Music in worship is too often limited to community song. Sound can be utilised in most aspects of the liturgy, although it would be a brave worship leader who detemined to use all of these innovations in a single week! Let's take a look at some common liturgical elements and consider how music might enrich each of them.
Entering - sound effects
Consider how people are greeted as they enter your particular worship space.Are they confronted with the last minute rehearsal of the instrumentalists. If there is music playing, is it merely there for entertainment value, or to fill an uncomfortable silence? Surely not! Sound can help to centre thoughts, and focus our purpose.
Consider how you might help to focus the thoughts of people as they arrive. Instead of music, you may choose to amplify a soundtrack of wind blowing or crackling fire (Pentecost). A journeying theme might be enhanced with the sounds of shoes on gravel, or the sound of crashing waves (calming the storm, crossing the Red Sea), bird calls (celebrating creation), kitchen sounds (Mary and Martha) or crowd noise (Palm Sunday, Christmas Eve, Feeding the 5000). Entering the worship space should be far from ordinary. Engage people with the unnexpected.
If your community processes bible, water, candle or communion elements, it could be time the shake it up a little. Rather than carrying the elements at waist height, they can be presented more dramatically held above the carriers head. Perhaps a dancer can 'dance' the bible in, or a trumpeter walk the aisle with a solo fanfare. Perhaps the musicians can join the procession with portable instruments, or as a singing ensemle. Each of these possibilities will elicit a different response from the gathered people, and will set the tone of anticipation for worship to follow.
Praying with eyes wide open
Sung prayer responses are very common: following a spoken prayer, the gathered people join in a sung response. Consider too that some songs can stand alone as prayers, and are in fact written in the language of prayer. Perhaps a sung response can be interspersed with images, gestures, dance, or silent reflection rather than spoken words, leaving space for the personal prayers to be offered.
A prayerscape can be made by providing candles, windchimes, gongs, triangles, large cymbals (with soft mallets) at several points around the worship space. People are invited to make their unspoken prayer by lighting a candle, striking a gong or stroking chimes. Musicians may play some unobtrusive music as people move around the space. Prayerscapes are most effective where varied sound sources are provided at multiple places.
Teach a Song - Proclamation
No I am not about to suggest that the sermon should be sung - never fear ye clergy folk! But have you consider engaging the community in a conversation about song text, its meaning and implications? We can sing songs for years without fully considering what is being espoused. Perhaps we will find, as we converse with others, that the meaning they derive from a song is quite different to ours. These encounters offer opportunity to discuss faith with those we are sitting close to, perhaps being tounched by a line or two we had never considered before. When you've talked about the text, sing the song together.
Create a soundscape
Soundscapes are an effective way of enhancing bible readings. By using sounds to accompany spoken words, they may become more engaging and memorable. More on soundscapes....
You are welcome to share your own innovative ideas with others by reply to this post. Let me know if you use any of these ideas, and what you learnt/gained/experienced by using them.