This past Sunday we offered a multi-sensory, participatory service called God is Here, inspired by Rabbi Toba Spitzer and Cole Arthur Riley. We offer these services two times a year, and like most services at Reservoir, they incorporate scripture, prayer, song and communion – but often in different forms.
The main distinction is that any “teaching” is not detailed as its own element – in fact, a participatory liturgy is designed to allow any learning to emerge as we participate and respond to the stirring of our great teacher, the Spirit of God.
This is why, if you’ve experienced a participatory liturgy, you’ll have noticed the value of an economy of words and the emphasis on a multitude of inroads to encounter and experience the Spirit of God. Our recent liturgy was stations-based inside and outside the church building. An invitation as Rabbi Toba Spitzer puts it to remember that
“there isn’t just one place to encounter godliness– it can just as well happen here in this moment, right where we are – as well as in every moment , in any moment , in any place that we might find ourselves – as we open ourselves to the awareness of this potential.” (81)
A participatory liturgy relishes the unknown, the uncertainty. Hoping that in the unscripted-ness, the choreography of the Spirit will take stage and play out in real time as folks engage with a real and life-giving God. The only variables we can count on are the mystery of God, the power of vulnerability and the movement of a participatory faith that takes us all somewhere new together.
I’m not sure how it all works, but my guess is that God loves our participation. God loves to see our faith as a participatory faith.
These liturgies help us remember that our spiritual journeys are not static, one-dimensional, one-size-fits-all, or Sunday-morning-specific – but they incorporate all the kinesthetic, profluent metaphors and feelings of our real lives. We may not always know how the components of the liturgy of our lives will play out – how a smile, a moment of pausing and listening to the same old conversation, or how the wisdom of our ancestors will translate into actionable balm to this world, our neighbor, or ourselves…. perhaps this is why the word liturgy means, “work of the people” – because it’s not just the work within a service – but it is the work of our lives.
May we find God saturating the world around us and within us, even in the places we dismiss. And may these liturgies continue to do the work of unfolding in and around you, as you move about your days.
We encourage you to explore the Reflections, Engagements, Mini-Practices and Installations in the attachment sections below (Place, Rock, Water, Voice and Sound) to begin your personal exploration of this unfolding work.