main cow pic

07.09.13

First listen of A New Liturgy No 5

Filed under: A New Liturgy — 9:37 am

In the next couple days, we are launching A New Liturgy No 5: Here Are My Hands at anewliturgy.com. It is an “on the way to work” liturgy, and an “on the way home from work” liturgy…I can’t wait for you to hear it!

In fact, because I can’t wait, here is an early listen of the first ten minutes of Part 1…

06.23.13

Bet Lehem Live (part 3)

Filed under: A New Liturgy,music,Palestine / Israel — 4:01 am
Bet Lehem Live

Bet Lehem Live

The other set of lyrics that came to life in Bethlehem were from my song “God’s Children”. A couple specific lines…

“Father of the beaten down”
“Father of the most oppressed”
“Lover of each immigrant”
“God of every class from the greenest grass to the underpass.”
“You are Maker of us all.”
“The Loving Seer of us all.”

While singing these lyrics and looking out at our Palestinian brothers and sisters, I could feel a lump forming in my throat. (Which makes it tough to sing!) But what happened at the end completely blew me away. As we began the final verse…

“We were all once aliens…”

…people spontaneously starting cheering – as if to say “Yes! Us too! We’re all in this together! Thanks for seeing us! Thank you for giving voice to our shared human experience!”

I don’t think I will ever forget this moment. An unexpected holy moment of deep solidarity with 1500 Christian and Muslim Palestinians that reminded us we are all humans together on the same planet. Brothers and sisters in the deepest sense. The lyrics continued…

We were all once aliens
And we’re all so full of sin
But in Jesus’ name we are welcomed in, as citizens
A brand new family, old and young
From every nation, faith, and tongue
A new creation has begun
From every nation, faith, and tongue

O You love Your children, love Your children
Every daughter, every son
O You love Your children, all Your children
Help us see You in each one

It was really beautiful to be reminded again that God is not an American.

But the Eternal Creator loves every single one of his daughters and sons on earth…and desires that NONE should perish but that all should live an Eternal kind of Life. God loves His children, all His children. And that includes you, me, and everyone we’ll ever meet. Hallelujah!

06.09.13

A glimpse of the church’s future (hopefully)

Filed under: A New Liturgy,church,God's movement — 10:59 am
PhoenixONE

PhoenixONE

Last Tuesday night, nearly a thousand 20 and 30-somethings from many church traditions and denominations packed in Historic First Pres Church in downtown Phoenix for a night of worship. And the God is Love liturgy came alive in a way I’ve never seen. (Check out the deeply compelling vision of Jeff Gokee for PhoenixONE here.)

I’m not exactly sure all the reasons why it was such a holy gathering, but here is one thing I can’t stop thinking about:

Ecumenicalism is the future.

Christianity has divided and specialized ourselves into a thousand small corners, and we’re all missing out on what the other has to bring. (It’s like every kid in a family deciding to only eat their favorite food…nothing else. They are happy for a while, but end up malnourished and sick.)

Tuesday night was a beautiful mingling of traditions. You could see the mainline folks digging deeply into the more liturgical elements. The evangelical folks lead the charge as we sang “One Thing Remains”. And thank God for our charismatic brothers and sisters – raising hands and dancing in the isles. We were all enriched by what the other had to bring.

And I guess this is the heart of what we’re trying to do with A New Liturgy.

Singing four worship songs and a hymn is a great way to worship God, but a little one-dimensional. A steady diet of only this could create malnourished worshipers. But as much as I idealize The Liturgy, many of my mainline friends are longing for more heart, life, and passion than the conventional liturgy. It seems that every tradition understands something profound about worshiping God, but we lack (1) A way to share this wisdom with other traditions who would benefit, and (2) A way to learn from other traditions who are strong in other areas. And so most of us end up spiritually isolated, one-dimentional, and malnourished.

Wow, I’m discovering (as I write this post!) how much this matters to me.

We Christians have become experts at defending our faith and sharing the truth. This is good in many ways. But I think we need to also recapture our ability to learn from those outside of our circle. Courage is a beautiful thing, but so is humility.

I suspect that the church of the future will be lead by people who know and admit what they don’t know…and then humbly partner with those who can teach them.

