“What helped me learn . . . was feeling like I was in a space that would not judge me or even not judge my work.”
Teaching 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Kristen, like most of those who took on this work of presenting scripture readings, had no formal musical training. What she has, however, is the courage to explore her creative instincts and present her ideas to a community of fellow creators.
Every few months, we gather for workshops where presenters take turns presenting their works-in-progress and receive the insights of fellow workshop attendees. Because we want to give full creative license to the presenters, we take special care to avoid evaluation or prescription. Instead, after a piece has been presented in workshop, a facilitator asks the group “What did you notice?” and the group reports what happened to their bodies and attention as they listened, watched, and sang. (Here, we have borrowed from the work of Music That Makes Community, an organization the promotes the use of paperless music. Their work and leadership have been a vital source of inspiration for us.)
Thus, this is noticing . . .
“The two harmony parts cross each other and sometimes I lost track of which part I was supposed to sing.”
whereas this is not noticing . . .
“I noticed I thought you could choose better harmonies.”
and neither is this . . .
“I love your voice, I love your smile, I just think you’re wonderful, and I want the whole world to come to church to hear you!”
We actually begin each workshop by considering a few sample comments and deciding as a group whether they are comments that notice or comments that pretend to notice while actually evaluating or prescribing.
By learning to answer the question, “What did you notice?” we have learned to produce valuable pieces of insight that are based purely in our experience, not our opinions. We’ve learned to respect and nurture each other as creators.
After absorbing what their workshop audience noticed, creators make adjustments to their pieces. As a community, we have noticed how much clearer and more authoritative the final presentations are as a result of the workshop experience.
None of the presentations attempt anything as technically advanced as, say, what a professional composer might produce, but the courage and creative engagement of those without formal training, we have found, is powerfully felt. We get to see each other engage the scriptures as well as our demons and desires and through that work become creators and leaders. As a result, these scripture readings presented by members of our community, including those with no formal training, have left a profound impact on all of us. And the starting point for that work is a community of people like Kristen, people with the courage to face their fears, to discover their capacities to create and lead, to listen to the experience of others, and to offer love and support to others engaged in the same work.
We encourage you to use this resource in your own context. If you have found these videos and reflections helpful we also encourage you to join us through making a financial contribution towards the ministry of Not So Churchy.