One of the things that drew me to Church of the Servant was its commitment to worship that is “Reformed and liturgical, historic and modern, local and global.” No church can be all things to all people, but I appreciate our attempt to be more than one thing to our people.
This Pentecost season we’ll continue this tradition of ecumenism, using a somewhat different approach. Rather than using universal liturgy and creeds (Book of Common Prayer, Apostles’ Creed, etc), this season’s worship will be based on liturgy and creeds originating in Kenya. The bulk of this liturgy is taken from the Anglican Kenyan Eucharistic Rite. The form of the service will feel familiar, but the words of the liturgy are very rhythmic and exuberant.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the service is the Maasai Creed. I first heard this creed when Krista Tippett interviewed scholar Jaraslov Pelikan on Speaking of Faith. (Read the full transcript here: http://bit.ly/1D0K3ef.) Pelikan had just edited a book called Credo. Of the hundreds of creeds in that collection, he held up the Maasai Creed as exemplary for taking the universal three-part structure of Christian creeds (Father, Son, Spirit) and contextualizing the faith in unique and wonderful ways. For example, there is a section that contextualizes Peter’s words from Acts 2:27: “He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch Him, and on the third day He rose from the grave.”
“Can’t we be ecumenical without the hyenas?” You ask.
Certainly there are many ways to experience the global Church without the hyenas. Indeed, most seasons COS stays close to the established patterns and creeds of the Church Universal. But the Church Universal is not a disembodied entity. Rather, it is a global communion incarnated in local churches throughout the world. Immersing ourselves in the unique worship of one of these localities—Kenya—is a rich way of experiencing the breadth of the Church Universal.
Perhaps another document from Kenya, The Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture, will help us think through these issues. The Nairobi Statement (http://bit.ly/1JTYpC5) proposes four ways in which worship interacts with culture: Worship is Transcultural in that all Christians share a Triune God, Scripture, and Lord’s Supper which transcend culture. Worship is Contextual because our worship must plant the universals of the faith in local soil. Worship is Counter-cultural because churches must resist the “patterns of this world” (Romans 12:2), allowing our worship to be transformed into Christ-likeness. Worship is Cross-cultural when we share elements (music, liturgy) across culture lines, making us keenly aware of the bond we share in Christ. In Nairobi Statement terms, this Pentecost Season at COS is Transcultural in that our worship retains all of the historic, biblical elements of worship; Contextual, because we’re using a highly localized liturgy; and Cross-cultural because that liturgy comes from Kenya.
My prayer is that unleashing hyenas at COS will not only help us live more deeply into the multi-cultured life of the Church, but also give us fresh insight into our own worship context.
–Greg Scheer, minister of worship