About The Liturgists
The Liturgists are a collective of artists and creators who create sacred art and experiences for the spiritually homeless and frustrated. Their work includes live events, conferences, downloadable worship experiences, and a popular podcast. The Liturgists have an unwavering commitment to creating safe spaces and conversations that explore reality from the perspectives of art, faith, and science. The Liturgists include a diverse set of contributors including Rob Bell, Shauna Niequist, Rachel Held Evans, Amena Brown, Pete Holmes, All Sons & Daughters, and Sleeping At Last.
With over 250,000 subscribers, The Liturgists Podcast is the most known work of the group. By blending a topical format with interviews, poetry, music and compelling sound design, The Liturgists Podcast attracts a remarkably heterogeneous audience including not only a broad swath of Christianity, but also the religiously unaffiliated–including agnostics and atheists. The show has been lauded for its commitment to scientific accuracy, its production values, and most of all its gracious tone when discussing controversial subjects.
The Liturgists have traveled the country facilitating two interactive liturgical experiences (Vapor and Lost + Found). Featuring a mix of music, interactive exercises, meditation, and storytelling, these events are centered around a science-based methodology for helping people experience God. The collective also hosts a two-day gathering called Belong designed to advance an egalitarian, skeptic-friendly approach to the Christian faith.
The Liturgists was founded by Michael Gungor (of the music collective Gungor) and Mike McHargue (better known as Science Mike). Both desired sacred art that was committed to beauty and scientific integrity. The Liturgists are therefore committed to producing thoughtful, evocative work.
The great mystics, sages and theologians of history have always espoused that all of life is sacred. While the power-hungry and money-lovers within religious power systems may find incentive to parse life into clear-cut categories like “sacred” and “secular”, we, the Liturgists, firmly reject this sort of categorization, insofar as it leads to a destructive domestication or hierarchal dissolution of the exquisite oneness and wonder of existence. We reject the notion that singing about “God”, for instance, is somehow more inherently “sacred" or “spiritual" than singing about romance, money, or any other aspect of human life.
Still, there is something to be said for the specifically termed “religious”, “sacred”, or “liturgical” practices that human beings have consistently experimented with and bonded themselves to over millennia for the purpose of more fully experiencing and making sense of the incomprehensibility of our existence. “Spiritual" disciplines (practices like silence, meditation, prayer, fasting, feasting, alms-giving, Eucharist, study, corporate worship…etc) have been found to be invaluable for countless people in enriching life to be more fully enjoyed and experienced. The use of the word 'spiritual' here is not meant to imply that only certain parts of life are spiritual. On the contrary, a healthy practiced spiritual discipline leads one to seeing the spirituality and sacredness within the mundane. In spiritual disciplines or sacrament, mere silence becomes the voice of God, and a dry piece of bread becomes the very Body of Christ.
It is in this line of thinking that the Liturgists begin our work.
There have been a long line of musical composers through history who have composed musical works intended for specifically “sacred” or “religious” purposes. From the plain-song and Gregorian chant of the medieval times to the grand masses composed by the master composers of the Renaissance and Baroque periods to the hymns written in the centuries following the Protestant Reformation, there has been music written for the specific purpose of church ritual and worship.
While the art form of composition for the specific function of worship and ritual has largely fallen out of fashion in mainstream Western Culture for the last couple of centuries, the Liturgists exist to explore new artistic possibilities within liturgical space.
There is a challenge to this since the most popular and common music in our day and age generally falls into a modernized version of the ancient Greek ideal of self-expression. This is, of course, a valid and potentially beautiful function of art. Still, there are billions of people in the world that gather weekly for the purpose of religious ritual and worship. Every Sunday, millions of people across the globe sing songs together for the purpose of prayer, spiritual discipline and encountering the Divine.
Unfortunately, it is arguable that much of the artistic material incorporated into these gatherings is not thoughtfully created or executed. Rather, like corporate jingles, hotel room paintings, Disney cartoon songs or any number of musical expressions designed primarily to carry a “message”, there is often a temptation to resort to what is safely vanilla and imitative of what has already been successful in popular culture. We, the Liturgists, seek to overcome this temptation and become a community of progressive musical composers, poets, preachers, filmmakers and other artists who work together to create 'good' (thoughtful, creative, hopeful and evocative) liturgical work.
These four pillars, thoughtfulness, creativity, hopefulness and evocativeness, are what shall guide us as we create liturgical art and space.
We believe that beauty is the heart and perhaps primary truth of the Gospel. If it's not beautiful, it's not worth speaking of or working on.
We agree with the sentiment that good religion is helping widows and orphans in need. Our work needs to be mindful of those in society and worldwide who are on the underside of power. For that reason the Liturgists will always strive to both remember the poor and weak in our work and also to seek specific ways of giving time and resources directly to those who need it most.
The Liturgists is made up of people with varying thoughts, philosophies and theologies, and we seek to integrate our diversity into a healthy unity. While we have no desire to cater or pander to world-views that are destructive, we do seek the good in every perspective and believe that all human beings are connected to each other and the Cosmos at large, and that a deep sense of unity ought to trump any differences that we create with one another.
Although we value people of all beliefs, the Liturgists is decidedly Christian in practice. We see exceptional value in the life and teachings of Jesus, and while we may experiment with influences and ideas from multiple traditions, we find it useful to utilize specifically Christian language and sacrament for the purpose of creating good liturgical experiences.