Over the summer, your LAC worship staff gathered to envision the months ahead. We had no idea what to expect–would we be online forever? Would we worship in-person, perhaps outdoors? We thought about instrumentation that would minimize droplet spread–could LAC host a ukulele choir or perhaps a steel drum ensemble? Some ideas have born fruit, like reviving LAC’s handbell choir, while another idea has blossomed into this week’s Dancing Magnificat.
This week, we will celebrate the third Sunday in Advent when we light the pink candle, symbolizing Mary’s joy, and read Mary’s song in Luke 1 that tells of the amazing things God has done. In this time of waiting and watching–for a vaccine, for hope, for God’s love to break into our world–Mary prophetically reminds us to reflect on the ways God is already at work in our lives. When our own bodies tell the stories of times when God has shown up in our growth, survival, and healing, what could be a better vehicle for this embodied proclamation than dance?
In our Reformed tradition, proclamation is the heart of our worship. We believe that there is something transformative that happens when we gather as a community and read scripture together. The Holy Spirit is at work within us and within the Word of God to lead us to understanding, wisdom, and insight. This act of communal engagement, transformation, and illumination of God’s Word is called proclamation. We are familiar with proclamation happening during the sermon; however, we also experience these moments of transcendence during other parts of worship–from choral anthems that help us to hear God’s Word in a new way to stories of how our mission partners are living out the gospel during the moment for mission. This week, there is no sermon, but there is an embodied proclamation as dancer Candace Tabbs, violinist Nicole Sharlow, and organist Douglas Kostner have collaborated for a spirit-led interpretation of Mary’s Magnificat.
LAC, I hope you love this service as much as your worship planners have loved conspiring to prepare for it! You won’t want to miss it! Here’s a sneak peek:
Acts of worship. It is difficult to be a participatory community in the midst of a pandemic. There is so much we can’t do: congregate in our sanctuary, sing hymns together, exchange the sign of peace in person, share communion, meet for fellowship. We know this and justifiably lament these losses.
Still, we continue to express our acts of worship as best we can from our distances. And, dare I say it, we even find opportunities that were either not considered before or physically not possible in live worship. Think of Dave Brandom playing a trio with… himself. Or, coming up on Christmas Eve, our Chancel Choir consisting of both LAC family present in the community and who have moved away but who can join us again with some help from technology, accompanied by a piano duet where both parts are played by yours truly.
Or, this Sunday. A special act of worship, so appropriately titled by Marranda as an embodiment. Not an anthem or a cantata. Not a sermon. A dance. Mary’s response to the angel’s words, her song of praise, expressed through music and motion.
The music, by composer David Bednall, is an unpublished piece that he graciously gave us permission to record for our service. Marian Suite consists of three movements. In the composer’s words, “The first and last movements are Gregorian paraphrases on their respective chants, ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Ave Maris Stella.’ The middle movement, ‘Mary’s Lullaby,’ is a free melody imbued with the feeling of folksong. There is both an Irish and Scottish feel to it, and I tried to impart to it the simplicity of a lullaby such as my Welsh grandmother might have sung.”
When I heard this music, I thought it almost cried out for movement. I imagined, with its focus on Mary, that it could be used to relate to the Magnificat reading from Luke that we will hear on Sunday. Through Becky Timms, another member of our LAC family who moved away, I was put in touch with Candace Tabbs, who created the dance she so beautifully presents for us.
In her words, “It was a joy and blessing to be in collaboration with Douglas and Nicole to minister Mary’s Magnificat through dance and music. The movement took inspiration from Luke 1:46-55, with each section exploring Mary’s journey through trepidation and doubt about what she was called to do, to soothing her child and herself in a lullaby and finally rejoicing in the power of God and all God has done and would do. The offering speaks to the infinite ways in which the Lord will embrace us with love and protection through all of life’s journey.”
Director of Music Ministry
Congregational Meeting on December 13
Following worship this week, there will be a meeting of the Congregation of the Larchmont Avenue Church at 11:00 a.m. for the purpose of electing new church officers. This will be a historic moment for our church as it will be our first congregation-wide meeting on Zoom! In order for the vote to count, we must have a quorum of members present–that means a minimum of 57 LAC members must participate in this historic vote! You may participate by calling in via phone, or by using a smart device loaded with the Zoom app. If you have multiple LAC members in your household, we recommend that each person use their own device in order to make voting easier.
Sunday, December 13, 2020 at 11:00 a.m.