So Long, Farewell

So Long, Farewell

The Sound of Music




Well, here we are at the end of the year and the end of Clayfire Curator. I think I’m supposed to be sad.

However, since posting the announcement about closing down everything associated with Clayfire, so many of you have commented here on this site, or on the Facebook page, or contacted Eric and me personally, the overwhelming feeling I have at this moment is gratitude.

In this final post, allow me to acknowledge everyone to whom I’m indebted for their collaboration.

I’m grateful to…

Sally Morgenthaler, author of Worship Evangelism, for her partnership, leadership, and friendship during years of exploring together the history and future of worship. Sally’s wise counsel kept us from settling for fast and easy, fill-in-the-blank answers.

Richard Webb, associate pastor at Lutheran Church of Hope, West Des Moines, IA, whose knowledge of and passion for church history and particularly, worship music history, grounded us in ecclesiology. Richard never let us forget that worship, spiritual formation, and mission are intricately linked.

Logan Wang for dreaming big dreams. He was an early champion of worship planning that transcended divisions between faith traditions and helped

Josh Linman whose passion for creative worship started it all.

Eric Herron, who picked up where Josh left off as community manager and has never missed a deadline, even during the birth of his twins. My gratitude for Eric goes much deeper than that, of course, but I don’t know where to begin. He’s a rock (star).

Jodi-Renee Adams, who is young enough to be my daughter and wiser than women twice my age (except for the 4-inch heels). I have eagerly and hungrily read her posts every week for three years, and I’m eager and hungry to read still more. Before Jodi, I’d never met a liturgical evangelical. My life will never be the same.

Mandy Smith who, when invited to be a regular contributor to Clayfire Curator, said, “How can I say no?!” If Eric never misses a deadline, Mandy regularly beats them. But as commendable as her reliability is, its her stories and experiences and ideas about the art of worship that single her out.

Travis Reed who reminded us early and often that worship created for community is to be created from community.

The content curators and content contributors for Clayfire, who responded to the vision of Clayfire with enthusiasm, passion, and unsurpassed creativity and excellence: Eric Herron, Jodi-Renee Adams, DJ Turner, Steve Frost, Ryan Marsh, Anastasia McAteer, John McAteer, Troy Bronsink, Pam Heatley, Don Heatley, Melanie Heuiser-Hill, Todd Fadel, Angie Fadel, and Richard Webb. I’d be remiss not to mention Margaret Ellsworth, who worked tirelessly and enthusiastically behind the scenes as the content project manager and editor.

Mark Pierson who answered an email from a complete stranger half a world away with no more introduction than “Sally said I should contact you.” I’ve received no greater honor than When he entrusted me to be the editor of his book, The Art of Curating Worship, which became the foundation for everything Clayfire aspired to be. His vision for worship curation, along with his persistence and tenacity in sharing that vision for the last fifteen years, is what will sustain worship and further its renewal for years to come.

The thousands of people who bought Mark Pierson’s book and found a new language and a new approach for designing worship.

The 1400-plus people who found Clayfire on Facebook and “liked” us.

The people who followed @Clayfire on Twitter, retweeted and favorited us, and recommended us on Follow Friday.

I’m grateful to every person who shared a View from Your Pew, one of my favorite features of Clayfire Curator.

Every person who wrote a guest post in exchange for nothing more than a book from Fortress Press. Your generosity is exceeded only by the breadth and depth of perspective that you brought to Clayfire Curator.

The entire Clayfire Curator community. For some of you, Clayfire Curator was “finding a community for ‘those who know exile.’” For others, worship curation as an approach to designing worship is still a new idea, and you’ve let us know that there’s still so much more to explore.

If you’re familiar with The Sound of Music, you’ll recall that the song, “So Long, Farewell,” signaled a new beginning for the Von Trapp family. As the song concluded, the family became exiles from their home country and emigrated to a new country.

Although this is the final post on Clayfire Curator, Eric and I plan to continue the Clayfire legacy of Vera Loan. By mid-January (or sooner), we’ll be prepared to make an announcement about the next iteration. Make sure you don’t miss any news: add our names to your Google+ circles, subscribe to us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

What’s to be sad about?!

So long, farewell. See you on the Internet!


