Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Singing Bowls: A Wordless Call

This article by Diana Macalintal first appeared in Simple Gifts, Vol. 7, No. 1, February-March 2001.

from carousel-music.comSo much of the Western culture is based on words and speech, and sometimes we saturate our liturgies with words thinking that verbal explanation and direction are more effective than sound, color, and gesture. Yet imagine these two scenarios. Both take place at a Sunday morning Mass in Lent. Both Masses are packed, many are children. People are gathering in the church, many greet each other catching up on the week’s events, some spend time in quiet prayer, parents settle into the pews with their children, the choir finishes up the last moments of rehearsal. The cantor begins to rehearse the psalm with the assembly, half of whom are still trying to find a seat. Most aren’t paying much attention to the rehearsal. From all this activity, the Mass must begin.

Now, in one scenario, the cantor instructs the assembly to stand, repeating the instruction a few times before the whole assembly hears the direction. People flip through the hymnal searching for the opening song. The music begins, the singing is weak, the procession is hurried, and hearts and minds have not yet begun to gather.

In the second scenario, the cantor steps away from the mic and stands quietly for a full minute. Then she moves slowly but confidently to the front of the assembly where all can see her. She is joined by another music minister who stands next to her holding a small golden bowl. They wait again there, slowly making eye contact with as many people in the assembly as they can. Then without a word, they both raise their arms in a giant sweep beginning from the side of their legs and slightly forward to just above their shoulders, all the while maintaining eye contact and a gentle smile. The assembly stands. The cantor lowers her arms while the music minister raises the golden bowl higher for the whole assembly to see. In his other hand he holds a short wooden stick. After another thirty seconds of silence, he brings the stick to rest at the side of the bowl in preparation to strike it. He waits another thirty seconds before he strikes the bowl. A pure clean piercing bell tone sounds throughout the room. After a few heart beats, he strikes it again and finally a third time. He slowly lowers the stick as he lets the bowl resonate and the sound drift away. When the tone is almost inaudible, the cantor begins a cappella, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom….” The assembly easily picks up the song on the second phrase since it has been their lenten gathering song for all the Sundays of Lent for the last couple years. The choir adds harmonies while a Celtic drum gives a steady downbeat. Every other refrain the golden bowl is struck again on the first down beat, offering its own unique voice to the choir.

from tibet-bazaar.comIn both scenarios, the assembly was called to worship, but in which did the assembly feel gathered together? While the first relied on verbal direction and visual cues from the hymnal to gather the assembly, the second used silence, sound, gesture, eye contact, and memory to unite people’s hearts and minds.

The second also used an instrument called a “singing bowl”, traditionally employed in Buddhist prayer and healing services. Singing bowls come in a variety of sizes, from as small as two to three inches in diameter to large flowerpot sizes. In Tibetan tradition, they are usually made of seven different metals corresponding to the heavenly bodies: gold for the Sun, silver for the Moon, mercury for the planet Mercury, copper for Venus, iron for Mars, tin for Jupiter, and lead for Saturn. The sounds they make are used to purify spaces (the larger ones are even used to purify whole villages), to heal the body, and to calm and center a person for meditation.

There are two ways to play a singing bowl. In both methods, the bowl must be free from anything that would unnecessarily dampen its vibration. So the bowl would rest in the palm of your hand or on a small cushion. If in your palm, do not cup the bowl, but hold your palm flat, or use just your fingertips to balance the bowl.

In the first method of playing, the bowl is struck on its side with a wooden stick. The tone produced is clear and piercing. But every bowl will have its own unique sound, based on size, shape, and quality. Also, the type of stick you use will affect the sound. Some sticks are wrapped in leather or felt, producing a softer attack. Finally, the tone will change dramatically depending on the force used and the location on the bowl of the strike, for example on the rim or just below the rim.

from everyculture.comIn the second method of playing a singing bowl, the wooden stick is rub around the rim of the bowl, in the same way a person would rub the rim of a wineglass. For this method, holding the bowl on the tips of your fingers may work best. Rub the stick around the rim of the bowl, keeping the stick slightly angled inward, and use a steady, even pressure toward the center of the bowl. It will take more pressure than you expect to get the bowl singing. As you do this you will feel the bowl begin to vibrate and the sound will start to come out. If the bowl begins to “chatter”, decrease the rate of the movement while keeping the pressure constant. The slower the pace, the louder the tone. If you have trouble getting the vibration started, gently tap the bowl with the stick, then begin to rub the stick on the rim of the bowl. This second method produces a deeper tone than striking the bowl. It also can accentuate the harmonics of your bowl, so that you may hear several pitches. Because of the deeper tone, it may be quieter and may need a microphone to fill an entire church.

