Recently I was talking to someone who had no concept of church, never having been inside one at all! (This is becoming more and more common and we ignore or deny this at our peril – baptisms are less frequent, weddings and funerals happen more often outside than inside church buildings and some families are now in the third generation of non-church goers.) Increasingly they kept asking of me ‘exactly what it was I did’. Not what went on or what we stood for or even what we believed in but what I actually did with regard to worship. Once I had finally understood that was the question, we found the best way to continue the discussion was in using the language of the theatre. I had meant to blog about this at the time, but I forgot, I also forgot to blog about this quote – which I had marked on my kindle but until Kimberly pointed me in the direction of how to get my kindle notes onto Evernote, it had languished unforgotten like many other Kindle notes and highlights!
Drama has proved to be a remarkably fruitful way of conceiving Christian theology in recent decades. It is closely related to the popularity of narrative, with which it shares many elements. Drama, like life, unfolds over time. It can have plots and sub-plots; major and minor characters and events; clashes of people, ideas, and perspectives that may or may not be resolved; loose ends and mysteries; intensive dialogues, soliloquies, and cries; prose, poetry, and song; wisdom and foolishness; tragedy and comedy. It is able to convey the dynamic particularity of human existence, with its physicality, surprises, initiatives, contingencies, necessities, tensions, and multileveled complexity. It may present large overviews of life or delve into the intimate interiority of one character, but its core perspective is that of characters and events in interaction, irreducibly social. As it unfolds, a drama invites us to become engaged, to inhabit its world, and to look toward its as yet open ending.
The Future of Christian Theology by David F Ford
Those who lead worship and do it well, understand the principles of theatre even if they are not directly aware of it, and in the past I have often used stage principles when doing training on leading worship, reading in church or leading intercessions, but the idea of theology also being like drama was new to me.
The more I thought on it then, and again now, the more I agree. It isn’t really a great leap to see each theological idea or concept as a character in an unfolding drama, which only the Author knows the ending to, but in which we are all actively involved.