Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Aslan and the Presbyterian Church USA's General Assembly

I did not attend the official worship service at General Assembly. Some of us gathered to sing songs about the Lord of the Church and someone did proclaim the word of God. I knew nothing about the official service until several people posted a video of the procession.

The person who posted the one I will post here discribed it as the Lion King meets the PCUSA. Perhaps an apt expression, because the Presbyterian Church USA will, must, face the Great Lion of Judah. But he does seem to be missing from the procession.

C.S. Lewis in his Chronicles of Narnia celebrates the wonders of creation, the forests and valleys of Narnia and the huge variety of animals and creatures. But the creatures’ eyes are always searching into the shadows or looking to the tops of mountains or hearing rumors that Aslan the great lion is on the move.

But then sometimes the daughters of Eve and the sons of Adam try hard to avoid the Great Lion of Judah. But I heard a rumor ...

Here is the video:



And for those who have, in their sinfulness and need, been grabbed by that Great Lion:

34 comments:

Alan said...

Amen and amen...Thanks

Dave Moody said...

huh.. hadn't seen it until now. First thing that pops into my mind is Carnivál with more clothes...

Quotidian Grace said...

I guess this means I can't kid my Episcopalian brother about their Clown Eucharists anymore.

Bruce Byrne said...

I kept waiting for Tashlan to appear.

Viola Larson said...

I think he may have made his appearance during advocacy training and in several other places. But the Lion is always King: )

Pastor Bob said...

Come on Viola, Jesus was in there. I think I saw him right behind the big rabbit.

Viola Larson said...

Just to clarify Bob & Bruce,

When I said in advocacy training and other places I was referring to Tashlan not Aslan!

Pastor Bob said...

Seriously European Christian tradition is not the be all and end all of Christianity. But I hope there was some kind of explanation of all of that for the dumb white folks there.

Thinking about traditions and trying to explain them to others should be a requirement for all of us. Example: in our Ewe language service tradition is that you dance up and put your offering in the offering plate during a call/response song. Dance is an important part of African worship. It takes us beyond seeing the hymnal and singing into using the whole body to praise Jesus. These folks are a lot more fervent than most of the white Americans that I know.

And sometimes there are competitions between those born on particular days of the week as to which birth day will contribute the most. But to understand that you have to know that in Togo the first name you receive after birth is the name of the day of the week on which you were born.

So we can value each other's traditions if we all dig down deep and try to explain them to others. That is a gift Christians must give to each other. Otherwise we are lost in the midst of our brothers and sisters. And that should never be. So if this was a Native American way of praising Jesus more power to them! But an explanation would help not only those who see and do not understand but also those who have to explain the richness of their tradition.

I hope that the Twin Cities Presbytery asked before they borrowed.

Viola Larson said...

Bob, I have looked for the full explanation and have not found it. So I did try to be careful, with what I said. But I was struck by the seeming lack of Jesus Christ in the procession. And wondered if the animals were more of an image of creation then anything else. I just don't know.

Noel said...

The service would have been much improved had they had simply shut the house into darkness and played the "We Bow Down" video. The problem is that when Presbyterian GAs celebrate, they tend to celebrate themselves. "Oooh, aren't we wonderful! Isn't it lovely to be Presbyterians?"

GA would be healthier if every meeting were opened with that second video, and the animal (and clown) costumes left in the closet.

sinaiticus said...

I am constantly amazed at how things produced by the GA entities are so thoroughly feminine. Whether it's curriculum, worship resources, or whatever. No offense. Just feminine. Also, the characters with faces in the procession looked like idols. Anyway else think that? Were those the gods of GA?

Viola Larson said...

sinaiticus, I'm not sure. But -thoroughly feminine- have I been insulted. You do know I am a woman and I posted this myself?

Viola Larson said...

But I do think Noel has it right. Too often the deity of GA is GA or Presbyterians.

Leslie Day-Ebert said...

Viola - How much more moving is this simple black and white video!? It is so lovely and worshipful - I certainly did not get that feeling from watching the GA procession. It reminded me of the famous words, "Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." So sad to me.
Leslie Day-Ebert

The Rev. Wayne Paul Barrett said...

It is hard to get the overall feel and theme of a service from a 5 minute video clip, but what is shown is enough to raise serious red flags. Who was responsible for developing the opening worship? While some things the video shows are valid forms of worship (e.g. the liturgical dancers), other parts of what was shown evidence a dubious connection to the worship of the Triune God and call into question the thinking behind why they were allowed in the service at all. I like Cirque Du Soleil as much as the next person, but what was the thinking behind this? The Office of Theology and Worship has put out more responsible worship materials than what happened here; were they not in charge or at least consulted? Is this really the best we can do? Why not a contest to determine the best worship planners/preachers/musicians in the denomination? Suggestion: How about turning GA worship in 2012 over to the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship for a change? They are at the forefront of revitalizing Reformed Worship.

