Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Update 2: Big Projects

Here we go again: another update. This was a busy semester, and now you will see why.

Keith took his Old Testament comprehensive exam. He read 9000 pages for the OT and NT exams together (he took the NT comprehensive exam in December), and was tested on all that material. He met weekly with Professor Bob Derrenbacker last fall and with Professor Phil Long this spring to prepare (hooray for awesome professors who take time to meet with students!) That's Phil's book he's reading upside down there. Keith also took classes on the books of Mark and Joshua and continued working as a teaching assistant for two Greek classes.

I spent this year working on my "arts thesis" (officially it was called an "interdisciplinary project in the arts and theology"), which was a huge project with both written and practical components. Having finished my worship internship at our church, I was ready to use what I had learned through the internship and in my classes at school to try something new: contemplative worship services with a rather high proportion of silence and instrumental music.

This was not something my congregation was accustomed to, and there were concerns about how the congregation would be able to participate in a worship service in which they were "observing" someone else's worship. With the help of my two wonderful advisors (Janet Danielson and Maxine Hancock), I set up four worship services with the aim of educating the school and church community in worshiping through music and silence. The first three services progressively had less words, until the only words in the third service were the call to worship and the benediction. I expected that one to be really difficult for most people, but I was surprised that people seemed to respond well. The final service took a more balanced approach, incorporating the passion narrative from the Gospel of John (read by Keith), a few hymns, and a lot of vocal and instrumental music.

I wrote a paper, too. It was very long. I traced the development of thought among Christians from the early church to the present on the subject of instrumental music, and I dealt with possible problems. I actually want to write a book... and Maxine suggested that I might want to start a blog with weekly posts on this subject and other worship-related topics. I'm sure I will have lots to write about in Japan! So... look for that coming soon. And now, pictures.

Part 1: "All Saints Day: Community." Lots of musicians, lots of singing (Genevan Psalms and Reformation-era hymns), lots of scripture. I posted about this service previously.

Part 2: "Advent: Longing." Music for cello and piano (played by Andrea Tisher and me), scripture readings, a few hymns. There was also a chance for everyone to light prayer candles. Most of this service took place in the dark. This was hard for the word-oriented people. Still, using candles as a symbol of hope is not effective unless it's dark.

Part 3: "Epiphany: Joy." This one had no words at all other than call to worship and benediction. Well, that's not entirely true. There were printed words to guide the times of contemplative prayer, but people were free to use them or ignore them. Music was string quartet, piano trio, and string duo (viola and cello), provided by Kathy Kwon, Jon Ng, my brother, Colin Wilson, and me.

At one point in the service, we did "origami prayer." Everyone received instructions to fold an origami star for Epiphany. The sounds of rustling paper became the sounds of prayer.

Here is the string quartet. I also had some wonderful visual elements for this service, including an icon made for Keith and me by a fellow Regent alum (Matthia Langone)! She's still tweaking things on it, and won't give it to us until she's convinced it's perfect. :) Thus you only get a picture of it from a distance.

Part 4: "Lent: Reflection." This service was built around the reading of John 18-19 (read by Keith) and Isaiah 52-53 (read by Maria Beversluis). In essence it was a Tenebrae service, but not on Good Friday (that would have been too late in the term), and we heard an entire passion narrative rather than bits of all four. After each section of the reading, some of the candles on the table were snuffed out, until we were left in darkness. (The sun cooperated too--sunset happened 10 minutes into the service.) Music this time was a variety of ensembles made up of the same crew plus Catriona Day, who teaches cello with me at the Saint James Music Academy. The selection of music was chosen to fit with the scripture. Afterwards everyone had a chance to ask questions about my project.

Oh yeah... when I wasn't busy with my arts thesis (when was that, you may ask), I continued work as a teaching assistant for 2 Hebrew classes and studied Biblical poetry and the Dead Sea Scrolls--in Hebrew! (My update took up much more space than Keith's... there's just not as many pictures to be had from a comprehensive exam. Although he did wear a 3 piece suit with Dutch clogs the day of the exam. That would have been worth a picture...)

More updates coming. Look forward to it!

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