Just back from a conference on charity management called Aiming 4 Excellence. It was the usual mixed bag. Some sessions were wonderful - Suzi Leather of the Charity Commission, Jim Saker (a man I used to be a youth group with at Knighton Free) and Alan Storkey were particularly outstanding.
The worship was a bit tedious, however. I'm growing increasingly tired of 'worship' that consists of singing a string of songs that tell God what he's like. Now, don't get me wrong, I think there is a place for praising and magnifying the name of God, calling to mind his attributes and remembering with gratitude all he's done for us. But a run of songs that tell God he's awesome in language that recalls a teenager describing a video game doesn't do much for me, I'm afraid.
I was listening to Editors new album on the way up, a collection of laments describing life on planet earth in pithy and telling one-liners. I found it interesting to compare and contrast the worship at the conference with the tracks on An End has a Start. Isn't there a reason why two thirds of psalms are laments, why Ecclesiastes, Job and Lamentations play such a crucial part in the Jewish liturgical calendar?
Surely the reason is this: our talking to God ought to be as much about life down here as it is about him up there. Surely, we are called to articulate the pain and bewilderment of human beings in the presence of God - as Abraham did, as the Psalms do, As Paul suggests we do in Romans 8. Surely our gatherings are meant to be a dialogue between us and God where he hears our pain and reminds that he shares it and is at work bringing to fruition his great work of redemption which is about more than me having my sins forgiven.
The irony is that the congregation at the conference were directors and trustees of charities working with some of the poorest people in some of the hardest places in our land. At the very least we should have been inviting the almighty to hear again the cry of the oppressed and hearing his cracked voice respond in the Spirit groaning in his groaning people immersed in a groaning creation (to borrow Paul's language from Romans 8).
Where are the song writers, writing liturgical music that puts some of the pain of our communities into words that we can sing in our gatherings? They must be out there.