I used to laugh at how my mom (a speech and English professor) would read like three newspapers every morning and tear articles out for her files for students to use when preparing speeches. She also would send me articles torn out that she thought I would be interested in. Today, I continue to open files and find those articles with quick notes scribbled in the margins. And she is right there with me in those times. One such article I recently came across was from the New York Times and its title caught my eye – “Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer.” The article was by a travel writer who had come to realize he was drawn to what the Celts referred to as “thin places” He went on to describe them as “locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent or, as I like to think of it, the Infinite Whatever.” These can be buildings, places in nature, experiences with fellow human beings, musical pieces, art, etc.
Worship should be one of those places, but sadly for most people who attend church or used to attend church, it is not. I think people are hungry for places like these. A while back I shared with you a little bit about a UMC worship designer named Marcia McFee. She did her undergraduate degree in theater arts, went on to get a Master of Divinity, and then did her doctorate combining the two with kinesiology. She found that kinesiologists found we all have “home patterns – ways of moving that bring us the most ease and power.” Those patterns connect our bodies with our minds and spirits.
The four basic patterns are as follows (found in McFee’s article Rhythms of Liturgy and Life):
- Thrusters – sudden neuromuscular patterns of movement, strong sense of direction, getting somewhere, song that represents We Are Marching in the Light of God (FWS 2235)
- Shapers – carefully placed movement, ability to hold and contain, stillness of pose, focus on proper structure and form, song that represents The Church’s One Foundation (UMH 545)
- Swingers – fluctuating movement, highly interactive, multidirectional, personal, direct relating, song that represents Halle, Halle (FWS 2026)
- Hangers – go with the flow, sustained and free flowing, willingness to meander, indirect in focus, sees the big picture, song that represents Come and Find the Quiet Center (FWS 2128)
I had hoped to do a complete worship service around these before I step down as your half-time pastor and move simply to being an ordained elder in your midst, and I still do at some point. The corona virus has sure wreaked havoc has it not? But it also is giving us the opportunity to do things differently, or as I quoted poet Sonya Renee Taylor in my sermon from April 26, “We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”
I am not talking about worship styles here, i.e. Traditional verses Contemporary. I am talking about developing what McFee calls sensory rich worship that creates thin space. Each one of these patterns does tend to lend itself to a preferred style, but we must create a space where everyone gets some thin space. I love Robert Fulghum’s piece titled “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” and one of those things is sharing is good. By experiencing a worship service that involves all four basic patterns and sharing with your neighbors in worship which you tend to resonate with, we come to understand that sharing our worship space on Sunday mornings, really sharing it, is good!
Shalom, Pastor Helen