For several years, I have known that my master’s thesis would be a launching pad for my eventual book on theatricality in Unitarian Universalist worship – my general idea is that we can learn something from our performative cousin, theatre, in terms of how we approach everyday worship.
Every time I mention the project to someone, they say “you have to write this book” and I smile at the confirmation. But instead of writing, I think about it, glad I have my thesis to point to as a “good start.” And of course I have a lot of other things going on – my ministerial internship, some work on my next worship-performance piece, and Reading. All. The. MFC. Books.
In October, I attended the Florida UU Ministers retreat, where Mark Morrison-Reed was our inspiring and compelling presenter. I had the opportunity to ride from our meeting place in Mount Dora down to Orlando, where I caught a bus and Mark caught a plane. I told him about my vision of ministry and this book, and he said – like everyone else has – “you have to write this book.”
Now there are a lot of influential people in my life, and I value their input. But when Mark Morrison-Reed said “you have to write this book” – I finally, actually HEARD the call.
But how was I going to write this when I have all these other things happening? That’s when my friend Katy said she was thinking about doing the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – a program for writing about 50,000 words of a novel over the course of the month. Of course, I don’t have a novel in me, but I do have this book. That my advisor, my mentor, my supervisor, my friends, and Mark Morrison-Reed all implore me to write. So I decided to get in on the game, and use the structure of NaNoWriMo to get 50K words of a first draft completed.
It’s been seven days now, and I’ve written about 8,500 words – some of them I like, some of them are utter crap, some of them making me wonder why I think I can put actual English sentences together – but what I am discovering is that I really care about this.
As I start writing various sections about things like setting, story arc, object, or character, I find that I don’t just have things to say, but I care deeply about them. I want our worship to be better – more inspirational, more transformative, more compelling, more meaningful. I want the people conducting and helping in worship to care how it is presented. I want our services to inspire deep thinking and radical compassion. And the more I write, the more I realize how deeply important this aspect of our religious expression is and how much I have to contribute to the conversation.
You could say “of course you care – this is your passion” and you’d be right, of course. I am passionate about the arts as an integral part of how we live our days, express our selves, and connect to the Divine. But it was the depth of my passion that surprised me. It was the tears in my eyes as I wrote about the effects of good transition and the speed of my fingers on the keyboard as I wrote about presence that caught me off guard.
Of course, I did have the ‘why is this, and not some grand justice issue the thing that drives you to write passionate prose of questionable quality” thought – knowing that I am passionate about feminism, LGBTQ issues, and income justice too. But what I know is that if we are only passionate about what happens outside our walls, we will forget that we need the beloved community inside our walls to be fed, inspired, and compelled too. And one way we do it is to create nourishing, inspiring, and compelling worship.
I really care about this. So I’m going to keep writing.