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Training the window dressers

13 June 2014

Dana Delap on a new course with well-led worship as its aim

Worship 4 Today: A course for worship leaders and musicians:
Part 1: Laying a firm foundation
Helen Bent and Liz Tipple
Church House Publishing £24.99
Church Times Bookshop £22.50 (Use code CT413 )

Worship 4 Today: A course for worship leaders and musicians:
Part 2: Developing key skills
Helen Bent and Liz Tipple
Church House Publishing £24.99
Church Times Bookshop £22.50 (Use code CT413 )

Worship 4 Today: A course for worship leaders and musicians:
Part 3: Consolidating and expanding horizons
Helen Bent and Liz Tipple
Church House Publishing £24.99
Church Times Bookshop £22.50 (Use code CT413 )

THE best teaching resources develop from a recognised need. If worship is really the "shop window" of the Church of England, there is an obvious and ongoing need to train those who lead worship. Worship 4 Today comes to the national Church from Sheffield diocese, where it has been tried and tested over five years.

It aims to train and equip worship leaders and musicians in the biblical and theological foundation of worship, encouraging people to learn about liturgy and worship through experience and experiment. The course is modular over 12 sessions, with the suggestion that it might be held monthly through an academic year, with some form of episcopal authorisation for the participants at the end.

Helen Bent and Liz Tipple have paid close attention to good adult-educational structures, and Worship 4 Today includes diverse and participative teaching methods, a pattern of mentoring and regular assessment, continuing learning through parish links, and regular evaluation. The timing for the sessions suggests each last three-and-a-half hours, with one all-day session. This is a substantial commitment of time, not only for the participants, but also for the tutors and mentors. Because of that, the course would probably be best delivered as part of central diocesan training or in deanery clusters, as part of continuing ministerial development for Readers and clergy, as well as for musicians. It might also be used in colleges and courses for initial Reader and ordination training, as an introduction to Anglican liturgical and musical traditions.

Part 1 explores our understanding of God and of worship, a biblical overview of worship in the Old Testament, and basic leadership skills. The material includes some seasonal exploration of how to use music and liturgy imaginatively and collaboratively at Christmas. It allows for the possibility of limited resources in churches - for example, how one might use recorded music well - and suggests both music-theory and singing lessons to increase the skills and confidence of church musicians.

Having laid a foundation in Part 1, Part 2 builds on the skills of the group. It explores the place of music in worship using the Psalms, different worship patterns in the Church of England, and building a worship team in our churches. Although Anglican worship in all traditions and styles is mentioned, including psalmody and our choral tradition, Worship 4 Today concentrates most strongly on more Evangelical and free forms of worship. The course members are asked to consider, for example, what music might be appropriate for a sung eucharist in the 21st century. How thoroughly the course includes the diversity of Anglican tradition will, therefore, depend on the course tutors and participants.

Part 3 focuses on practical worship skills, worship in the New Testament, the challenge of all-age worship, and worship in a mission context. The material makes it clear that worship can be transformative for believers and non-believers alike, a theme dear to the heart of the Liturgical Commission, which has commended this material under the Transforming Worship banner. Although it looks at some of the difficult issues that might be raised by newer forms of worship in a mission context - for example, the feminisation of the Church - there is limited exploration of the conflict that can be encountered if change is to be embraced. It might be that a musician or curate might become quite frustrated during the course, if the good ideas and fresh creativity that he or she has encountered cannot find an outlet in a church context.

Worship 4 Today is an imaginative course that deserves to be used widely. It requires significant commitments of time, but the potential for growth in learning, skills, and discipleship is huge. Everything needed to run the course is clearly laid out in the books and accompanying CD, with PowerPoint presentations, handouts, and additional leaders' notes, so that those who do not consider themselves experts in liturgy could run Worship 4 Today easily.

The Revd Dana Delap is Assistant Curate of St James and St Basil, Fenham, in the diocese of Newcastle.

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