The Whole Point

Early this season I returned to Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, to attend my Ph.D. commencement ceremony and to be duly “hooded” – i.e., officially welcomed into the company of hopelessly nerdy liturgical and homiletical scholars.

Anticipating the visit, I asked via text a fellow graduating student, my friend Joseph Novak, who had been to Fuller more recently than me, a few questions about ceremonial specifics. In particular, I asked him about the baccalaureate service, which the materials I received from Fuller said was to take place on the “Arol Burns mall.”

RR: What is the “Arol Burns mall”? Is it anything like the Aaron Burr mall?  I only graduate once. I don’t want to throw away my shot. (Didja catch the Hamilton reference there?)

The mall is the green space in the middle of campus.

RR: So there's a worship service right there? Like — how does anyone hear anything?

They’ve been doing more outdoor stuff lately. They’ve got a pretty amazing sound system.

The conversation continues rather tongue-in-cheek.  

RR: Is it like Disneyland and they have speakers hidden everywhere in the trees and bushes? Like Moses coming upon the theophanic shrubbery?

: Haha. Everyone is given in-ear monitors. It's a totally monastic moment.

RR: Awesome! 
Do I get an app so I can calibrate what I hear in my own in-ear monitors? Filter out any stuff about, say, sin?

Of course. Calvinists tune in to the “confession of our wretched condition” channel; Pentecostals in to the “word of prophecy channel”; and so on. You really can get what you’re looking for.

That’s the whole point of worship. Right?

Ron Rienstra is associate professor of preaching and worship arts at Western Theological Seminary and co-author of Worship Words: Discipling Language for Faithful Ministry (Baker Academic, 2009).