Many communities have begun to use these instruments to start their Masses and other liturgies. The unique tone centers and calms the assembly and focuses their attention on the ritual. However, as we saw in the opening scenarios, other “non-verbal” elements can help to make the use of a singing bowl more effective.

Look at how you gather your assemblies. How do you give instructions? Do you say, “please stand” when a solid gesture would be enough? Do you creatively use percussion instruments, such as bells, gongs, singing bowls, and hand drums? Do you remember to poise yourself confidently, using eye contact and large strong movements to communicate? Do you rely too much on printed text and not enough on repetition, mantras, and ostinato chants learned from memory? Let’s take a non-verbal cue from other cultures and learn to speak without words.

Click here for some tips on purchasing a singing bowl.

Classifieds (outside of Diocese of San José): Diocesan Liturgy Office Director

Position Available:
Liturgy Office Director, Diocese of Salt Lake City

The Diocese of Salt Lake City is seeking a Director for the Office of Liturgy to assist the bishop, clergy, and parishes in fostering sound liturgical practice throughout the diocese. The Office of Liturgy collaborates with the Liturgical Commission and its three subcommittees in providing resources and catechetical and formational programs aimed to promote full, active, and conscious participation in the liturgical life of the Church throughout the diocese.

  • Master’s degree in Liturgical Studies or equivalent,
  • A practicing Catholic imbued with an understanding and appreciation of the Church’s theology, principles, rites, and practices,
  • Familiarity with current liturgical documents and ritual texts,
  • Experience as a parish liturgy coordinator or diocesan director or equivalent,
  • Multi-cultural sensitivity; ability to understand, speak, and read Spanish very helpful,
  • Pastoral, organizational, and administrative skills,
  • Ability to travel to parishes throughout the state of Utah.

If interested submit resume and letter of intent to:

Liturgical Commission Search Committee
c/o Rev. Colin F. Bircumshaw
Diocese of Salt Lake City
27 C Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84103
FAX (801) 328-9680

Monday, June 18, 2007

Liturgical Decoder

Every organization or institution develops its own jargon, its own code or shorthand for complex ideas and operations. The Catholic Church is no different from other organizations in this respect, and pastoral musicians working in the Church even have their own jargon subset. To help newcomers sort through the code words, NPM has prepared a "Liturgical Decoder." Check out this new aid, and if you have other "code words" to add, send them to npmedit[at]npm[dot]org.
- from NPM Notebook, March 2007

Strong Identity, Less Commitment

A team of sociologists has prepared American Catholics Today: New Realities of Their Faith and Their Church, due to be published in late March by Rowman and Littlefield. The book analyzes results from Gallup surveys conducted between 1987 and 2005.

One set of findings concerns the faith and practice of the "millennial generation," that is, Catholics born after 1979. At a Woodstock Forum, held on February 6 on the campus of Georgetown University, two of the researchers described the differences between the members of the millennial generation and older generations of Catholics. According to James A. Davidson of Purdue University and Dean A. Hoge of the Catholic University of America, the current group of young adult Catholics in their twenties feel a "disconnect" between themselves and the institutional Church. And when they get older, according to Davidson, they are not likely to become more deeply involved in Church life, as Catholics did in previous generations: "They are going to be the Catholics they are now." This disconnect may be made worse, according to Hoge, by the fact that young diocesan priests who are and will be serving this generation are moving in the opposite direction, becoming stricter about Church teaching and more focused on a "cultic" rather than a "servant-leader" model of priesthood.

Despite this feeling of being dicsconnected, young adult Catholics have a strong sense of Catholic identity, according to the survey results. Davidson explained: "Belonging is not a problem; they feel comfortable calling the Church home...It's believing that's the problem." He said that young adult Catholics see Church leadership as having "no credibility, no plausibility, no authority...They practice their faith by caring for other people."
- from NPM Notebook, March 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007

What is a Wiki?

