonderful and calls us to remember that God will be present even in the midst of change and that The Spirit inspires change and encourages us to embrace faith over fear.
Today I enjoy the Trinity round me,
above and beneath, before and behind;
the Maker, the Son, the Spirit together –
they called me to life and call me their friend.
This last verse beautifully reworks the words the prayer of St. Patrick. The key line being the final line – we sing “they called me to life and call me their friend.”
Iona worship will be something wonderful to experience and it clearly affirms God in the midst of Justice, hope, healing, friendship, unity, proclamation and forgiveness.
I am excited about the reading that Professor Kapp as pulled together for this course and am looking forward to great dialogue as we learn on that wonderful island of Iona.
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