It was Holy Week 2014 and my “Biblical Theology of Worship” class was scheduled to meet on Maundy Thursday evening. Embarrassed by my lack of foresight and failure to cancel class that evening, I planned a short liturgy for my class, one that included the Lord’s Supper.
The liturgy included five movements: God’s Call to Worship, Our Praise, God’s Grace (The Lord’s Supper), Our Response, and God’s Commission. The liturgy included formed prayers, a season of open prayer, three contemporary songs (one hymn and two songs from the Black Gospel tradition), and a fifty year old ritual for the Lord’s Supper borrowed from the Reformed Church in America. The students shared in the leadership of the liturgy while I led the singing from a piano.
Word got out about the service and the students from two other classes joined us. It was an incredible experience. We were blessed by the Lord’s Supper. We were blessed by the prayers. We were blessed to gather as a community.
But another blessing came days later. One member of the class was Bishop John Senter (pictured above), founder and senior pastor of Faith Walkers Assembly International (FWAI) in Rockford, IL. He took the liturgy to his church where, in his estimation, the Lord used it to bless his congregation.
That’s what I call cross-fertilization – the interchange or interaction of different ideas and cultures of a broadening and productive nature. What we see here is the interaction between:
- The seminary classroom and the sanctuary,
- My predominantly Euro-American context and Bishop John Senter’s predominantly African American context,
- The past and the present,
- Those who prefer formed worship and those who prefer free worship, and
- The traditional and the contemporary.
Furthermore, our interaction as a class was broadening and productive. It affirmed the sevenfold unity of the church articulated by the apostle Paul: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-5). For that reason alone it was beautiful.