This is a series of posts in which I hope to unpack thoughts and provoke practices around pattern-based worship. In so doing I want to examine notions such as patterns: natures way, western music’s journey of civilisation, and postmodern liturgy. And as an introduction, introduce the idea of sacred time.
At all times people have recognised that while we very often spend our waking hours struggling to survive, there are times when we transcend this and discover a deeper connection with the Divine. This connection may be experienced as God, as a oneness with all things, or simply a oneness with another. Certainly being or falling “in love” takes us away from our struggles or at least makes them bearable.
We all experience such times as inspiring, hopeful, and joyful, very often changing us (at least temporarily) from individuals trapped on a treadmill of obligations, to empowered humans. Many have called these transcendent times Sacred, in contrast to “normal” time which may be called Profane.
In this time of a heightened awareness of the dualisms of our western culture, we may reject the construct of the sacred and the profane as perpetuating unhealthy dichotomies. This suspicion is nowhere more evident than in our religious lives, which for many do not serve us by uniting the parts of our lives but rather create ever more entrenched categories, for example, the church vs. the world, religious vs. secular, or saint vs. sinner. These are by no means limited to the religious “sphere” either; we also experience the everyday divides of work vs. play, or us vs. them for example.
The Celts (who existed at the edges of the Roman Empire) saw this not so much in terms of time but place, calling locations which were steeped in the numinous (the unseen, mysterious presence of the ground of our being) the “thin places”. So we might say there are thin times, when the fabric of mundanity permits us to glimpse our ineffable underlying realities, which many of us call God.
Engaging the duality (as opposed to the dualism) of sacred vs. profane time can be helpful, if we bear in mind our tendency to compartmentalise. In fact, as far as questions of worship are concerned, it is vital that we grasp the distinction. Our confusion as to where the boundary between sacred vs. profane might lie leads to distortions and misunderstandings concerning what worship is or can become.
I write not as one with answers, but rather as one on a quest to explore, and driven by an intuition that there is more to worship than what is currently on offer. It is driven by a call to create new forms which honour the Creator and involve honest deconstructing of what is not working, reconnection with what has always worked, and an imaginative rebuilding of what lies ahead as we engage the unfolding future from a sacred perspective.