Raising Spiritual Master Chefs
Recently I went to see the movie “The Hundred-Foot Journey”. The movie tells the story of Hassan Kadam, a talented cook trained by his mum. Leaving native India with his family led by Papa (his father), they settled in a quaint village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in the south of France and opened an Indian Restaurant, the Maison Mumbai. When Madame Mallory, the owner of a Michelin starred restaurant La Saule Pleureur, got wind of this new restaurant that was a hundred feet away from hers, it led to an all out war between the two restaurants. It was Hassan’s passion for French cuisine and for Mallory’s beautiful sous chef, Marguerite, combined with his mysterious delicious talent to bring together the two cultures and create a new blended flavour, led to Madame Mallory eventually recognising Hassan’s gift as a chef and takes him under her wing. This led to him becoming a top chef in Paris.
This movie got me thinking. In the church today, in the midst of worship wars that exist in many churches, there needs to be a “Hassan Kadam” who can magically blend the different cultures that exist in our churches to create a flavour of worship that gives people with a fresh new experience leaving them wanting for more.
You may argue that by doing that, we are catering to the consumer-nature of people. But is that bad? The reason we have worship wars is because each generation has their own preference in how they worship God. “The Hundred-Foot Journey” made me think that maybe we dont have to choose. Instead we need to experiment more by doing more blending within our worship events. That was what Hassan Kaddam became very good at. He was constantly experimenting so that the food he served was fresh, new and creative.
Worship leading in the 21st century has to be an art that blends together the richness of worship from the various generations. Churches today are awakening to a renewed delight of hymns that blends the ancient with the modern. There is also a resurgence in liturgy and religious icons where churches are turning to ancient forms of spirituality and giving it a modern twist. Maybe worship in the 21st century is about blending the different flavours to create fresh new experiences of God’s presence.
One word that many non-liturgical churches avoid is ‘altar’. Being an ordained Anglican minister (and a Baptist pastor), I have no problems with this word. I would define altar as a sacred space where we can withdraw from the busyness of everyday life to focus on God. It can be a tiny space, an entire room or out in nature. Creating an altar, a sacred space, helps worshipers to concentrate their whole being, including their senses, in the worship of a holy and transcendent God. The altar of worship is not fixed and can change with the seasons the church community is in. This keeps worship fresh and invigorating.
Worship leading then, is no longer just focusing on the singing part of the service, but on putting together various elements of the worship event so that a sacred space, an altar, is created, thus helping the community of faith connect with the God they worship. Mark Pierson, in his book “The Art of Curating Worship” talks about worship leaders being a worship curator. He talks about the role of a museum or gallery curator being “to acquire, care for, develop, display and interpret a collection of artifacts or works of art in order to inform, educate and entertain the public”. In the same way a worship curator does not just focus on choosing songs to fit the theme of the message but acquires, arranges, develops and interprets the content and worship elements like a skilled craftsman so that he or she creates a worship space that captures the heart of the worshiper, drawing them to engage as a participant rather than just being a spectator on the sidelines.
Like a master chef, the worship curator creates a holy sanctuary of worship with the guidance of the Holy Spirit that blends together the various generations and cultures by using the various ‘spices’ of worship traditions and heritage available. This creates what Len Sweet calls an EPIC event – an event that provides Experience, Participation, Imagination and Connection – and it leaves people with a sense of being in the Holy of Holies and being in the presence of an awesome God. If the worship curator is not walking with the Spirit of God, he or she will not be able to create this sanctuary of worship. On the other hand when the worship curator is walking with the Holy Spirit, then he or she will create a holy sanctuary where like Isaiah, we see God, high and exalted with his train filling the sanctuary.
May we see more “spiritual master chefs’ leading worship in our churches rather than “spiritual fast food cooks’.