Ritual artists recognize the value of many different art forms in worship, including liturgical art. In this final blog post in the three part series on Ritual Artists, we are going to examine some ways in which we are all liturgical wordsmiths, and therefore, artists. The purpose of this post is to get you thinking about ways in which you can begin looking at how ritual art is currently in use in your worship.
You are a writer””a “wordsmith.” All of us are. The moment we open our mouths to tell someone about our day, we are engaging in the act of storytelling, creating character and storyline. If you deal with words for worship, you are also a poet. Poetry is the act of crystallizing language into richly symbolic form. Symbol is the primary language of worship””whether we are using the language of visuals, media images, musical phrasing or words.
In fact, words in worship are meant to be more poetry than prose. They are meant to draw the listener/speaker into the mystery and power of the Divine One, and doing that involves the art of offering not only words, but spaces between the words, words sculpted by music that is dancing a duet with those words, or words that are crafted into motion within projected media.
My first career was in professional dance and musical theater. For the most part, words were either non-existent in my art form or they were carefully prescribed. My first career did not require me to learn the craft of sculpting my own words. So, when I began to lead worship and preach, dealing with words was a growing edge. However, recognizing my own experience lets me know that if word sculpting is a growing edge for you as well, you CAN learn how to do this””because I did. What helped me immensely was to study, discover, and then play with really good structures for crafting poetry and prayers for worship. In this post, I’ll introduce you to a simple and fun way to begin to play with words called the “Topic Poem.” Here is the structure:
Topic - one word
________________,________________ , ______________________
Synonym for the Topic
Changing, Shedding, Opening
Turning my life around
In this very brief poem, the core ideas of the theme shine through. “How is this liturgical writing,” you ask? Imagine the ways you could implement this structure:
”¢ Use as part of the graphic for a Worship Guide (bulletin) cover.
”¢ Use (or write a different one for each Sunday) as part of a time of silent prayer. Simply print it in the Worship Guide after your heading “Silent Prayer” for people to simply meditate upon during the silence.
”¢ Create a sequence using projection media where these words move into place with beautiful/interesting transitions over a background image that is also thematic. Play the introduction to a song, a hymn, or an anthem during the sequence, and when the words have had their due time, move into the singing seamlessly.
”¢ Use as a unison “people’s benediction” at the end of each service of the series. Of course, at the end of the last word, “Rise!” you would kick into a rockin’ postlude (whether that’s an organ or a band).
Give this poem form a try! Writing experimental poems really is fun to do and is a great way to begin to see yourself as a liturgical “wordsmith,” and as a ritual artist!