Can you imagine a church that said “Jesus is the center and focus of everything we do, but we acknowledge our limited vantage point. And so we will embrace and learn from any tradition or practice that elevates Christ and forms us into His likeness.” Reading ancient prayers? Yes. Singing pop songs with our hands in the air? Yes. Praying Jewish blessings from the Torah? Yes. Singing old spiritual laments? Yes.

As each member of a church is just one part of the body, I wonder if each church tradition needs to be understood as one part of the Bigger Body. Each is absolutely critical…but only one part of the Story.

Thank God for our fundamentalist brothers and sisters who remind us that God’s truth is profoundly important. Thank God for our Catholic brothers and sisters’ commitment to working for good in the world. Thank God for Evangelicals who remind us that we need to be saved. Thank God for the open hearts of our Episcopalian brothers and sisters.

Each one is a glorious part of the tangible Kingdom of God among us! And how can the foot say to the eye “I don’t need you!”… (1 Cor 12)

The big question is: How can we come together? Where are the safe places to lay down our tribal flags and learn from our “other” brothers and sisters? Who will create and protect more of these safe places?

We really need each other.

06.02.13

A crazy couple months

Hey everyone.  There has been a ton going on lately, and I wanted to share a quick update.

We spent most of May tracking A New Liturgy No 5: Here Are My Hands.  Largely built around the piano, string quartet, and a pounding floor tom, this liturgy is all about our commute:  Part 1 is a 15 minute “on-the-way-to-work liturgy”, and part 2 is a 15 minute “on-the-way-home-from-work liturgy”.  Available July 8th. Here’s a clip from our string quartet recording session…

And now June is all about traveling.  After leading worship this weekend at Willow, on Tuesday night I get to be a part of PhoenixONE.  This really exciting worship gathering aims to unite 20 & 30 somethings from around Phoenix and get them connected to local churches.  What a beautiful vision!  They’ve asked me to lead through the “God is Love” liturgy, which I can’t wait to experience with them.  So if you live in the Phoenix area, please join us!

Next weekend, I get to join up with my friends at Granger Community Church to share the “Creation” liturgy. Their phenomenal team of musicians, pastors, and artists are coming together to turn the whole service into a celebration of God’s work in Creation.  Check out pastor Jason’s vision for the series HERE.  I love when a church gathering tells one cohesive, beautiful story – from music to message to announcements to visuals – and the Granger team is diving in with both feet.  Again, if you live near Granger, Indiana, please join us.

Finally, on the following Wednesday, I’m jumping on a plane for Bethlehem to be a part of the Bet Lehem Live Festival…and then go on a tour of Palestine and Israel.  I will share SO much more about this “alternative pilgrimage” over the next few weeks, so be looking for stories and pictures.

Last thing:  In all the busyness, the absolute best part of this season is Shauna, Henry, and Mac.  Life with them is so much fun, and I keep pinching myself with thankfulness.  So please indulge me as I end this post with a couple pictures.  (Yes, I have officially become that ridiculously proud dad with no shame or restraint!)

Shauna, Henry, and Mac

Shauna, Henry, and Mac

05.22.13

Announcing A New Liturgy No 5

Filed under: A New Liturgy — 8:33 pm

Hello friends!  I wanted to let you know that we’ve been hard at work over the last few weeks recording A New Liturgy No 5, which is called “Here Are My Hands”.  As you know, A New Liturgy exists to help us create holy space wherever we find ourselves, and this new one gets even more specific.  Let me explain.

For the first time, we have split the liturgy into two 15 minute parts…
Part one:  An on-the-way-to-work liturgy
Part two:  An on-the-way-home-from-work liturgy

While traveling to work, part one is a way that we can say “Here are my hands, God” on the way to our job.  An experience that helps us open ourselves to whatever God might want to do through us during the day.  The central prayer is “God, I am open.”

While traveling home from work, part two is a way that we can thank God for the day, ask forgiveness for sins, and forgive those who might have hurt us.  An experience that helps us let go, leave work at work, and fully engage the rest of our day.  The central prayer is “God, I am letting it go.”

Available on July 9th, 2013.

But that’s all I can tell you for now!  More details and specifics and surprises coming soon.

