Dr. Mark Taylor posting live from South Korea:
Over the next few days, some thoughts about worship in light of the assembly here in Busan, since it was SUSTM’s worship leadership grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation that made my participation possible.
People say, when it comes to worship space, “the building always wins.” If true, then World Council of Churches worship has meant a victory for the largest room I’ve ever been in – a gargantuan exhibition hall. The worship venue had to be that big, of course, to accommodate the thousands of assembly participants. But, nevertheless, huge rear projection screens have been set up around the hall so people can catch some glimpse of what’s going “up there” – fed by a pack of video cameras.
How different from the earliest Christian worship spaces, which were domestic rather than commercial or imperial. How different from the image suggested by the winsome name of that Ethiopian Lutheran-Presbyterian denomination – Makhane Yesu, dwelling place for Jesus.
So, how might a Christian assembly, a Christian household, if you will, create some liberated worship space in an exhibition hall? By grounding worship in the space and providing human-scale stations.
Here in the Busan exhibition hall, a green carpet path meanders from the entry doors to the platform holding icons and water and lectern and cross and other basic symbols. The assembly theme, “God of life lead us to justice and peace” is thus made visible and tactile by walking the path. A half dozen three foot square one foot high raised platforms are spread out along the path. At the opening liturgy last Wednesday, these served as stations of lament for injustice. Now, each day in turn a symbol is placed on each subsequent platform corresponding to the theme of the daily prayer and bible study: tree of life, drum (“roll justice”), water, and so on.
The path is on the ground, not in the rafters a hundred feet over our heads – the path grounds our worship. The stations sit firmly on the ground. They stop us and invite us to linger in little circles, looking, listening, touching. Grounded and gathered around, the Christian assembly can pray in any space.
~ Dr. Mark Lloyd Taylor