I spent part of this morning singing the Vittoria "Improperia" in a quartet of wonderful singers in our Seminary chapel. This series of reproaches for what was done to Christ this day alternates lines of chant with brief choral settings of the Trisagion and the Populi Mei. Performing a piece like this is very intense - no room for error, though some minor twitches are inevitable. We sang from the balcony, and it was good, twitches and all.
It causes me to meditate a bit on the "performance" nature of what we do as clergy, especially in an emotionally fraught time such as Holy Week. I suspect all of us have a bit of the performer in us; why else would we participate in such work? Yes, yes, I know it's not about the performance, but to some extent we must be aware of that aspect, to preside over a service that gives the most to those who attend.
I think of my one of my profs, who struggles with a terrible stammer, but when he lectures and preaches, he prepares intensely, and delivers his words smoothly and beautifully. Is that a form of performance? Perhaps.
Can we create meaningful worship without an awareness of this element? I'd like to believe that we can be inspired by God's Word and that will carry it through. I've been to an awful lot of uninspired services, though. Was the presider uninspired, or was the preparation inadequate? In contrast, I've been to some over-emoted, painfully self-conscious services. Where is the middle ground?
How much do we get by tapping into our hearts and souls, and how much is preparatory work that recognizes the need for performance in the celebration of God's word?