If you have ever heard the word curation or curator you probably associate it with the position of curator in an art museum. That person is usually tasked with arranging and featuring artwork in a way that flows and serves to entertain or educate an audience. They don’t create the artwork, they feature it. They sometimes choose it and acquire it to fill a certain spot in the installation or display. They have to understand the both intentions of the creator of the artwork, and also understand the museum-goers.
A curator finds their place between artist and audience.
Recently I’ve been reading a book that has significantly enhanced my life. Really what has changed me is the idea presented in the book. The Art of Curating Worship is the name, by Mark Pierson. In this book Pierson applies the concepts of curation to a worship experience. I have found myself to resonate deeply with this idea, so deep that it’s like I’ve finally found a word to communicate what has always been there in my heart. My role at South Bay Church has evolved into one of a worship curator. I don’t create the elements of the worship experience, I help arrange and feature them in a way that points people’s minds and hearts to Jesus, and facilitates personal encounters with the living God. What a dream job.
First let me say that curating worship should always be done as a team. A curator has much influence. Too much influence and power for the job to be done by one person. Teams make everything better. So at South Bay, we have a worship planning team. We meet once a week and put sets together for the coming Sundays. We talk about special elements and how to place them in the service.
Curating worship is about much more than songs. Songs are a vital part of worship, but they are not the definition of worship. A song is a mode of expression for worship. In the same way, a video or responsive reading can be an expression of worship. A sermon, a dance, or an artist painting on the stage. Smoke can be a tool for worship; so can lights, instruments, graphics and props. Worship is reflecting on, responding to, and exalting God. We do this in many ways.
As a worship curator, what I do is help Archie our Pastor of Creative Arts to create an environment on Sunday morning that facilitates people connecting with God in an intimate way. So I am concerned with things like timing, transitions, flow, content, meaning, and participation. I also am concern with sociological things such as people’s comfort in the room (temperature, visibility, volume, greeters, ushers), and social expectations of what the event will or will not be like.
Curating worship is what I wake up at night thinking about. As I am going about my daily tasks I am usually pondering how to dissect a song into a 2 min reflective tag or searching for a perfect Scripture to engage people’s hearts or what color scheme does a song “feel like,” or how can we rearrange the lyrics of a hymn to make it translate to our style . . . For example just this morning I was making pancakes and as a song came on Pandora I had to run in the other room to grab my guitar and figure out the key so I can be on the lookout for a song to pair it with.
When worship is curated well, you don’t even know it. You simply experience God. When I see that happening at South Bay, I am filled up to the max. God, use our worship experience to transform us all!