A few years back the Oîkos Ensemble led Sunday morning worship at a church in Cleveland. It was a great jazz service, with musicians and worshipers performing the dance of creative liturgy together. Performing? That’s a presumptuous thing to say when you’re leading worship. The commonly held idea is that we’re not supposed to perform in worship. Performance, when praising God is somehow unseemly, egotistical . . . blasphemous?
I believe the Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, had the correct assessment of worship as performance. We are not to be passive pew participants seated before our worship leaders—preacher, choir, musicians. Our role as worshipers is to be on center stage to act out our faith and perform for God, who is our ever-present audience. So perform we did with Chris Bakriges on piano, Ricky Exton on drums and Glenn Holmes on bass. And, we had the good fortune to have Angela Lynard as our vocalist to assist worshipers in their performance before God.
At the conclusion of worship I had two powerful conversations. One, with an older woman who reminder me that we led a jazz playshop more than two years earlier that changed her life. I had asked participants to engage in creative punctuation artistry, which enabled her to understand the transitional place her life was in, ultimately helping her to make a decisive change that was transforming. The other, a younger woman, confessed that she had just stumbled into church that morning not expecting much and the music had touched her deeply, lifting her spirits and giving her the courage to face a difficult issue in her life.
Whew! The power of the music is amazing, especially when grounded in the Spirit. It’s a humbling experience doing this thing called Oîkos. Time and time again people express how our music, stories and creativity have awakened them in unexpected ways. I guess that’s why I love doing this ministry. You never know when or where transformation will strike. And whose life will be changed.