Someone Said

 I first went Epiphany chalking four years ago. On a fine January afternoon, Samantha, a teenager in my church, and I waltzed all through our neighborhood, fat yellow box of Crayola chalk in hand. (I told myself that I was doing something noble by spending my afternoon with a church teen, but I suspect that in reality I invited Samantha on my chalking expedition mostly so that I could have an excuse for doing something that might, at first blush, seem a little less than adult.)

We chalked the doors to my apartment, and we chalked the doors to Samantha’s house and her mom’s office, and the doors to the houses of some friends and neighbors. And then we got a little carried away. We started knocking on the doors of people we did not know and offering to chalk their houses. It felt a little like we were selling Girl Scout cookies — except, of course, folks neither had to pay us, nor did they get any Thin Mints out of the deal.

In a 2006 article for, Lauren Winner writes about the Epiphany tradition of blessing of the home. With white chalk, write the following visual blessing on or over the main door: 20+C+M+B+12. The numbers change with each new year. The three letters stand for either the ancient Latin blessing Christe mansionem benedica, which means, “Christ, bless this house,” or the legendary names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar).


An Epiphany

Denver hosts a parade of light-filled floats the first weekend of December to kick off our Christmas season. It’s a rather time-honored tradition and crowds are packed onto the curbs of the parade route every year. A few years back, I took my then three-year-old son to his first Parade of Lights. We stood opposite the historic clock-tower with it’s red-light lined peaks and every window glowing. His eyes and mouth were fixed in a look of perpetual astonishment; but when Santa came around the corner, with the dancing gifts and snowflakes, the animated penguins, and his genuine spirit of joy, every person jammed onto that curbside came alive. Regardless of age, life-journey, class, race, religion, social group, for a few moments everybody believed in something bigger, something beautiful. Everybody could foresee a time of peace, of togetherness, of mystery and magic. And I wept. Not because of Santa or Christmas or my baby boy’s sweet reaction—but because of the overwhelming presence of heaven. The kingdom was there, quiet and hidden, but seeping into every pore and sound and scent on that street.

I think I also cried because it was not too long ago that this kind of experience would never have made it onto my radar as a sacred encounter. My spiritual categories were so entrenched that I lost sight of what it meant to be enchanted. I might have even “prayed for” those lonely, hurting people who were confusing GOD with the experience of Christmas. Because, of course, I knew what they were really looking for. Ouch.

It’s hard to not wonder how many times I still miss GOD-Who-Is-Bigger or settle for GOD-Who-Makes-Me-Feel-Okay or the safe and expected GOD-Who-Fits-Inside-the-Christian-Culture-Box. You know, the one who grows big churches with “hip” worship. One thing I’ve learned is that the GOD-Who-Is-Bigger isn’t really in the business of making me feel better or reconciling the situations of my life, but often meets me in ways that are subtle, disturbing, and gently lifts my chin from gazing at myself and my ideas of what it means to be “spiritual” to a vision of all that could be out there. There’s an invitation by the GOD-Who-Is-Bigger to genuine self-discovery and Divine-discovery and world-discovery and love-discovery that simply can’t happen when we play it safe or “culturally relevant.” In other words, it’s an invitation into Epiphanies.

I certainly came from a Christian culture that said GOD is big enough to heal my wounds (both literal and metaphorical), to come through when everything else is failing, to “defeat my enemies” (whomever and however I interpreted that), to legislate morality (as defined by Christian culture, not necessarily Scripture), or to act in the blatantly-Christian supernatural. But this GOD was still only big enough to fit into my world—instead of inviting me to get lost inside of GOD’s world; and certainly, once I knew The Truth, there was no need for free-thinking openness or looking about the world with curious longing. This was never more evident than in all of my favorite worship songs and defined worship experiences. It was never more evident than in the lack of profound creative revelation and thematic grandeur. And yet, how cool did I think I was with my anti-tradition, pop-Christian music and my normalizing appreciation for Pink Floyd!!

Perhaps a large part of our spiritual crisis in America is due to the smallness of the GOD we profess and reflect in the day to day of our lives, to our lack of curiosity and to our missed Epiphanies. That’s a pretty big accusation. I get it. I’m not asking you to agree with me, I’m simply asking you to think about it.

Here’s what I learned from a bunch of wise guys: I’m learning to let go of my smug insight into what GOD does and doesn’t look like even as I stroll blindly past the manger bearing the Incarnate. I’m learning to confront myself: How open am I, really, to encountering the GOD-Who-Is-Bigger, even if that GOD doesn’t fit into my cultural or pre-defined categories? And am I willing to worship there?

