Enter The Praise(d) Band

As You May Already Know...

In any stage performance (particularly theater and film) there's a technique known as "blocking." In planning a performance, the director (originally, I believe, using actual blocks of wood) schedules the placement or movement of figures on stage. This is to maximize the use of the available performance area, and to properly place people and props with respect to the audience.

As You May Not Already Know...

Traditional worship employs something similar. The "blocking" (or the positioning) of the Minister relies on the difference between sacramental and sacrifical phases of a service. Sacramental acts are points where God acts toward us (via the Means of Grace), and sacrificial acts are our response toward God.

A quick review follows:

What are the chief sacramental acts in The Service?

The Declaration of Grace.
The Lessons.
The Sermon.
The Distribution of the Holy Supper.
The Benedictions (The Votum, the Pax, the Dismissal, and the Benediction)

What are the sacrifical acts?

The confession
The prayers
The Hymns and Canticles
The Creed
The Offerings

In view of the above, what is the proper posture of the Minister when he conducts the various parts of the worship?

While conducting the sacramental parts of worship, the minister should face the people, because at such times he stands as the Lord's ambassador and addreses them in His Name. (See II. Cor, 5:20: Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.)

While conducting the sacrificial parts, the Minister should face the altar, as do the people, since he now addresses the Lord on their behalf and as their leader.

(From An Explanation of the Common Service, United Lutheran Publication House, Philadelphia, 1908, revised 1941)

The doctrine of the two-way nature of worship is essential to the act of corporate worship, for it is clearly outlined in Scripture. The truth and beauty of this two-fold approach is humbly acknolwedged in even the tiniest details (is the pastor facing us or not?) in the Divine Service.

Enter...The Praise(d) Band

In entertainment-derived worship (e.g. "CoWo") the 'blocking' is consciously and carelessly imported from the rock concert and the stand-up nightclub. In situations where "liturgical dance," or "liturgical drama" is used, the correlation should be even more apparent.

The subtlety of the the sacrificial/sacramental dimensions is now completely bypassed. The audience (previously known as "the congregation,") now faces the "worship leaders," who in turn face the audience. It is important that the musicians are placed on a stage, and the more trappings of the rock concert we can use (lights, smoke, in-ear monitors, mixing consoles, on-stage choreography), the better.

No one turns to face the altar or cross (if they exist at all), so now the traditional symbolic gestures outlined above are rendered meaningless--as they should be, for every rock musician knows to "never turn your back on the audience," unless you're adjusting your equipment or involved in a particularly awesome solo.

If anything's left, there might be a lopsided (if hollow) emphasis on the 'sacrificial' element, marked clearly by the ubiquity of the oxymoronic term "Praise Band." Perhaps a more appropriate name for the "worship leaders" would be "Praised Band," for that would more accurately reflect the performer-audience physical and spatial relationship.

How quaint and rustic the traditional postures of the Minister must now seem! The focus of our worshippers now is no longer the cross, the altar, or even the humble role of God's shepherd (the Minister), but instead, the musicians, which makes the title "Praise(d) Band" seem entirely accurate.