|Sight, sounds, movements create worship experience|
Marcia McFee, co-director of music and worship, leads singing during morning worship on April 27 at the 2008 United Methodist General Conference in
Fort Worth, Texas. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.
By Yvette Moore*
April 30, 2008 | FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS)
What we do in worship matters. That's a guiding principle shaping the sights, sounds, feel and movement experienced in the physically engaging worship services of the 2008 United Methodist General Conference.
"Worship helps form us. The question is what are we being formed into?" said Marcia McFee, co-director of music and worship at the quadrennial event. "It's not enough to sing the word. It's not enough to talk the word. Something happens when we act."
She believes getting physical in worship can help the church act like the body of Christ that it is. Worshippers at General Conference are clapping, singing, offering liturgies in American Sign Language, moving with songs of faith from around the world and turning en masse to face one another across the communion table in the center of the arena to enter what McFee calls "the physicality of spirituality."
"Our physical bodies have something to do with our discipleship," she said. "When we do something as simple as turning to the center to face each other around the communion table and see each other as the body of Christ across the table – especially in a place where there can be so many divisions – there's no way we can then turn away from one another."
Mark Miller, co-director of music and worship, leads singing during worship
at General Conference. A UMNS
photo by Paul Jeffrey.
From the start, the music and worship of this General Conference has been the collaborative work of McFee and Mark Miller. The two learned they'd both applied to direct music and worship at General Conference while crossing paths at Drew Theological School where McFee teaches and Miller is director of music and instructor of church music. Their joint response was, "Let's have lunch," according to McFee.
"We talked because this is a huge job – together, we could do something special," she said. "One of the wonderful things about the collaboration is I've gotten to focus on worship design, pulling together ritual and the dramatics, and writing liturgy."
McFee and Miller put out a call for artists of all kinds for General Conference worship. They reviewed each video, CD and script submission, considering how each artist's offering could fit with the General Conference's theme, "A Future with Hope."
For example, the Strangely Warmed Players' "Crossing to the Other Side" comedy skit, featuring a captain who for safety reasons refused to undock his ship, challenged the church to risk being in mission on the day General Conference participants were called to remember their baptisms.
The Strangely Warmed Players perform a satirical skit during April 26 morning worship at the 2008 United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
"I'm not a big fan of worship as a showcase," McFee said. "Artists are there to proclaim the word. In all of the services, we worked hard to integrate the theme and speak to the word proclaimed."
Dramatic, full-bodied worship is a hallmark of McFee's work around the church. The author, preacher and worship designer has developed worship for church events, such as the quadrennial United Methodist Women's Assembly, and regularly led retreats and seminars on worship.
"I started out as a dancer -- and dance is a part of my life that I love – but it's not about watching people dance," McFee said. "Worship is about asking people to enter into the physicality of spirituality. If worship never moves us to sync up with each other, we're less likely to feel that we are the body of Christ."
*Moore is an executive secretary of communication for the Women's Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
News media contact: Linda Bloom or Tim Tanton, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phone calls can be made to the General Conference Newsroom in Fort Worth, Texas, at (817) 698-4405 until May 3. Afterward, call United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., at (615) 742-5470.
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