Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Creating Dramatic Worship Services

My church here gave us the unprecedented step of taking over every 5th Sunday service to be a drama service this year.  Basically, we can do whatever we want dramatically and musically!  This has allowed us to try a number of different things through the year:  In January we incorporated Tom Long's "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Jericho"- a funny take on the parable of the Good Samaritan where the Scripture reader keeps taking a different part and finding the whole play shifting to make her the central character.  Interesting thing about doing it in Kenya -- it was challenging for some of the congregation to make the process of discovery and keep up with the changes ("what's going on?  What was that about?").  Others found it very deep.  Side note on this: When doing my doctoral research here I discovered, when working on a Swahili-language parable, that they don't go for the 'surprise ending.'  I was told there was a way to word things so that people knew what was coming up and wouldn't be taken aback by a new development at the end.  In many ways, it is the medieval morality-play mentality (those actually go over very well here).  

OK, moving on... May:  Did Paul McCusker's "Work in Progress," a series of sketches showing Christians as works in progress in their faith journey.  That took most of the service, with music bookending the play. Again, very well received.    In August the choir did a special program, so we are now facing October - coming up this Sunday!  We have chosen to do a reflection on the Ten Commandments (the topic of teaching this year).  We will use supporting Scriptures, short video clips from sermons, music and drama scenes to help people reflect on what the 10 commandments are all about in our lives.  We'll see how people handle having no sermon!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Drama training in Kenya

I had the privilege of giving another "Drama in the Ministries of the Church" class at Daystar a few weeks ago.  This was the best group yet!  Pastors and drama leaders from 6 churches across Nairobi, all diehard drama fans and eager to deepen their understanding of communicating and ministering through the creative use of drama.  I was also spurred on by Birte Papenhausen, a fellow drama enthusiast who works in Mongolia; we were able to demonstrate more forms of drama in the class, as a part of our devotions and learning.  The class looked at the Biblical basis for the arts, why drama is a powerful tool for communication and learning, and all the ways that drama can be used in church (and out!).  Students said they learned more than they could have imagined, and had their horizons stretched as they saw that there is more to drama than the standard "skit" or play; how about dramatizing Scripture?  Or storytelling your way through the Bible?  Or using tableaux, or or playback, or participatory theatre to discuss issues facing Christians and possible solutions?  God is a creative God and we certainly must be willing to explore creative ways of communicating truth!

 I am up to 34 different forms of drama that can be used in performance, teaching, or discipleship. Here's one, to go along with the Storytelling Festival that just happened here in Kenya— Sigana.  This is based on a traditional African form of drama that uses storytelling, dance, music/song, riddles and audience participation.  The result is a modern fusion theatre that is uniquely Kenyan.  One of my students caught a vision for an "urban sigana" that could be used in their church.  I hope it will come to pass soon!