I have never done this before, but I am assigning you, my dear pigeons, a movie to watch. It is called “The Artist is Present” and is about Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic.
Here is why you must, must, must see it:
Abramovic is the first person I have known to perfectly articulate and exemplify what it is we must bring to worship, which is a particular consciousness. In order to create the possibility for shared consciousness among worshipers, we must first get there ourselves through multiple disciplines: study, prayer, work, rest, self-examination, preparation.
Abramovic refers to her performances in terms of creating charismatic space, and when I heard this phrase I almost jumped out of my skin with a great Ah-ha! This is the phrase I have been looking for all my ministerial life to describe what it is we are trying to do in worship. In all my years of training lay people, seminarians and clergy to craft liturgy and lead worship, I have spoken in terms of “managing energy” and “moving through the liturgy with intentionality.” I have always taught that there are performative aspects to liturgy that we must take seriously as artists; that we cannot simply show up to read something or light a candle and to expect God to make it happen for the community: the “it” being that ineffable sense of time out of time, or what we call “sacred space.”
I have attended countless worship services where the worship leader droned on and on about “sacred space” and used all the right language but totally failed to create charismatic space.
Before you get suspicious of the use of the word “charisma” in this context, may I please remind you of the Greek and Pauline origins of the word. A charism is a gift of the Spirit. It is not merely about personality and star quality. Watch Abramovic bring transcendent presence to the moment she shares with those who stand on line for hours to sit with her, and you will see what I mean. She is not just a rock star performance artist. She is a committed and disciplined woman hard at work in the service of her vocation. You should be able to relate.
Also, if you ever doubted the tremendous power that being fully present to another human being can have in their life, watch “The Artist Is Present.” It will remind you that we may experience salvation through being truly regarded by someone who has devoted themselves to being in our presence.