Reflections from Albanian Worship School
We've just returned from a week teaching at the first Albanian worship school. There are more pictures, video and information on this news page, but here I wanted to reflect on some of the deeper themes which emerged as we learned together. It was a week for being surprised, challenged and greatly encouraged, and I hope these reflections pass on some of that experience.
We went to Albania to teach about worship, but we found ourselves learning from these amazing believers. The Albanian church is only just over 20 years old (having been stamped out during the Communist era), and yet these young Christians worship with a passion rarely seen in the UK. When invited to sing, they do so at the tops of their voices and from the bottom of their hearts. In comparrison, I live in a (relatively) rich country with a deep heritage of Christian belief and abundant resources, and yet my worship can be passive, lazy or ungrateful. This has challenged me not to take for granted the resources that I am blessed with, and to ask for a thankful heart which overflows into joyful, exhuberant worship.
International and Home-Grown Songs
I sometimes feel critical of the 'globalised' worship industry, where the same songs are exported into every culture. However, in Albania I did experience a great feeling of unity as both Albanians and Brits could sing songs by Redman, Tomlin, Hillsong etc, in two languages and yet united in worship. The Albanians had clearly brought these songs into their hearts, and for us it was a familliar way to begin worshipping together.
Having said that, we did notice an even greater rise in volume when they sang freshly written Albanian worship songs, based on their own folk tunes and originally penned in their language. These express some of the 'heart music' of the people, and are an important indigenous expression of their experiences.
So which is more important - international, or 'home-grown' songs? The ideal seems to me to be that 'western' songs continue to be shared globally, but that we are just as passionate about seeing local communities produce their own material in their own styles, languages and based on their own experiences. The best of these could then be shared with the world - a two-way street of learning from one another. And perhaps we need to put more effort into encouraging and learning songs from countries we don't normally hear from. My home church would be all the richer if we learned songs from Albania and many other countries of the world alongside 'mainstream' and home-grown material. In this way the different parts of the church worldwide can learn from one another, and we can benefit from the unique contributions of each country and context.
We often run sessions in the UK encouraging churches to begin to step into more 'spontaneous' or 'Spirit-led' worship. We found that these Albanian believers were already very comfortable and used to this kind of thing, so it was exciting to push further into 'prophetic' intercession. Here we were encouraging one another to listen to God for his heart for a situation - your town, your work, your country - and then express some of this feeling not just in words but through music. We had the great benefit of Rachel and David Burden coming with us from the UK who could model some of this worship, and it was a reminder to me that God has so much more for us if we take the time to listen for his voice.
It is really exciting to think about what God is going to do through these students, and through the church in Albania. Please join us in praying that they will continue to grow and have a huge positive influence on their own country, and worldwide. Please pray for the team who put this school together, that they would have wisdom to know what to plan next and how to continue resourcing Albanian worship.