Some people think of me as a worship leader, others a pastor, and yet others an activist. I don’t want to choose one; I am CCDA! CCDA is a community of people that is doing the work of neighboring. Loving God and loving our neighbor is at the heart of what we do. This difficult, collective work comes from the depth of our intimacy with God. Worship is what compels us to keep going year after year, decade after decade.
Worship can and should foster prophetic imagination that forms us, transforms our communities, and moves us forward in God’s work. When we gather to remember the life, death and resurrection of Christ, our faith is restored. When we celebrate and anticipate his glorious return, our hope is renewed. Worship in our context embodies the principles and values of Christian Community Development, helping us to imagine what could be. Our core values of reconciliation, relocation, and redistribution (which we often call the three R’s) are foundational for worship, CCDA style.
Reconciliation: Practicing Hospitality, Solidarity, and Mutuality
In the Church, as well as in CCDA, we gather across many different racial, ethnic, and denominational traditions. This diversity should enrich and transform our worship when we come together. When I speak of diverse worship, I mean worship that acknowledges, honors, and embodies the diversity of the local and global church. Why pretend we are all the same when the reality is that we are not? As many have said, unity does not mean uniformity. We see difference as good and pay attention to those differences as a way of learning about God from one another.
Our diverse worship isn’t just nice––it’s necessary to bring about reconciliation. Practicing reconciliation in worship has three major roles. The first is hospitality. Our worship practices should communicate, “We welcome you.” The form and style of our worship lets people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds know that they do not have to assimilate to be together. Our practices let people know they may come in as guests, but once they are in the house, they are free to rearrange the furniture. Beyond hospitality, we move to something deeper: solidarity. Our worship should communicate, “We got you.” The content of our worship tells people that we stand together. This is worship that helps us to see life’s events through the eyes of our sisters and brothers who are not like us. It allows us to mourn with one another in tragedy and gives space for everyone’s story. From solidarity, we move to mutuality, communicating to each other, “We need you.” Worship that embodies reconciliation makes room for the gifts of all of God’s people to be shared. We create spaces where we can give to and receive from one another.
Relocation: Being Incarnational and Contextual
Our presence in our communities informs our pastoral concerns. As a pastor of a church on the west side of Chicago, I encounter the tragedy of gun violence, broken immigration systems, and mistrust between the community and law enforcement. As a result, these themes permeate my prayers, sermons and worship. They are not “issues,” they are pastoral concerns. Our theology of place, commitment to incarnational living, and practice of presence influences our worship.
Place matters not only for the content of your worship but it also matters for how worship is expressed. On a Sunday, after the sermon/homily, how much time do you anticipate before the service closes? In some traditions there is regularly a closing song and a few words of benediction. At Grace and Peace (shout out to my congregation!), you just don’t know how much longer service will last––except that it will be before the Bears play. It may be a testimony and closing prayer, but it may be an altar call or prayer ministry that lasts another fifteen minutes. Not only is the length of time and activity different, but whether you can actually anticipate what is going to happen is also different.
Redistribution: Sharing Power
Worship practices should redistribute power. How do we do that? First, we share our leadership. Collaboration requires sharing power, real power. It requires co-creation and co-decision-making. Shared leadership invites us to empty ourselves of complete power or control. Second, we make space for one another’s stories. This begins with an environment of mutual learning in which we learn why our traditions are the way they are. It’s not primarily about collecting songs and components from different traditions and consuming them. It is about making space at the table for the narratives, values, and theology of each of our communities to shape our own understanding of God. There is not one voice and one story dominating but a beautiful collection.
It is our hope that you will join our worship with open ears, mouths, and hearts as we gather together in Los Angeles this August!