Last Saturday night I went with my wife and some friends to Cirque du Soleil in Redmond, Washington, for Corteo.
Cirque du Soleil is a circus event, Circus of the Sun -- a very richly layered experience of music, acrobatics, humor, word; the whole thing is a bit of a dreamlike experience, so it allowed everything to be integrated into this whole sense of dying and friends gathering around, and all of the dimensions of angels and friends and other things that are brought in as companions for the experience.
This whole world of Cirque du Soleil has laid a foundation for a title I am giving to the one Sunday a month that Washington Seminary facilitates Sunday5 at Washington Cathedral. Sunday5 is a 1-hour alternative worship service, and we call the one Sunday each month when the seminary runs it “Cirque d'Esprit” – Circus of the Spirit.
The whole nature of Circus of the Spirit is that there’s something about circus that says we’re not playing within the lines. So where you traditionally have a liturgy of song and prayer and spoken word, here we may have spoken word, but it may be in the form of Japanese poetry with flute music playing in the background, and you may experience different scents, from herbs or cinnamon or who knows what, that are integrated into the worship service.
No direct sermon. Stories and exploration of ideas are pieces in the text, but again, wherever possible, to not just have everything be focused on the speaker, but to have other things going on -- whether it’s music or sounds or sights or something -- is what I call a thick experience, a layered experience of multiple things going on that speak to your whole being in different ways than traditional liturgies do, which usually have one person at a time doing their activity. So Cirque d'Esprit is a 1-hour canvas to try and playfully do things that tie in with thoughtful, contemplative ways of being, but in playful and multi-mediumed experiences.
This Sunday is our first Cirque d'Esprit, looking at Acts 8, and I’ll be playing out a piece with crushed herbs being like the early life of the church, the witness of the martyrs, the church growing and being a heavenly scent that will be part of our experience of worship as we inhale those scents and think of those people. The evening will culminate as we take communion with herb bread, that again sees the whole sacrifice that is poured into the bread, which symbolizes the body of Christ.
So I think that the whole sense of circus being laid alongside church helps us to expand in our creativity and to recognize that the Spirit wants to do and say things in new mediums that take us not so much into great acts of physical feats like Cirque du Soleil does, but takes our hearts, minds, and spirits to places that cause us to sit back with wonder and amazement that people can go to these places, that God can take us there by His Spirit, and that we can have what the early church did – a sense of amazement and wonder at the mighty acts of God.