MMC presenter Sylvia Miller-Mutia leads an energetic Sanctus that would be effective for paperless, intergenerational worship.
Last month, Pastor Abby Leese and members of Zion Lutheran Church in Etters, PA visited a sister congregation that has incorporated paperless music into their liturgy. They took a Sunday morning field trip to another Zion Lutheran Church, just twenty minutes away in York, PA, which offers an intergenerational eucharist geared to help families with children worship and learn together.
Mark Mummert, the congregation's Cantor (and a longtime MMC collaborator) helped develop and lead the liturgy and has made their order of worship available as a resource. He also offered some helpful context for the service.
"We created a bulletin that is pretty didactic, so we don't have to say much. Also, the entire service has accompanying visual images, with art that comments on the action. The powerpoint for the service has no musical information (texts or musical notation) but we do sing some classic hymnody from the hymnal so it's not all paperless."
Pastor Abby, who attended our MMC workshop in Baltimore last fall, has generously shared some of the things she noticed during her community's visit. As you read, perhaps you'll notice the way that paperless leadership at Zion Lutheran Church is helping create space for deepening trust, shared leadership, flexibility, and connection to the Sacred within and through the community.
Structure but also flexibilityZion Lutheran used one bulletin for the whole summer. This provided for flexibility in what was sung each week (some hymns simply weren't listed in the bulletin but were projected on the screen and noted in a Sunday specific insert).
It provided the space to unpack the arc of the worship service and also make notes about individual elements, something that you might not be able to do in a bulletin printed each week.
A bulletin such as this eased me into the mentality of paperless music. I knew that I was going to be well taken care of throughout this worship service - the care taken in crafting the bulletin was obvious. And I knew up front that I was going to have to trust the worship leader because I was not being given all the information I would need.
Music was importantSometimes it feels as though music is a filler in between all the important stuff in liturgy. But here it was clear that music was important in and of itself - it was presented in a way that allowed me to enter more fully into the gospel. Mark gave history about the music being sung - its connection to the text and its origin. Because of the way it was presented, I noticed that each piece of music had its own place in the worship service but was also integral to making up the whole experience.
Some of the music was also created in the moment, as Mark and Tamika Jancewicz (an invited guest as well as former MMC workshop participant, see photo above) improvised a beautiful setting of Psalm 103.
Instructions were not necessaryI would note that words for service music and some instructions were printed in the bulletin - I assume as a compromise for people who are not familiar with paperless styles of worship. It wouldn't have been necessary to put all those words and instructions in print, but without them it does require a higher level of trust and so when bringing an entire assembly into a new kind of worshiping experience I can appreciate why this was necessary. Verbal instructions however were at a minimum. Mark used his body, his voice, and his face to communicate with us and that was enough. I eventually put down my bulletin because I trusted that I didn't need it.A singing bowl was used to create a space for silence after the sermon. This was done without verbal instruction. We instinctively knew that silence should follow the sound. This created an important space for reflection but it certainly required trust that the worship leader wouldn't leave us in silence forever.
We also were invited to join in the refrain of the psalm and the offertory music without instruction. The change of volume of the singers and their gesturing made our response clear.
One of the people who attended this service with me indicated that he was struck by how the service did not feel rushed. It lasted almost an hour and a half but didn't feel that way. I wonder if that's because you are able to fully be in the present moment when you are trusting someone else to lead. You can fully give yourself to the worshiping experience.
Have you or members of your community visited a church that uses paperless music or leadership practices? What did you notice? Or do you have formative experiences or insights gained from leading paperless music? We'd be happy to have you share them with us! Contact Paul Vasile to learn how to contribute to the MMC blog.