Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Creating liturgy for an inclusive world

There’s a wee Chinese boy on the bus, who’s not been talking long from the look of him, who’s saying

“Twinkle twinkle little star”

Over and over again.

“How I wonder what you are...”

He’s taking such pleasure in the rhymes and rhythms of it

“Up above the world so high...”

As my daughters did when they were small, as my grandson is doing now as he explores all the different kinds of sounds he can make

“Like a diamond in the sky.”

As we all did, once...

Because creativity with language is part of the wider amazing and wonderful gift of creativity that belongs to all of us as our birthright.

And that gift being distorted and blocked is a huge collective source of suffering.

It breaks my heart the way language above all is so misused in our world. 

The way it is habitually used as a means to humiliate and dominate and deceive and manipulate.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I began a writing workshop with asking all its members to remember and to tell of the times their creativity had been used as a means to mock them or humiliate or hurt them.

I sense we’d be still listening the next day: because all of us have suffered that way.

Which means that up to a point it’s very simple to run a writing workshop: you just have to create the conditions which allow this innate creativity to emerge.

My church ( St Columba’s in Oxford ( and the City URC in Cardiff ( all have significant numbers of LGBTI members in their congregations and asked me to lead a writing workshop to enable them to create the kinds of prayers and services and liturgies we need.

So they hired a beautiful venue, the Windermere Centre ( and there we all were. Feeling apprehensive. Or at least I was.

The theory is quite simple: you have to create a sense of community. A sense of a safe space in which everyone is able to be themselves.

Then you devise a way of helping the participants evade the inner censor that will be blocking them creatively. And then you encourage them to work on the results.

It takes a certain level of energy and focus; and, as here, a fabulous group of open hearted and courageous participants.

There’s always a moment when everyone hits their fear and distress. It happened very strongly that first night; partly, I suspect, because the Christian tradition has always been to encourage its members’ sense of unworthiness and shame.  

And, sad to report, it’s done so largely to bolster up the church’s authority.

All that has to change; and is changing, in these astonishing forward looking churches. 

Maybe that’s why we got through.

What’s for sure is that when we came to share what had been created at the end of the evening, the results were beautiful. They created a palpable sense of the sacred.

The task the next day was to encourage everyone to let go of their own work. Hand it over to someone else so we could help each other.

It’s a scary moment, this. It leaves you feeling naked. There was such a palpable resistance to it; some people physically did not want to let go of what they’d written.

But it all ha to be faced, somehow. Faced and cried over. Or laughed over.

And we did. 

And the result of all that astonished me: a whole other set of beautiful new work.

That is now being enjoyed all over again as we send it to each other and slowly assemble it as a future publication and online resource.

Something is happening. The dear star is shining.

Change is in the air....

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