Sally Ann McKinsey
At almost every entrance to a church building, wayfinding signs point to “The Sanctuary.” This is appropriate, of course, because the specific location of this room in the building matters. The four walls of the sanctuary hold and define the movements of the congregation within them as holy, physically set apart from normal comings and goings, sacred. The explorations found in this journal through the years have often carried with them an assumption that we are talking about what happens in The Sanctuary, the space for worship in our church buildings.
But what about liturgy that happens in sanctuaries, places of holy experience outside of the place many have come to expect as locations for worship? Where else can we recognize whispers (both great and small) of the patterns and language we learn when we gather in the sanctuary on Sundays? For we also gather among the oaks, under fairy lights, up and down city streets, in choir rooms and amphitheaters, online, in galleries, studios, and libraries. In these places, too, we may listen and tell, repeat familiar refrains, and bask in mystery.
What blessings and charges do we receive or offer outside the four walls of the sanctuary? What does it mean to gather, to listen and proclaim, to praise and lament, and to give and receive? The articles in this issue explore what happens in spaces set apart from our culminating weekly pattern, on the other side of the boundaries we may draw around what we consider worship. The conversations found here wonder what these occasions can teach us about what it means to be oriented toward God in our midst. They cause us to step outside the church doors and come close to a definition of liturgy that may be more malleable than we have known before. It is a definition of liturgy that may help form and transform the way we think about the Lord’s Day as we traverse increasingly permeable membranes between sacred and secular, religious and not religious.
I am grateful for the conversation partners in this issue who have shared their writing, research, and expertise. Jimmie Hawkins writes about the relationship between worship and protest from the history of civil rights advocacy to contemporary work for justice and peace, and Victoria Loorz outlines the theology that led her to explore worship immersed in the natural world. Andrew Taylor-Troutman reflects on the connections between poetry, liturgy, and pastoral presence as he shares his experience leading a poetry reading group, and Michael Waschevski invites us to consider the choir rehearsal space as a context for worship and spiritual formation. Dónal Noonan’s reflection about his experience leading the Homeward Choir of Atlanta also considers what happens when music and community life meet, asking questions about what it means to find shelter in song while advocating together for just housing and social repair. A conversation with Michael McLaughlin uncovers the sacred invitations pastors often receive to be part of people’s lives in unique moments of joy and sorrow.
The arts play a vital role in the conversation about liturgy outside the walls of the sanctuary, for, of course, the music and art we participate in on Sunday morning is always in relationship with music and art in other cultural contexts. Hannah McKnight’s investigation of cultural liturgies in museums gives space to consider art galleries as institutions parallel to churches. Her analysis of the social and devotional role museums play in community life holds valuable implications for worship as well and helps build a broad definition of liturgy from a new perspective. Julian Davis Reid outlines a theology of jazz, analyzing the event of a music performance as an invitation to experience the mystery of the divine in contexts outside of Lord’s Day worship. The Work of Our Hands section in this edition features the work and writing of artist Olga Lah, whose practice teaches us valuable lessons about site specificity that are relevant for leading worship as well. Columnists for this volume are Maria Fee, Amy Cerniglia, Lis Valle-Ruiz, and Derrick McQueen, each of whom engages this issue’s theme from their respective disciplines. Miriam Moore-Keish reviews two children’s books with a keen sense for the role that children’s literature can serve in corporate worship and sermon preparation.
As the church continues to discern its place in a rapidly changing world, listening for God, seeking purpose, and making meaning, what can we learn from the experiences in all the sanctuaries among the oaks, under fairy lights, up and down city streets, in choir rooms and amphitheaters, online, and in galleries? Authors in this issue bring an abundance of apt and diverse language to describe liturgies “out in the world.” Some call them cultural liturgies, whispers from the Divine, or hallowed honors. However you define worship outside of the church walls, I hope you enjoy asking these questions in your own context and from your own experience.
Sally Ann McKinsey, Editor