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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Experiential worship

Imagine going to worship and instead of finding the normal chairs, hymnals and altar, you get blasted in the face with a 90-degree temperature coming from a sanctuary transformed into a desert wilderness complete with sand, rocks, shrubs and heat. Part of the experiential worship series at Westwinds Community Church, Jackson, Mich., Pastor Ron Martoia created an experience that included parts of the historic liturgy—confession, healing, word, sacrament, prayer—and laid it out as a journey for all who entered the doors.

Experiential elements are a growing part of 21st-century worship. Space is opened up for movement and “stations.” The format is that of a journey, with the worshiper as the pilgrim and the liturgy and worship space as the road. Check out Postmodern Pilgrims by Leonard Sweet, Experiential Worship by Bob Rognlien (an ELCA pastor), and Emerging Worship by Dan Kimball.


Comments

Brice

Brice

Posted at 11:59 pm (U.S. Eastern) 9/30/2007

I'm looking to liven up my Traditional Service at my church. I've studied a lot on Experiential worship and I'm feeling that if we can add just a small experiential element to this service it will boost interest and thereby boost attendance. I know that attendance isn't the important thing but I really feel this would make a lot of things better. Any Ideas on what we could incorporate into our traditional service?

Tom Lyberg

Tom Lyberg

Posted at 1:37 pm (U.S. Eastern) 10/2/2007

Brice,
There are several experiential elements that work very well with traditional worship.  In fact, that is the blessing of the Lutheran order of worship, is that in its very structure and sacramental nature, it is inherently experiential - singing, water, water, images, smells, word, etc...

The books I recommended by in this article are very helpful but from my own experience, there are a number of elements I have used in traditional services.  A simple one is a "Bread of Life" Sunday.  We used LBW 2 and just had a running cycle of images of Jesus and Bread running on our temporary screen.  The experiential part that drew people in and made it memorable were the two bread machines that were baking bread during the worship.  The bread that was backed during the first service was used for communion at the second and it was still warm!  I got repeated comments about how meaningful it was and also requests could we do that every sunday.  The aromas filled the church and the hunger for bread connected with a new sense of hunger for Jesus.

I can send you some more ideas or we can skype or even use landlines.  Email me at my podcast address - tom@wiredjesus.com.



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