OK, so I’m not always absolutely 100% on the cultural cutting edge, but I do catch up eventually. On a recent holiday we took, as is our wont, a laptop and some DVDs, and finally I got round to watching Skyfall, the latest Bond offering. I was expecting an evening of light entertainment with a few explosions and the like, and indeed I was not disappointed, but in addition it turned out to be a profound meditation on church, and indeed liturgy, which had us discussing as we lay around the pool for days afterwards.
What we had watched was in fact a ‘Fresh Expression’ of Bond. For those less familiar with the term, the ‘Fresh Expressions’ movement (often known as ‘FX’) is a quest within the church to reinvent ourselves for the current culture, or rather cultures, by keeping, as it were the ‘contents’ the same, but the ‘wrapping’ more up-to-date. The art is somehow to keep church recognisably Anglican (or Methodist or whatever) but to rethink new ways of expressing the eternal and changeless truths of the gospel, so that they will connect more readily with the target generation. FX has famously manifested itself through Messy Church, Skater Church, Goth Church – you name it.
There is no doubt that Daniel Craig is Bond (some would say the best ever – discuss!) but in Skyfall he is subtly different. I can’t tell you whether the directors deliberately set out to reinvent him for a 21st century audience, but I suspect that is exactly what they did, and I think they have done a really great job of it.
But what of the liturgy? There is loads which we could learn from this endeavour in our attempts to plan and lead worship. First of all, the general shape is the same – a short sub-plot to begin with, with the ending of a previous adventure, followed by the main course with the usual rhythm of highs and lows, tension and resolution, fights and explosions, leading to a climactic ending. Nowadays liturgists will tell you that worship is much more about shape than text: less about set forms of words than about the framework and structure of an act of worship.
But there are texts too: when Daniel introduces himself as ‘Bond: James Bond’ all feels right with the world and we know we are home ground. But more subtly there are allusions to texts which are never actually used. One beautiful moment occurs when we see a cocktail waitress shaking, but not stirring, his martini. ‘Perfect’ he says with a smile as she hands it to him, and indeed it is, as an example of liturgical allusion. We all know the ‘text’ and no-one actually needs to say the words.
We have already noted the tendency to think of liturgy simply as a route-march through the words in a book, a march which strides roughshod over creativity and openness to the Spirit. But maybe 007 can encourage us to think differently. There are more subtle ways of being liturgical, of drawing on the rich traditions of our past but making them accessible for people now. Shape, text, allusion and nuance are powerful tools in the hands of worship leaders, and can help immensely as you plan for next Sunday’s blockbuster.