Love this! Wikis in plain English.

This is Not Your Father’s PowerPoint: Using Technology for Parish Formation

This extended version of an article by Diana Macalintal originally appeared in Today's Parish Minister, Vol. 39, No. 4, April/May 2007.

Don’t freak when I say that PowerPoint is passé. The bad news is that the one-way flow of information that presentation-based technologies embody, such as PowerPoint and static Web sites, has stagnated. The good news is that what people are doing with technology today is more intuitive and natural and doesn’t require you to download a manual or consult an animated paperclip in the corner of your monitor. The shift can be likened to a blackboard or your favorite hang out.

In “the old days” of the Internet, the World Wide Web was a place to gather information. An expert “out there” provided the data I needed. Just download the information, and go on your way. In church culture, it’s similar to the idea of memorize the correct answer, fulfill the required number of hours, and get your sacrament. Fast. Quick. Done.

In Web 2.0, the expert is a facilitator or conversation-starter who presents a question or issue, writes it down on a blackboard, and gives everyone a piece of chalk and an eraser. Everyone adds their own thoughts on the topic and shares their own experience, while the facilitator moderates the conversation. The group helps interpret, correct, and nuance the collective information. They verify theory against lived experience and challenge them when either falls short. There is informality in the interaction, as in intimate conversations with friends at the coffee shop, because the goal is not to download an answer from an expert but to discover the answer through full, conscious, and active participation in a group. Thus, a new kind of community is formed, creativity is fostered, conviction is expressed, and new thought and insight occur, gained through adult learning. This model of technology finds similarities in the catechumenal model of formation.

2.0 technology can be used for forming those directly involved in the parish, such as catechumens, sacramental preparation parents and candidates, liturgical ministers, parish staff and councils. These groups might use technology to stay connected in between gatherings or to enhance their face-to-face meetings. They could use it to share information, maintain a group calendar, keep common records, have access to shared files, and discuss issues relevant to the group’s purpose. They might also use technology to offer support to each other when they cannot be together in person.

Forming these persons requires not only sharing information but also engaging in conversation. One medium that facilitates this is a wiki, an easily editable website (“wiki” means “quick” in Hawaiian). Anyone who uses a word processing program, like Microsoft Word, can quickly add content to a wiki. Groups use wikis to collaborate on projects, participate in online discussions, share files, and learn from each other. Teachers have begun to use wikis in the classroom to enhance students’ learning and facilitate cooperation.

The difference between a wiki and a static Web site (where the content stays the same) is that not only can everyone read the content but they can also add, edit, and correct it. (Wikis can also be made private so only members can access and edit it.) Through a wiki, the group can continue a discussion after the parish meeting has ended, allowing people to participate according to their own schedule. It enables more even participation since no one person can dominate the conversation unless the other members refuse to participate. Wikis are great for introverts or those who process better through writing. See an excellent video defining wikis in plain English.

Giving up control of the content and letting the group drive the discussion require trust among all the members. Yet this is catechumenal at its core. This kind of sharing lets the group recognize the workings of God present in each person, respect diverse experiences, gently challenge each other, and help each other discern the movement of the Spirit.

You might also use other Internet-based sites, such as blogs or Web pages, to list resources where people can act upon their newly-discovered insight. For example, the parish Web site can list local organizations in need of volunteers. The parish blog can be where parishioners ask for prayers, share faith stories, or respond to a question of the week. The parish home page could have links for seasonal prayers, blessings, or recipes for families to use in their homes.

Technology can also enhance in-person gatherings. For example, a group can clarify its thoughts in a communal way by using a laptop and an LCD projector during a meeting. The facilitator or scribe can summarize each person’s comments which are projected on a wall. Not only does this allow for more careful discussion and group collaboration, but it also provides an immediate record of the discussion, saved into a word processing document or even directly onto the group’s wiki. Click here to see a video about this process.