Let me just leave you with a few studio pictures (double click for full size)…

05.03.13

Four Free recordings of “God’s Children”

Filed under: A New Liturgy,willow,worship — 9:18 pm

Last weekend at Willow, in the spirit of Celebration of Hope, we sang “God’s Children” together.
This song is a sweeping celebration of God’s immense love for every single person on earth.  Without exception. For God so loves the world…

Afterward, a friend mentioned that they have the “New Liturgy” version of the song, but wanted a recording
of the more driving, rock version we did at Willow.  So I’ve decided to pull together every recorded version of
“God’s Children” and give them away on Noisetrade…

(1) “God’s Children (New Liturgy version)” – from ANL No 1: God is Love
(2) “God’s Children (Toms and Trombones Version)” – from Remix EP 1.  The story of it is HERE.
(3) “God’s Children (Alberta Remix)” – the fun electronic remix by Alberta from Remix EP 2.
(4) “God’s Children (live at Willow)” – this is the rough board mix from our last service.  It doesn’t
sound as full as it did in the room, but hopefully it captures some of the energy.

You can download the chord charts HERE.

Finally, if you’re interested, here is a video from the very first time we taught this song at Willow…

04.28.13

Clearing out the cobwebs

Filed under: A New Liturgy,church,worship — 4:58 pm
spider

There once was a man who came to church every Sunday to pray the exact same prayer.  Week and after week, he would stand and proclaim loudly “God, please clear out the cobwebs!”  Finally, after months of listening, a wise women stood after him and said “Why don’t you just kill the damn spider?”

And this is why I want to be a worship leader.

Let me explain…  Through the help of a handful of wise guides (listed below), I’m beginning to realize that worship is not only a way that we express ourselves to God, but it is also a practice that forms us into Christlikeness.  The way we worship shapes us into certain kinds of people.  And so my role as a worship leader is not simply to get people to raise their hands during church, but to help us become the kinds of people who use our hands for good all week long.  Our goal is not simply to create a worship service, but for our worship service to create a certain kind of church in the world.

I believe that the purpose of gathering together is the realization of God’s dream for reality:
the Restoration of All things
.  Like Jesus, we want to see God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven,
and so we gather to focus on God and practice becoming the kinds of people who can join in this restoration. Through these prayers, songs, readings, and disciplines, we practice being people who can set our little kingdoms aside (if only for a moment, in the safety of a community) and seek God’s epic Kingdom…week after week…until we actually become the kinds of people who can join God’s redeeming work in our office cube on a Tuesday afternoon.

There is an important aspect of worship that helps clear out the cobwebs of the week.  Hallelujah!  We all desperately need the church to be a safe and gracious place.  I know I do.  But at a certain point, a truly safe community is only safe if it also teaches us how to kill the damn spider.

What does this look like in your church?  What could it look like?  What kind of worship liturgy/service/set have you found to be most helpful in forming your community toward Christlikeness?

If you’re interested, here are some wise guides who have much to teach us about all this:  Ian Morgan Cron, Dallas WillardGlenn Packiam, Isaac Wardell, James K. A. Smith.

04.20.13

All my notes, slides, and resources about worship and liturgy

Filed under: A New Liturgy,church,God's movement,worship — 11:38 am
Pulse Conference

Pulse Conference

Today I had the privilege of sharing some thoughts about worship, liturgy, and moving beyond singing at the Pulse Conference in Madison, WI.  I really connect with and respect Paul and the Blackhawk team.  They are the real deal and doing fantastic work.  If you’ve never been to the Pulse Conference, get it on your calendar next year!  Here are my notes…

 

Workshop 1:  Moving Beyond Singing into something much more Mysterious, Subversive, and Beautiful.

Worship is this huge, beautiful, epic, mysterious, global, active, intimate human/divine interaction, but when someone says “Okay, it’s time to worship”, we all assume “It’s time to sing.”  This is not bad, of course.  Singing is a fantastic way to worship God.  But it’s only one part of the whole. This breakout will explore ways to move beyond our usual framework, and in doing so, help more and more people engage with more and more of The Almighty God.

Moving Beyond Singing Niequist notes

Moving Beyond Singing .ppt slides

 

Workshop 2:  Evangelical Worship Leading, The Liturgy, and me.

