Turns out I passed my horrible cold onto Carol. But before we holed ourselves up for healing this week, we went to two Sunday services this past Sunday.
The first was a community called the Bridge. Everyone and their brother told us to check them out. Somehow I got the picture that it would be something like Stomp. Which was not far from the truth. Stomp with Jesus, obviously. Music was pretty central to the service. It was very rhythmic: Drums were key. They lyrics were relatively short and repetitive. There was something almost trance-like about it.
In the evening, we went to the Taize service at the cathedral. Taize is also rhythmic, repetitive and trance-like. Just without drums and sometimes the songs are in other languages. It was created by monks in France, if that gives you any ideas.
I was struck by how different and yet how similar the two services were. Both were led by groups of talented musicians who took their ministry through music seriously. Both used music as a medium to connect people to what I would call the Spirit. The crowds were about the same sizes, and in both crowds people participated with the music by singing or moving as they felt comfortable.
However, if we're giving out Spirit awards (and I don't mean the kind you get at cheerleader camp) my vote goes to the Bridge. Because the main difference between the two services was that the Bridge allowed and invited people to respond to the music and the teaching and whatever else happened in whatever way felt right for them. So people sort of skatted along (you know, like in jazz), calling out lyrics or melodies or coming forward to the mic to speak out what the Spirit was saying to them.
Now, admittedly, Episcopalians do not usually engage in this sort of behavior. We like our Spirit to wear a tie to church and stand up only when it is designated in the bulletin. Still, one of the things I like best about Taize is that its this collective singing project. You don't know when the chants will end. You just sing together until its time to stop. And people sing in rounds or take different parts. Its one of the few places in Episcopal type liturgy when the boundaries are a little bit looser.
But at the cathedral service there seemed to be clear boundaries even at Taize. The choir, who were clearly the ones who knew how to lead us and who we were all supposed to watch, stood in front of us and in turn followed their own leader. It was odd, because at the Bridge, I was struck by how intensely moved the musicians were by what they were doing. And so even though it was not what I am accustomed to, nor probably how I would express a Spirit filled connection, I knew the Spirit was in that place. The same could be said for the Taize choir. They seemed to be connecting to the Spirit through song, but because I felt I was supposed to follow- that there was a particular role for me to follow, I didn't feel the Spirit in the same way.
The Spirit cannot be controlled, nor does it do well coming from the top down. She's a wild and crazy one, and I understand how the terror of that can make people want to put up strict boundaries. But those boundaries quickly become fences that keep people out. And everyone should get a chance to dance with the Holy Spirit