Recently I’ve had the great fortune to help establish a new website which focuses on exploring liturgy.
The website, www.exploringliturgy.org, has many strands, but concentrates on five aspects of worship:
- The distinct perspectives and rituals that emerge in Aboriginal-Christian communities
- The experience of worship traditions in diaspora, as they migrate with people – which often brings great resources for renewal with them
- Emerging and experimental approaches to worship
- Interfaith adventures in prayer (sometimes called “inter-riting”)
- Neo-Pentecostal styles of worship, which is perhaps Australia’s most significant “export” in terms of contributing to Christianity worldwide (think Hillsong).
Collaborating with me on this exciting project has been Pilgrim faculty member (and regular Crosslight contributor) Katharine Massam and Pilgrim research associate Catherine Schieve. We also plan to publish a companion book called Futures Of Worship.
The Exploring Liturgy website also documents the rituals and communities we encounter where one or more of the above five factors are found. The website uses methods employed in liturgical studies – such as making “ritual surveys” of the assembly, leaders, worship space, ceremonial scenes – so it relates closely to what goes on in liturgy classes at Pilgrim Theological College, as well as other places.
Examples of such surveys can be found in a book written by the University of Divinity’s Glen O’Brien (Christian Worship: A Historical and Theological Introduction) or my own Pilgrim People: An Invitation to Worship in the Uniting Church.
The basic idea also relates to local writing, namely Coralie Ling’s contribution to the feminist-Christian worshippers that then met at Fitzroy Uniting Church. This group has evolved into Sophia’s Spring, which is now situated at CERES in West Brunswick (see Coralie’s chapter in Teresa Berger’s Dissident Daughters: Feminist Liturgies in Global Context).
The Exploring Liturgy website has a more recent snapshot of Sophia’s Spring, which sits alongside:
- a growing repository of other accounts on Hillsong
- City on a Hill (a conservative evangelical Anglican church meeting in a Melbourne cinema)
- charismatic gatherings of Pentecostals in old-line contexts as well as LGBTI-majority settings
- energetic open-air Orthodox gatherings on the seashore, which include swimming after the cross to mark the Feast of the Epiphany – a kind of Christian version of Australian Ninja Warrior!
- interfaith encounters at the extraordinary Stupa of Universal Compassion, a Buddhist place of pilgrimage in rural Victoria.
The website also has an archive, which has gathered all sorts of things, from prayers and poems (for example, feminist renderings of The Lord’s Prayer) to videos of song (such as Tongans singing in an almond orchard), to photos sent from pilgrims in Ireland, Spain and India.
The archive contains many guest contributors, who write on a range of interesting and sometimes thought-provoking subjects.
Now that the website is up and running I have been amazed by not only the volume of visitors it has attracted, but the diverse places they are accessing it from (every continent except Antarctica).
Such has been the website’s popularity, it has convinced me not only of the importance of digital technology and platforms to broadcast whatever we find important to say or enthuse about, it has also been a very striking insight into the hunger for renewal and openness to new things in the worship of God.
You can visit the Exploring Liturgy website at www.exploringliturgy.org.
To visit the Pilgrim units in liturgy and other disciplines, go to www.pilgrim.edu.au.
Stephen Burns is coordinator of ministry studies at Pilgrim Theological College and professor of liturgical and practical theology in the University of Divinity.