While leading worship in a mega-church for the last ten years (at Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, MI and Willow Creek in Chicago, IL), I’ve been feeling more and more drawn to The Liturgy – both personally and as a worship pastor.  The depth, reverence, and historical grounding have been profoundly moving.  But how does this fit into an evangelical mega-church with big screens and moving lights?  Is there a way to bring these ancient practices into this modern context, or are they fundamentally incompatible?  In this breakout, I’ll share what I’m learning, what I’m wrestling with, and a few big mistakes I’ve made.  And then we’ll dream together about the future.

Worship, Liturgy and Me Niequist notes

Worship Liturgy and Me .ppt slides

 

Resources:

The Story of A New Liturgy (video)
Ian Cron: “Becoming the Liturgy” (video)
Glenn Packiam’s blog
“Church is Bigger Than the Church” (my article for Relevant)
“Common Prayer”, Clainborne, Wilson-Hartgrove
The Book of Common Prayer online
Brian Mclaren’s open letter to Worship Songwriters

Books:

“A Guide to the Sacraments” John Macquarrie
“The Immortal Diamond”, Fr. Richard Rohr
“Everything Belongs”, Fr Richard Rohr
“The Holy Longing”, Fr Ronald Rolheiser
“Start with Why?”, Simon Sinek 
“To Change the World”, James Hunter
“Finding Our Way”, Margaret Wheatley
“Honest to God”, John Robinson
“Liturgy For Living”, Weil, Price 
“The Wisdom Jesus”, Cynthia Bourgeault

Examples (video):

A New Liturgy No 4: Creation (live at Willow Creek)
A New Liturgy No 2: Blessed to Be a Blessing (live at Axis):   (password = liveliturgy)
Love Can Change the World / St Francis / Have Thine Own Way (live at Willow)
The Resistance Experience (live at Willow)
Worship band IN the room (live at Willow)

02.23.13

We all want to change the world

Filed under: A New Liturgy,books,God's movement — 11:44 am

Last weekend I discovered a brilliant book called To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.  Basically, the author James Davison Hunter builds a case that our normal assumptions about changing the world are absolutely wrong.  He especially takes exception to the idea that genius individuals are largely responsible for cultural transformation, because history shows it to always be more complicated and multifaceted.  Better said…

“In the end, the good that was produced did not come about through literary, textual, musical, and artistic
genius alone. Nor was it the result of brilliant administrative initiative. By the same token, neither was it a
creation of the extraordinary wealth and patronage of the nobility. It was, of course, a result of the coming
together of all three at once.” (To Change the World, 64)

In my idealism, I’ve always believed that a genius idea alone can change the world.  But history does not support this. All three are required:  genius, administration, and funding.  Ideas, organization, and resources. Plus a thousand other overlapping factors of chance, grace, culture, and timing.

This raises two big feelings in me:  First, respect.  For every William Wilberforce or Martin Luther King Jr. who are rightly praised and placed in the history books, there are thousands of men and women who played
smaller but indispensable roles.  As much as history loves to romanticize the Lone Ranger heroes, the reality is
that they are only the tip of an iceberg. We will never know most of the people who worked and sacrificed and
died to change this world.  But they are worthy of our respect.

Second, humility.  No matter what I think I can do, I am utterly and hopelessly dependent on the men and
women who can do what I could never dream.  And that is beautiful.  It’s not all dependent on your gift or mine…
but on OUR gifts.  Together.

What is one thing you can bring to this world?  What is one thing you are hopelessly dependent on someone else to bring?  Are you ready to link arms, jump in, and help change the world?

I’m only a part of the Story
But wholly a part of the Story
So I’ll take my part in this Story
Get out of myself, get over myself
Get lost in the story (with) somebody else

(Lyrics from Bless, Liturgy No 2)

02.18.13

The Idolatry of Youth Culture in Worship

Filed under: A New Liturgy,worship — 8:04 pm

I posted this video to the A New Liturgy worship blog today, but it’s so good that I had to share it here also. You probably won’t agree with every point they make, but I hope you find it compelling and challenging…


The Idolatry of Youth Culture in Worship from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo

01.24.13

Giving away “Lord Have Mercy” for free until Ash Wednesday

Filed under: A New Liturgy,church,God's movement — 2:10 pm

February 13th is Ash Wednesday  – that dark and beautiful day of repentance and sorrow over our sin.
The first day of Lent.

