It is a crisp, Autumn morning in the year 1674. An 18-year old student at Winchester College, with the rolling countryside of county Hampshire and the great Winchester Cathedral whispering to him from his window, is preparing for his day. An open pamphlet on his desk, and the words of a Morning Hymn on his lips, the devout, singing student commits his day to his Lord. Unknown to him, the last of the 14 stanzas of that hymn will go on to become, very possibly, the most-sung hymn in all of history.
One grave misunderstanding about spiritual formation is that it is focused solely on, primarily on, the toning of the bedrock of our inner, hidden life. But what is true is that what you see on the surface of a person, on the surface of you, speaks of what is happening in the holy deeps. One shift beneath the surface – will completely change the entire landscape.
Spiritual formation is life formation; a reshaping of our inner and outer ways that is compelled and precipitated by unseen movements deep within the soul.
I love 20-somethings. All 3 of my children, at the time of this writing, are 20-somethings. Many of my nieces and nephews are 20-somethings. Some of the people I have created with, worked with, and laughed with the most are 20-somethings. Here are my top 20 encouragements to help you succeed in life.
As a small town young man in high school, I was selected to attend a prestigious 5-week program in the Arts in my home state of Pennsylvania. The program was made up of young artists in various genres (kind of like the movie Fame) from around the state, and I was in the Theater Program. The last thing I expected to learn during that time was a lesson about racism – from a fellow student.
With professionals training us, from a Broadway actress to a university theater director, we were learning from the best. Our acting program was intensive, and the sessions themselves were physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging.
While I loved the improv classes (learning to throw lobs to one another, like Who’s Line Is It Anyway), some of the other exercises we did were a little, say, stretching for me.
If you’re going to go deep into the world of acting, the training is designed to help you develop a wide range of emotional skills – affective skills – that will enable you to act more convincingly in a variety of roles.
My experience during one exercise, in particular, has come back to me in force in these troubling days of racial tension – and it feels like yesterday that it happened.
One crowd says worship expression needs to be better art (greater complexity for meaningful reach to today’s world). Another crowd says worship must maintain greater accessibility (broader, meaningful service to the Church). Both crowds are right – and both need a good talking to.
The creative expressions of worship in our time are part of the Great Art of the Church, and therefore must never been minimized – even when critiquing today’s worship subcultures. To diminish their necessity, vitality, or centrality to spiritual life – in its deepest human forms – is to lose our way in every single conversation about the topic.
What diminishes our conversations about worship? When we speak about worship as if it is a tool, a music genre or style, or even, simply put, a consumable art form for our personal devotion. This kind of language needs a hard core fix.