May the GOD of Surprises, the Deep Well of Mystery, the Divine Spark enlarge your world and your experiences this week. May this GOD illuminate you with Epiphany. May we all mirror that light to those we serve. Through Christ Jesus.

Image © iStockphoto


Someone Saw

Christian Pilgrims Celebrate the Epiphany in the Jordan Valley, Jan 2011

Pictured here: A pilgrim wearing a robe dips into the banks of the Jordan River. | Image © Israel Defense Forces | Flickr | Used under Creative Commons license.

Christian Pilgrims Celebrate the Epiphany in the Jordan Valley, January 2011

For followers of the Jewish faith, Qasr Al-Yahud is the path the ancient Israelites crossed on their way from Egypt. For the Christians, it is the place where Jesus experienced his spiritual rebirth. And for the ten thousand pilgrims that crowded it on a dreary Tuesday (Jan. 18, 2011), determined and deep in prayer, Qasr Al-Yahud is a holy baptismal site.

Situated a few meters away from Jordan and a few kilometers away from the city Jericho, the seemingly endless Christian winter celebrations continued. Based on the Gregorian calendar, January 18th is the day of the Epiphany, the third holiday following the holiday sequence of Christmas and New Year’s. Every year, the event draws thousands of people. Some are Palestinian Christians, however most Orthodox Christians arrive from all over the world—Russia, Greece, Bulgaria, Syria, and the list continues on. Other noteworthy visitors include Christian pilgrims from Ethiopia and Eritrea.

News of this event in 2011 was reported on the Israel Defense Forces website, January 20, 2011.


Beheaded Pigs and Fancy Logs?

The Boar’s Head and Yule Log festival is an Epiphany tradition dating back to medieval times which, like most things medieval, draws together Christian and pagan metaphors. It is believed to have begun back in the 1300′s when a scholar at Oxford, while walking through the forest, was attacked by a wild boar. Having no other weapon with him, the scholar used his metal-bound philosophy book to kill the beast and that night the boar’s head, finely garnished, was paraded into the halls of the college to the strains of Christian carols. The presentation of the boar’s head came, over time, to symbolize Christ’s triumph over sin. Today the festival is a lavish church festival with bright costumes, choral music, and all the necessary pageantry.

Find a nearby Boar’s Head festival on Google. Or, failing that, incorporate a few elements of it into your own Epiphany worship:

Incorporate the Yule Log tradition either by burning a real log or serving a log-shaped “Buche de Noel” cake. Over the years the log has symbolized everything from fertility, to rest, to protection. Read more to decide how to make it meaningful for your worship community.

Another tasty Epiphany tradition is Wassail, a spiced wine or ale, served warm.

Choose some songs from the Boar’s Head festival to incorporate in your worship:

“Kings to Thy Rising” is a great hymn to reflect on the visitation of the Magi (and which could work as a song or a responsive reading). Here are the lyrics.  Follow this link and scroll down to find the music for it.

Kings to Thy Rising
French, 16th Century

Noel! Noel!
Where is He, born King of the Jews!
For we have seen His star in the East.
Where is he, born King of the Jews?
For we have come to worship Him.

In Bethlehem the King is born!
Rejoice! Emmanuel has come!
 Sing we Noel! Noel! Noel!

Where is He, born King of the Jews!
For we have seen His star in the East.
Where is he, born King of the Jews?
For we have come to worship Him.

‘Tis here he lies, Give thanks, be glad!
Amidst the oxen sleeps our Lord.
Sing we Noel! Noel! Noel!

Where is He, born King of the Jews!
For we have seen His star in the East.
Where is he, born King of the Jews?
For we have come to worship Him.

Behold your Lord! Rejoice! Rejoice!
In praise lift up a joyful voice!
Sing we Noel! Noel! Noel!

At last the long and hopeful search is done,
Afar from distant lands we come,
Moved by great tidings of a newborn King,
Costly gifts to him we bring.

Fall on your knees, proclaim His birth.
Let there be peace throughout the earth.
Sing we Noel! Noel! Noel!

What small hints of pageantry and grandeur can you use this week to remind worshipers of the Magi and how they set aside their status to receive a tiny child?

Image © Adam Koford (Ape Lad)


Switch to our mobile site