So, went to see the Rend Collective Experiment twice in the space of four days.
In Manchester, in the relatively small Ivy Church, with friends and in Derby, at the comparatively huge Riverside Centre, with friends and family.
Both occasions were powerful, inspiring, uplifting and wonderful experiences of worship and music and celebration; however, in saying that, both were massively different experiences.
At the Ivy Church, there was an almost visceral feeling of connection with both the Rend Collective and the other people in the audience/congregation – there was a feeling that every voice carried a weight and significance in worship.
At Riverside, there was a greater sense of energy and excitement, as though a ‘critical mass’ had been reached that allowed a level of liberty and excitement to be instantly expressed.
At Ivy Church, it was wonderful to see friends worshipping wholeheartedly and without self-conscious, self-censoring attitudes that ordinarily would pin hands to sides and render toes untappable.
At Riverside it was genuinely humbling to watch my two pre-teen sons engage in raucous, exuberant, heartfelt, real worship, to see them experience honest, open-hearted and fully abandoned worship that was Christ centred and authentic in every way.
Both experiences lifted me out of my own grumpy, stressed, irritated state of mind and lifted my spirit, my thoughts, and my intentions out of a navel gazing downward spiral and into an inspired and enthused desire to re-grasp my own life of worship and bring authenticity, honesty, inspiration and desire to that expression of my faith and my relationship to God.
Something that struck me at both occasions was that the Rend Collective talked passionately about the concept of “campfires” – log on to their website and download the resource pack (here) – the idea that worship and community are vital in the life of the church. It wasn’t “look at us – we’re cool Christians – we’re really good at all this stuff,” rather it was more example, challenge and encouragement rolled in to one bundle of energy, integrity and exuberant praise.
An idea that was spoken, and one that appears in the resource pack, was the idea that when Jesus talked about us being ”the light of the world. A city located on a hill” He wasn’t talking about huge spotlights shining in the night sky (as Commissioner Gordon ordered a KFC for Batman – you had to be there!) or “a glaring, neon festival of fluorescence like Las Vegas.” Jesus was talking about small open fires – providing light and warmth and a place to gather around and belong – a community experience; and, taking that picture on, the idea that the light of the world was/could/should be made up of many small campfires giving off a collective glow, so that a larger light could be perceived from afar.
It did – does – challenge me.
I like my ‘campfire’ – my experience of church life in all its inspiring and aggravating reality – but I’m not dead sure my ‘campfire’ is connecting with others, I’m not certain that my ‘campfire’ is as welcoming as it could be (actually that’s probably more to do with me than any expression of church I’m involved with – I’m sure that I’m not as welcoming and community oriented as I could be), I’m not sure that my ‘campfire’ is as infectious as it could be …
I came out of two ‘concerts’ that rapidly turned into times of real worship for me, challenged to see if I could take that same idea of ‘campfire’ and ‘community’ and see them flourish in my life, to somehow show the same burning desire to see the flame spread …
Maybe I have to set something on fire first… maybe that ‘something’ is actually me … maybe I have to be more combustible … maybe I shouldn’t be so reluctant to get closer to the source of the fire …
Maybe that’s the same for you?