However, don’t rely completely on Web sites and email for your technological approach to formation. Most young adults, especially those under age 25 communicate primarily using IM (instant messaging) and cell phone text messages. Imagine if each parish leader had a parish IM screen name that was publicized in the bulletin and parish Web site. Online IMs can then be used for quick messages among parish group members or for giving real-time assistance to those seeking a live person. Imagine if the pastor or youth minister sent short text messages, such as daily prayers or affirmations, to the cell phones of those in the youth group. Now that’s church spreading the word in a new way.

There’s a Twilight Zone episode about a factory manager who replaced his employees with machines until he himself was replaced by a robot. “The Brain Center at Whipple’s” exemplified the fear that technology would replace human interaction and eventually take over. Yet, in the very same year Rod Serling’s gloomy prophecy was aired, Vatican II promulgated Inter mirifica, the Decree on the Means of Social Communication (1963), stating: “The Church, our mother, is particularly interested in those [technical inventions] which directly touch [humanity’s] spirit and which have opened up new avenues of easy communication of all kinds of news, of ideas, and orientation. Chief among them are those means of communication which of their nature can reach and influence not merely single individuals but the very masses and even the whole of human society” (1).

Thirteen years later, Pope Paul VI would write that “the Church would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilize these powerful means that human skill is daily rendering more perfect” (Evangelii nuntiandi, 45). The danger to the church lies not in technology but in not using it to its fullest to form God’s people. Web 2.0 has shown that technology can foster deeper human interaction and conversion to new ideas through wise use of social networking. If the church is to communicate God’s word to a generation that embraces virtual human interaction, it will have to dramatically strengthen both its approach to formation and its evangelization efforts beyond the parish walls, wisely utilizing the gifts of this new age.

Diana Macalintal is the director of worship for the San José diocese and holds an MA in theology from Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minn.

Using Web 2.0 as an Evangelization Tool

This article by Diana Macalintal originally appeared in Today's Parish Minister, Vol. 39, No. 4, April/May 2007.

2.0 technology can be used with those who are not part of the parish: inquirers, persons estranged from the church, the local neighborhood, other faith communities. The way the parish leadership treats “outsiders” and their efforts at building relationships teaches a powerful lesson to those on the “inside.” God’s essence is to be constantly communicating with all persons—to be self-revealing and in relationship with humanity.

Start with the parish Web site. If an “outsider” went to your home page, would they immediately feel welcomed and invited to become an “insider” of your parish? They will if:
  • They can find your church’s complete address and phone number on every page.
  • They understand you because you avoid church lingo that only “insiders” understand, such as “RCIA” and other acronyms, and you list room names for meetings and provide a map of your church grounds showing where these rooms are located.
  • They find clear links on your home page if they want to become Catholic, learn more about the Catholic Church, or become more involved in your parish, and they easily find the name, email address, and telephone number of a person to contact to take the next step.
  • They can quickly see your upcoming holy day schedules, especially for Christmas, Holy Week, and Ash Wednesday when they are searching for a church to attend.
  • They see pictures of parishioners who look like them (important for young adults), they can read or listen to podcasts of recent homilies, and they find consistent language on every page inviting them to participate.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Classifieds (outside of Diocese of San José): Diocesan Director of Liturgy

Position Available: Diocesan Director of Liturgy
The Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas seeks a full-time Director of Liturgy. The Director of Liturgy is responsible for assisting the bishop, clergy and parishes of the Diocese of Fort Worth in attaining full, active, and conscious participation in the liturgy of the Church. Principal duties include: Knowing the liturgical documents and norms, the rites with their praenotandae, and learning the preferences of the bishop in matters of choice; serving as resource to clergy, parish staff, and others on liturgical practices, implementation and application of Liturgical norms and diocesan sacramental (liturgical) guidelines; and providing continuing liturgical education for clergy and liturgical ministers, particularly in understanding documents and instructions of the Church concerning worship, e.g. the diocesan organization for liturgy directors, coordinators, and music directors.

Qualifications include a Master’s Degree in Theology, Liturgical Studies or a closely related field of study, prior experience in diocesan or parish liturgical work, and applicants should be bilingual (English/Spanish) in speaking, reading, writing and understanding. For a full job description and application, visit www.fwdioc.org.

If interested, e-mail a résumé to msimeroth@fwdioc.org or fax to (817) 244-8839, to the attention of Mark Simeroth, Director of Human Resources. Application due date is July 15. Qualified applicants will be contacted for an interview.