To honor this season and offer you another way to deeply engage the tradition, we are giving away A New Liturgy No 3: Lord Have Mercy for free until Ash Wednesday.  If you are in a non-liturgical church but would like to participate in this holy day, may “Lord Have Mercy” invite you in.  If you have celebrated Lent for years and are looking for a fresh way to engage it, may “Lord Have Mercy” enhance and deepen your experience.  Or maybe you’re not too concerned with church tradition but need to humbly bring your sin before God…may “Lord Have Mercy” create holy space for you to confess and be healed.

Much of “Lord Have Mercy” is based on the Ash Wednesday liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world have been praying these words for generations, and will again in a few weeks.  Join us.  We’ve attempted to set these great prayers in simple but haunting music. Here’s the heart behind it…

Since my church doesn’t celebrate Ash Wednesday, I will most likely be praying through this by myself, but certainly not alone.  We’re all in this together.  From different traditions, denominations, continents, etc…we are a part of the same, big, diverse Family.

Finally, if you would like the string quartet sheet music to this New Liturgy, please leave your email in a comment, and we’d love to send you those files.  Any way that we can help you invite your community into this experience, we will.

Lord, have mercy on us all.
aaron

01.08.13

Creation Liturgy (LIVE at Willow) is now on Vimeo

Filed under: A New Liturgy,willow,worship — 10:02 am
Creation live at Willow

Creation live at Willow

On October 21st, we shared the Creation New Liturgy with the Willow Creek community.  Our band worked hard to capture the sounds, grooves, and textures…and my friend Stephen Proctor created a “visual liturgy” that took our breath away.  The production team masterfully supported it all, and most importantly, the Willow community jumped in to sing, pray, and worship from their toes.  It was a really beautiful weekend.

More and more, we’re discovering that A New Liturgy is meant to be experienced by a community. The readings take on a new energy, the songs become anthems, and the prayers transform into holy acts of solidarity.  It’s no surprise that the word “Liturgy” literally means “the work of the people”.  Indeed.

And so we’re really excited to share this video of the 11:15am service with you.  The music was re-mixed but not fixed, so what you hear is exactly what happened in the room.  It’s not the same as being there, of course, but we hope it pulls you into the beauty of God’s Creation and reminds you that “The Creator of the entire universe knows your name”.

A New Liturgy : CREATION from proctor on Vimeo.

12.01.12

Two great Advent resources

Advent Project

I didn’t grow up celebrating Advent, but the last handful of years have been teaching me the power and beauty of this season.  Millions of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world humbly enter into this practice every year, and it’s been moving to join them.  No matter where you are on your journey, here are two resources that might help you engage Advent this year…

(1) Glenn Packiam’s Blog – Glenn is a pastor/musician/author I respect that has taught me a lot about liturgy and the Eucharist.  His last two blog posts – How Advent Can Be Much More Than “The Christmas Season” and Advent Resources have really helped Shauna and I talk about how our family will enter into Advent this year.  Highly recommended.

(2) The Willow Advent Project – I’m thrilled to announce that the worship leaders of Willow have created a four week Advent resource for the community:  four 8-10 minute prayer and worship recordings…journeys of scripture, music, and reflection…each available for free download at the Willow Creek website.  Our hope is that these recordings would help you slow down every day to pray, worship, and prepare your heart to celebrate Christ’s birth.  You can learn more about the Advent project at Willow’s worship blog.

—–

December doesn’t need to be an exhausted blur of shopping, busyness, and stress.  I’ve let that happen way too many times.  Let’s commit ourselves – as individuals, families, and communities – to live differently this season.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

11.27.12

A conversation with Clayfire

Clayfire Media

If you are currently working to create worship experiences outside of the modern worship box, you’re going to love Clayfire Media. Linda Parriott and the Clayfire team are asking fantastic questions, pushing into deeper places, and helping worship leaders come up with their own sustainable worship design practices.  Really great stuff.

In fact, it was Linda who gave me a copy of  The Art of Curating Worship: Reshaping the Role of Worship Leader by Mark Pierson.  If you haven’t read this wonderfully provocative book, pick it up immediately.

Recently, I got to be a part of the Clayfire Podcast, which you can watch/read/listen to HERE.  Linda invited me to share a bit about A New Liturgy and my journey into more liturgical streams.  She asked fantastic questions and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation.  Here’s a short video excerpt…

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