Tag Archives: worship

“Wind, Fire, all that kind of thing!”

6 Jan

The Placebo Principle teaches us that even if you know a treatment is a placebo, it can still work… and doesn’t that mess us up? So when you invoke the spirits and place the four elements in corners of the room, I ask myself, “Can it hurt? Can it help?”

My wife is the mystic in the family; I tend to look askance at that subject, but I’ve received benefit from meditation. I’ve had the spiritual retreat and the high that comes from it. She also encourages us to use alternative medicine, which in my experience, works just as much as allopathic medicine for minor aches and issues. However, last night, she wanted us to do an Indigo Healing for our kids.

Now if you have no idea what an Indigo Healing is, I’m not surprised–I’ve seen a lot of strange mystic stuff, and even this is pretty weird for me. Indigo Children are generally folks who have been blessed/cursed with some sort of supernatural abilities. They also tend to be ADD… like me and my kids. The idea (as I understand it) is that you are carrying some trauma from your past life and that is preventing you from reaching your ideal self.

O-kay… yeah, sure. So you can do a ceremony where you identify what issues you have, participate through a series of activities that help you heal from those issues, and then free yourself of that trauma. Does it work? Sure. I mean, there is an emotional release, you do feel a bit better from the experience, and it has a noticeable long term emotional improvement. However, I get the impression that it’s less about the “healing” than the ceremony.

You start off by creating a sacred space, placing the four elements in each corner, already priming yourself to take this seriously. You then chant phrases, you do actions, everything that you might expect from a religious ceremony. It also takes a frickin’ hour (?!), which really seals in the importance aspect. You are forced to be a participant to confront many of these issues… even if you pick them at random and are not exactly sure which things you’re healing at any given time (but you can guess).

As you can imagine, I’m not particularly sold on it. From my own religious practice, my weekly service lasts 2-3 hours, and it’s hard to keep focused throughout the whole thing. Thankfully, our tradition states you don’t have to be there for all of it. However, when you’re forced to stop and pause and sing and think about your relationship with God, you have those moments of clarity that make the experience worthwhile. Sure, you could pray by yourself anytime… but you don’t. You have to take a moment and force yourself to connect with the infinite.

Is it a placebo? Is it a healing? For me, it doesn’t matter–because it works on some level. What about you? Have you had those moments that you’re not sure are effective but somehow effect you anyway? Let me know in the comments below!

Survivor of the Worship Wars

2 Jan

When I saw a post from a “Survivor of the Worship Wars,” I had ask myself–did I miss a war? Was there a terrible battle that left thousands of faithful dead? Better question–what the heck are they talking about?!

The “Worship Wars” are the fights between people who lead services and the congregations who participate. Generally, people don’t like new things in their service, and don’t want to try new things, and the guy or gal who’s responsible for leading the service gets bored with the same old songs and tunes. In the end, some will like them and some won’t, and in the 60’s, this led to the break-off of the “contemporary service” from the “traditional service.” Some churches do both, some only choose one.

In a way, the wars are over–as I said, you either choose one or the other style, or you allow a separate space to do both. However, the tension that led to that still exists today. For example, our previous synagogue used to do a Sephardic Orthodox service, but used Shlomo Carlbach tunes. That may sound like gibberish to you, but back in the 60’s, a young Chabad (ultra-orthodox missionary Jews) rabbi named Carlbach decided to abandon his tradition in order to meet young hippie Jews where they were. As a result, he started his own synagogue, went on tours all over the world, and generally brought love and joy to his services. (That’s one interpretation.)

We chose that shul because we loved the music, we loved the traditional service, but we hated the politics and expectations that usually come with the traditional service. Your worship style often defines your worship location.

When I was growing up, I was in choir, and we used to groan when our director would bring out some piece of experimental whatsis. But we would go through it anyway. Sometimes it actually worked–most of the time, it landed with a dead thud. And any time you tried out a new hymn… or God forbid, a different tune to existing hymn, people would very grumbly.

So how do you avoid the worship wars? Well, our author points out the very important lesson that all service leaders need to learn: go slow. Just starting out and having to adjust to your personality is often as much as the congregation can take at first. Our rabbi used to teach us one new tune to an established song, and then she would repeat it the next week, and the week after, until we got it. Sometimes it would stick around, sometimes we’d return to the old “funeral dirge” style we were doing (Jewish music has a lot of minor keys), but it was always baby steps.

Change is good and acceptable and inevitable, but people come to your service because they like the style as it is now. That might not be enough people to sustain a congregation, so understand that change is also painful, and you may lose folks while you’re trying to draw in more. I guess it depends on what your end goal is–are you just trying something new because you’re bored? Or are you trying to move the congregation in a certain direction? Either way, change takes time, and the faster you move it, the more resistance you’ll get.

Are you one of those who likes that “old time religion?” Do you like it, but only go on major holidays? Do you think “contemporary worship” is too pop-heavy and terrible music? Do you have any idea what I’m talking about? Let me know in the comments below!

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