Viola Larson said...

Wayne it is my understanding that it is the OGA that prepares the worship and not Theology and Worship. I think it would be better if Theology and Worship were in charge. And I have to say that while I generally like liturgical dancers the mixture of animals with the dancers bothered me the most. and I am not sure I could explain that.

sinaiticus said...

Viola,
I certainly meant no insult or offense by my last comment, although it was poorly worded. And yes, I realize you are a woman--one I respect, I might add. I appreciate your blog very much, and your pre-GA commentary on Middle East issues was very helpful.

My observation about this procession is simply that it employs primarily "feminine" imagery and movements, as opposed to "masculine" imagery and movements. And maybe I'm imagining things, but I perceive that many of the GA products (the planning calendar and Presbyterians Today come to mind) are similarly feminine in their orientation. My reaction (as a man) to this procession, as well as other "feminine" outputs of GA, is that it repels me and makes me kind of uncomfortable. Just a thought to toss out there.

But I'm open to rebuke. :) Am I in left field? Am I imagining a conspiracy? Other men's reactions to this?

Thanks for your work!

Blessings in Christ,
Ray McCalla
Wayne, Nebraska

Pastor Bob said...

To be fair Grady Parsons didn't crack a smile as he walked in. I wonder if he was disgusted too.

Jodie said...
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Kevin said...

Utterly pagan. I don't know how you stay, Viola.

Kathy H. said...

We just try so blinking hard! "Look how diverse we are! See how ethnically-inclusive we can be! And how environmentally sensitive! And relevant, don't forget relevant! Ya gotta like us, world, ya gotta, ya gotta!"

What did all this paganism have to do with Christ and him crucified?

Viola Larson said...

Kevin,
It is always a joy to follow where Jesus leads. But not always a happy time.

Kathy you might be interested in the newest post I did last night. I would be interested in what you think.

Anonymous said...

I hope I'm not the only one who sees the irony of using C.S. Lewis's tales of anthropomorphic animals to condemn the use of animal images in a worship service.

Christine Kooi
Baton Rouge, La.

Reformed Catholic said...

Christine,

it may or may not be ironic. Lewis used a lion as substitute for Christ, that is very obvious when one reads the books.

The use of animals in this worship service does not reflect any sort of obvious substitution, if any.

R.C.
Pennsylvania

Viola Larson said...

Christine aka Kattie,

Do you know how much you always sound like yourself. Do not post again.

Debbie said...

In the aisle on which I was seated, the dancer came down and bowed down to the animal that was ready to come up the aisle before leading it along. Later I spoke to some rainbow-stole people who loved the service, and they assured me the animals only represented God's creation. But the image of the dancer bowing to the animal was troubling to me. I think that should have been left out of the liturgy. It seemed idolatrous and at the least gave a confusing message.

Earlier, in a litany, a Native American woman had everyone bow to the four compass points. (My husband and I did not participate in this.) She said, as was printed, "We bow to the South", etc. But at one point she departed from the printed words and said "We pray to the North." I don't know if this was just an awkward mistake or if it meant anything other than "we pray while facing in the direction of the North", but I didn't like it.

Many of the Greeks and Romans died in order to give up their religious expressions for the sake of Christ. I don't see why other cultures can't give up their religious expressions for the sake of Christ, too. Just because the Greeks and Romans were white and ancient doesn't mean it was any less meaningful to them. I know I will sound bigoted to say so, but there it is.

Viola Larson said...

Debbie,
I have written a lot more on this in my last posting. This is how one blogger discribed the first part:

"This is the Call to Worship that was used at the PCUSA General Assembly's Communion service on Sunday, 7/4/10. It is a version of the Native American "Blessing of the Four Directions," which has traditionally been part of the Medicine Wheel ritual. The actual performance involved processions from each of the directions, with large figures of the respective animal-spirits. It was very moving, in spite of the fact that it was in a very unconducive assembly hall. The text was not available at the full service, but I was able to obtain a copy from the Committee on Local Arrangements. I don't know who the author is, but it was given to me by someone named Elona Street-Stewart."

Elona Street-Stewart is one of those who wrote the liturgy and presented it.
i did notice the bowing and I am bothered by it.

Viola Larson said...

Its to bad you could not have been with us in the renewal worship.

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Kattie W. Coon said...
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Kattie W. Coon said...
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Kattie W. Coon said...
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Debbie said...

Viola, thanks! But I'm nonetheless glad I went to the official GA worship in order to see what went on. :-)

I grew up Episcopalian, and I love liturgy and ritual and symbolism as much as the next guy. But I don't love things that depart from the worship of the one true God--and this was close.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

ZZMike said...

OK, now I get it. The Church is all about puppets.

Mike Zorn
Santa Ana CA
ZZMike (I forgot the ID on the last post)