Was it worship?
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Date: August 2007
'A visually stunning and provocative performance of spiritual doubt and introspection.'
Lev Eakins went to a stunning and provocative worship session at Greenbelt that left him dazed and confused. He shares his thoughts and those of others who attended
The Ikon “experiment in transformant art” at the Centaur venue on Saturday night was billed in the “Worship” category in the Greenbelt programme, but this was possibly a mistake.
The self proclaimed “heretical” and “failing” collective of Belfast Christians brought a visually stunning and provocative performance of spiritual doubt and introspection to a venue packed with thousands of punters.
Based on the themes of “unravelling”, “the God delusion” and an exploration of what is truth, the “Theodrama” would have suited a Performance Arts slot, rather than one billed as worship.
Very little of the evening moved outside of a self-examination of the wounded Christian agnostic struggling with belief. Perfect, I thought, for those who need affirmation in their struggle, but is this simply a foggy shroud to wrap around the shivering arms of a lost and lonely wanderer, or an attempt to offer direction, hope and a map for our journey of faith?
To Ikon’s credit they do not pretend to be church, and would probably baulk at the suggestion of mapping out a faith journey, but as the billing would suggest, I can’t escape the feeling that Ikon are trying to perform and worship simultaneously.
As we waited to enter the venue, a man was issuing plasters with the word “hope” written on them. “This will keep you together” he said in dulcet Belfast tones as he placed it on my fleece. I reflected on this for a moment as I waited – perhaps I am a broken man in need of hope? Or perhaps I need this to survive what awaits me inside?
We arrive at the front of the queue and were invited into the building through one of three entrances; each labelled differently “Unbeliever”, “Doubter” and “Believer”. As far as I could see most went through “Believer” with a few entering under the “Doubter” sign. I wonder if this ratio was reversed when exiting - was this the aim of the evening?
We sat through the performance where our faith was continually questioned – it felt like I was given a spiritual MOT by a harsh mechanic, occasionally hissing in air through his teeth as he shone his light into each part of my damaged belief structure.
From “Could you unravel your bad religion and knit a story to tell me”, “I don’t need to be born again”, “I’m lonely and gifted, I don’t need certainty”, “pretend your drowning with me” (why?) to finally “The task is complete – go in pieces”.
Having deconstructed my faith, I was expecting some form of guide to reassemble, but was offered a piece of string to “pull yourself apart”. What was achieved here? Is Ikon breaking new ground where free styling thinkers have produced great art? Or does this piece of Theodrama weaken, rather than strengthen our faith? I asked the punters leaving what they thought and they were confused by the evening.
I cannot help feeling that it was dangerous to bill this as ‘Worship’, that those who came expecting to find a brighter light to guide their journey would have left as that lost and lonely figure – calling out in the fog, and given no response.
A summary of the responses on the door are as follows:
Andrew told me it was a place to “confess your doubt, rather than your faith”.
Jenny thought it was “Great to have provocative things said in an atmosphere without judgemental thinking”.
Ken found it “very interesting and confusing”.
Dave thought it was “Mental, very different” and he “struggled to engage” yet he will be “thinking about it for a while.”
Alistair was “still trying to work it out” but thought it was “challenging pre-established doctrines”.
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