Sparking Ideas for Worship at Greyfriars

Martin Ritchie tells us about the SPARK festival and some upcoming events.

Spark festivalDuring 2015 I’m working for Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh as the Artistic Associate, with special responsibility for the creation and management of Spark – a festival of worship and the arts. The idea for the festival arose from a desire to celebrate the 25th birthday of the Kirk’s wonderful Peter Collins pipe organ, the installation of which led to a transformation of the layout of the building and the life of the congregation back in 1990.

As we started to think around the possibilities we noted that 2015 also marked the 150th anniversary of the installation of the first pipe organ in Greyfriars Kirk in 1865, the Greyfriars Choral Society was founded in this year and that controversial and creative innovations in worship were taking place during the ministry of Robert Lee.  Faced with so much to celebrate, we decided to create a year-long festival exploring how the arts relate to worship.

Although we wanted to look at things that happened in the past, we also wanted the festival to give us food for thought and inspiration for the enrichment of worship today, so we created a strand of workshop days looking at how the arts in all their variety could be transformational in worship, in developing community and empowering the mission of the Church.

What has happened so far? 

Creative events and activities can be great meeting points that allow conversations to start and relationships to be formed. This has been our guiding principle in the creation of the festival, and most events are rooted in collaborations with organisations that somehow link with our festival theme. Full details of the year’s programme can be found on the Greyfriars website. Feel free to cull ideas – we’d love to see festivals like this springing up everywhere!

What’s to come?

We’re now almost half way through the year, and have enjoyed some tremendous worship, performances and talks. Coming soon are two events designed to provide ideas and inspiration for anyone involved in creating and leading worship. These are for people involved in congregations large or small, rural or urban – the emphasis is on inspiring and enabling others to be creative in their own contexts. 

“Worship, liturgy and the arts” on Saturday 27th June is a day exploring how the arts can be used as tools for spiritual growth, enrichment of worship and opportunities for outreach.  With a fabulous line-up of speakers who have a huge amount of experience in the area of creativity and worship, the day will include talks, lots of visuals, interactive sessions and conversation about what has worked for them and their top tips for having a go in your own parish. 

“Psalms for all Seasons” on Saturday 8th August is designed to encourage the creative use of psalmody, in ancient and modern settings, in today’s Church. We’re really excited that Martin Tel, the Music Director of Princeton Seminary in the USA, and editor of the brilliant volume, Psalms for All Seasons, will be bringing his flair for creating deep and transforming worship. He will be joined by musician, minister, liturgist and national treasure, John Bell, of the Wild Goose Resource Group. Finally, worship collective The Psalm Project from Holland, will be leading a session as they demonstrate their approach to reimagining the Genevan Psalter for worship band. A truly international line-up!

The ancient texts of the psalms remain at the core of our tradition and continue to inspire incredible musical settings around the world. This day allows you to tap into all of this creativity and put it into practice in the worship of your own congregation. 

Finding out more

If this has whetted your appetite, full details of these events are listed below:
Worship, liturgy and the arts
The Psalms Day
The Psalms Project Gig

There’s plenty more to come in the second half of our festival year. Email me if you’d like more information or would like take part in Worship, Liturgy and the Arts and Psalms for All Seasons.

Looking forward to welcoming you along!

Martin Ritchie is Artistic Associate at Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh.