“The way we gather matters. Gatherings consume our days and help determine the kind of world we live in, in both our intimate and public realms. Gathering – the conscious bringing together of people for a reason – shapes the way we think, feel, and make sense of our world…And yet most of us spend very little time thinking about the actual ways in which we gather.”Priya Parker, The Art of Gathering
Is Ritual Routine?
If, as author Priya Parker states; routine is “the enemy of meaningful gathering,” (pg 8) churches are at a disadvantage. Or at least on the surface. We gather weekly, year after year to observe and practice the same rituals mostly with the same people in the same space. This can easily become routine. However, ritual is not the same as routine and I would even say that routine is the enemy of ritual as well. Ritual must be constantly “full” of symbolism and meaning in order for it to be effective. And these rituals must be constantly “refilled” each week in order that be alive for the present participants on that particular Sunday.
But how do we do that well?
I’m a big proponent of good questions and Parker’s questions in chapter 1 of The Art of Gathering are challenging.
First of all, “Why do we gather?” That seems like an easy one! We gather to worship God. But, Parker asks us to push in a little deeper suggesting that it is easy to substitute categories for purpose. Ex: The volunteer training was arranged to train the volunteers. The purpose of the church’s small group was to allow church members to gather in smaller groups. etc.
But categories are not purpose. She challenges us to ask: Is there a specific purpose for this specific gathering? (pg 2) Is our worship service to help longtime worshippers go deeper in their connection to God? Is it to introduce new people to the experience of worship or to God? Is it to teach; to experience; to connect?
And what if it can’t be all of those things effectively at the same time?
“Any number of studies support a notion that’s obvious to many of us: Much of the time we spend in gatherings with other people disappoint us.”Priya Parker, The Art of Gathering
We’ve struggled with committing to this kind of specificity at Convergence for many years and it has made things complicated. It is very different to design a worship experience for those who know the “language” and culture of the church than it is for someone unfamiliar or even afraid of those things. Whose expectations are we trying to meet (or challenge?) And, what’s the difference between making room for everyone’s experiences and creating a specific identity for “us?” These are some of the questions I hope to find a response to so we can move on to different questions.
What are your questions? What insight did you gain from reading the Introduction and first chapter of The Art of Gathering? Please leave a response in the comments section below. This is where the conversation starts to happen!
Happy Reading! -Lisa
“I have come to believe that it is the way a group is gathered that determines what happens in it and how successful it is.”Priya Parker, The Art of Gathering
What Do You Think?
Welcome to the conversation! This is the first in a series of blog posts designed to facilitate conversation and reflection on how we gather. Over the next 16 weeks, we will post reflections and questions on the How We Gather Reports and the book The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. The Convergence Study Group for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Vital Worship Grant will be actively engaged in the comments section and invite you to join us!