The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Media in worship at The Meadow

Those who worship at The Meadow on Sunday mornings know that digital media is part of the liturgy used in our experience. The visual mediums could be still imagery, video imagery, or a mixture of the two.

More often than not, the experience starts with Scripture and a theme, such as with "Kudzu Christianity: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." The text was Isaiah 5:1-7, a portion of "The Song of the Unfruitful Vineyard." Many summers we travel south to Florida for a week's vacation. Along the way there are untold acres of kudzu. We see it around East Tennessee. For the most part, it is an unfruitful vine, but some creative Southerners have uncovered various ways of making it fruitful. Thus the image of kudzu ...

There are times when still imagery is just not enough. Maybe it's a song that comes into my head and I begin to think of that song in a spiritual context. It could be a contemporary Christian song, a rock song, or even country music. While I have my favorites, there are very few genres that I can not appreciate in some way.

I have not yet purchased a digital video camera and analog-to-video is too cumbersome and time-consuming for me. So, many of my self-created videos are still imagery set to music. I began doing this with PowerPoint and a script in 1996. Today, given that I have not yet been able to afford a Mac, I use Windows Movie Maker.

Following a tornadic rampage earlier this year that killed nearly 60, I was struck by the stories of survival and created a video for worship, using news images and the music of Casting Crowns, "Praise You In The Storm." I would show it here, but there is the possibility of copyright infringement since this is not "a house of worship or other religious assembly." A good reference for what is allowed under the Copyright Law of 1976 is "Handbook for Multisensory Worship" (c 1999 Ginghamsburg Church). Which begs the question: How do those folks on YouTube get away with all of those copyrighted images floating across their pages?

As a bivocational pastor, it is difficult to create the experience that you pray will help people experience God. There is the issue of time, but there is also the issue of resources -- particularly if you are serving a small church, such as The Meadow, where resources are scarce. Large churches often have teams of people who are either paid staff or are drawn from a large pool of engineers. In a small church, neither of those resources exist to a great degree -- that is, money for staff and a large pool of volunteers. Because of that, I long ago decided to draw upon a number of resources so that we in The Meadow can fully experience God's revealing Word:

It starts with The Word

Sometimes I use the Lectionary, which allows me to use a variety of worship planning resources, such as the United Methodist Church's General Board of Discipleship worship site, TextWeek, and Desperate Preacher, and ESermons, the latter of which is a paid subscription site. (I chose that one to subscribe to because Len Sweet, one of my favorite contemporary theologians, has material on that site. My congregation would readily recognize his name, as well as Brian McLaren, Henri Nouwen and Rob Bell.)

Sometimes God leads me to another Scripture, in which case I search for a theme or metaphor within the text. Slowly reading and looking for words and phrases that jump off the page and into my spirit. I then look to commentaries, such as those within the New Interpreter's Bible, "The New Daily Study Bible" series, or other commentaries.

Then, there are times when something I am reading will strike a chord. That is what happened with Donald Miller's "Blue Like Jazz." I was reading that book in the summer of 2005 and one chapter led me to create a worship experience entitled "Christian Belief is Like Penguin Sex." It was around the same time that "March of the Penguins" debuted, which certainly made it timely. It also provided much needed imagery, thanks to marketing materials. (Again, I would show the imagery here, but there is that copyright law ...

Movies and music also draw me to certain themes. The no-brainer movie theme of the past few years has been the "Chronicles of Narnia" series. I have yet to see the "Prince Caspian" release, but like many pastors I built a series of worship experiences on the former movie. The not-so-obvious movie that I built a message upon was "The Shawshank Redemption." It was a great study of hope during Advent one year. Music has spawned a number of ideas, with songs like Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A Changin'" and Brooks and Dunn's "Red Dirt Road."

In short, I believe God is open to creative liturgy and uses a great deal of pop culture to get his message across.

I'll close with a few suggested resources for visual liturgy:

Sermon Spice:
The work of the People: www.twop.
Jonny Baker Blog:

Grace and peace ...