The liturgist is one who takes the voice of the people and lifts it to the Divine, while bringing the heart of God to the people. This task is challenging in a world where it would seem that the people are so fragmented and fractured by the polarity of us and them. Places of worship which should be characterized by withness lose their witness when unity succumbs to the ugly realities of othering as a community norm. The church must be a community of people bound together by their willingness to journey as one into the meaning and mystery of the sacred. The role of spiritual communities on this journey is to be the place where the disparate parts of our humanity can be bound together and then kept from being separated again. The journey engaged must take everyone away from that place where preservation of the institution determines our ultimate values and witness, and our norms become more important than the welcoming of others. In fact, life giving love is manifested in the human willingness to venture beyond the boundaries of safety, to risk losing ourselves, and even in the desire to explore the crevices of the unknown (Spong 2002).
If you are unsure if you are really working toward a more loving, just, and humane world in your spiritual context or as an individual, ask yourself what have we/I given up to include this person or these persons? If it has not cost you anything to embrace the other, you have not embraced them at all, they have merely assimilated to the dominant culture, and left a part of their personhood and full humanity behind. This is antithetical to the mission of spirituality that we engage as communities of faith. Rather than asking people to be bifurcated we are tasked with calling people to be integrated, whole, and holy. The church’s task is to assist its people in plumbing the depths of their own humanity in light of sacred text. This plumbing of our humanity with the light of Gospel leads to the discovery of transcendence, mystery, being, and love. This is the love that whole and holy humans extend to the world (Spong, Why Christianity Must Change or Die 1998).
One of the greatest hindrances to building environments of Justice is the inability of dominant cultures to take responsibility for shameless privilege and arrogant elitism of being in power. The successful liturgist crafts moments of corporate worship in a way where all are confronted and accept culpability for the inexorable price people on the margins are forced to pay to ensure the primacy of dominant cultures. A true liturgist must always engage a sociopolitical analysis of wholeness. This analysis makes the faithful community able to confront racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, and any other privilege visited upon members of the non-dominant culture (Douglas, The Black Christ 1994). Through creative engagement of prayer, praise, prayer, sermon, sacrament, or spiritual ecstasy the liturgist helps guide the community toward a place of freedom for each to be their highest self. In the individual highest self is the ability to discover the collective highest self.
When spiritual communities are invited to be their highest collective self (whether it be a church, university, or nonprofit) they become that people called into being by the power and love of God to share in God’s revolutionary activity for the liberation of man. This work of liberation toward a more just and humane world cannot be thwarted by the culture of our institutions being owned by dominating groups who continually marginalize and disenfranchise those who institution considers other. Since culture is the basis of all ideas, images, and actions whatever mythology, history, social organization, creative motif, and ethos that governs the institution, the liturgist undertakes the task of cultural production at every corporate gathering (Cone 1997). This task is not easy, but it is necessary. I invite you to think about where your spiritual community is portraying the gospel narrative in building a just and humane world and where you have a growing edge. Remember what you think about you bring about because you are the thinker that thinks the thought, that creates the thing!
Please feel welcomed to comment below!
Peace is possible,
Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor
SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY
Cone, James H. 1997. Black Theology and Black power. MaryKnoll: Orbis.
Douglas, Kelly Brown. 1999. Sexuality and the Black Church:A Womanist Perspective . Maryknoll: Orbis .
—. 1994. The Black Christ. Maryknoll: Orbis.
Spong, John Shelby. 2002. A New Christianity for a New World. New York: Harper SanFransico.
—. 1998. Why Christianity Must Change or Die. New York: Harper Collins.