As a country of tea drinkers, (it is thought we drink about 165 million cups of the stuff each year), we surely know a lot about infusion already. You can’t make tea without it, without soaking or steeping the leaves in boiling water for many minutes, to achieve the perfect brew. The result is a refreshing drink, and a bit of a pick-me-up.
When I was thinking about a name for our contemporary worship in Wenhaston, this word jumped into my head. True worship should soak and steep us in the presence of God, should be uplifting, and bring refreshment to our lives. Infusions are associated with health and well being. There's another sense of infuse too, which means to instil, to imbue with values, and to inspire. All-in-all this word seemed to me to be a good marker for what worship should be.
I wonder if worship does deliver all this for you, and if not, have you ever wondered, why not? We already have a wonderfully rich menu of worship on offer among our churches, and Infusion is a new addition to that menu, offering variety and worship in a contemporary style.
I don't know how long you infuse your tea for. Is it six minutes, or as some say between 3 and 6 minutes?
It depends whether you like your tea stewed or not, of course, and personal choice is important. The Infusion service goes at a slower pace than regular church worship and makes space for personal choice.
Do you sometimes experience those moments in worship when something strikes you, but you have to shelve it because we turn the page at that point? It's good if we can remember to return to those important moments after the service. Well, Infusion is less strictly structured so that it's easier to tune out of the group when something like that happens. Rather than sweeping everyone along at the same momentum, it makes room for individual preferences. The worship on offer is less structured, so there is more space to do your own thing, to follow your heart and your inclination. This is not to say that one form of worship is necessarily any better than any other, of course, but to say that different forms of worship can reach us in different and important ways.
People today, and especially younger generations, expect to be given a choice of action, of what to do, and when to do it; to set their own pace, and to follow their own instincts. Infusion offers choice of action and pace because it seeks to accommodate people of many different personalities in one act of worship. When I trained to teach we were taught that some people learned through doing, some through writing, and some through drawing and so on. Infusion attempts to honour different personalities in godly ways. In each service there is a choice of activities, different ways of praying and places to pray in, and different paces set which allow our individual personalities to engage with God.
All this takes place in the company of others and so it is not as ruthlessly individualistic as it may sound. There is a great sense in Wenhaston church on these evenings that we are pilgrim people together. We recognise in one another, in unspoken ways, that we are all on a journey, all seeking. We respect one another's space and silence. While the evenings are communal we recognise too, that we all have those times in the week when we need to reconnect with our own rhythm, before we can feel really connected with other people. Infusion offers the opportunity for some reconnection. Actually, Infusion evenings feel like a bit of a treat; the sense of hospitality in Wenhaston church is out of this world and offers a chance to chill and recharge our batteries.
Infusion also brings variety in offering worship which is less wordy. Ever since the age of Enlightenment in the 17/18th centuries, mainline church worship and society at large has resorted to rational word power as the highest mode of expression. Infusion works on the premise that we are more than just minds, that we can understand with our hearts too, and that we have layers upon layers of awareness or consciousness. We know language tends to limit because we are unable to express our innermost thoughts, and so Infusion makes much use of images, imagination, and stillness to encourage reflection. I think it was Aristotle who said that the soul thinks in pictures. By using our hands at Infusion for simply activities, we free up the right sides of our brains to access those other layers of awareness and imagination, that are usually drowned out by life's busy agenda.
And lastly, Infusion may be a good place to start for people who find traditional church inaccessible. Much main-line church worship has come about through the authority of the past which places great emphasis on the experience of past generations. While it's essential to honour church tradition, people today feel a very great need also to verify things for themselves, through their own experience, rather than merely relying on the mediated experience of others. And so I suppose more than anything else, Infusion stands as a marker for the immanent God, God with us1 who we can know for ourselves in our own experience.
And so we have come full circle, back to where I began, being steeped and soaked in the presence of God. The sacred can touch us individually, can seep in and, if we will allow, will infuse us and inspire us with new found energy to wiser and more wholesome ways of living, and to new ways of heartfelt service.