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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Brim (Suzanne Castle and Andra Moran)

TITLE: Brim: Creative Overflow in Worship Design
AUTHOR:  Suzanne Castle and Andra Moran
PUBLISHER: St Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2013, (128 pages).

Like riding a bicycle, there is only so much theory can teach. Only through practice, one learns the art and science of riding a bicycle. The same goes for worship. We can have all the right theologies and all the right teachings about the how, the what, the who, the why, the when, and so on, without practical use, they remain in the intellectual realm. With this book, we get both; a short devotional about what worship is, and many practical helps and tips on what it takes to lead a meaningful worship service. Much thought has gone into explaining the reason for the title of the book. It can mean brimming with joy and uplifting spirit as one comes to worship. It can mean ideas that overflows. It can mean how Jesus works the brims of society, reaching out to the marginalized. For the purpose of this book, brim is about a "creative overflow in worship design." Written by two seasoned worship leaders, Moran and Castle have teamed up to offer reads and interested worship leaders to infuse the arts, technology, and various audio-visual "multi-sensory experiences" into the worship service. They even have a website to spur further discussion here. Honour God with the creativity that He has endowed upon us. That is the motivation for the book.

There are several convictions the authors have set forth. Let me highlight just a few of them to give you a gist.

First, they emphasize the importance of planning. For them, it is as much as six months in advance to plan the themes and worship series. Such planning includes recruitment, idea-storming, prayers, visual arts integration, and other pertinent details. The list of things to plan for is pretty meticulous. For example, in building the worship team, they suggest the need for at least six roles: team captain, designer for the sacred space, prayer person in charge, technologist, art person, and clergy. It is because worship is serious business, planning is critical.

Second, they embrace an inclusive form of worship format. Thus, they are free to choose from ancient or traditional forms of terminology, contemporary use of language, choosing not only hymns or choruses, but also popular music that adds to the overall worship focus. The "worship supply closet" is a great reminder that symbols and various props can enhance and make the worship more meaningful for all. For example, the authors peruse thrift stores and various garage sales regularly so as to help design the worship environment a more meaningful atmosphere.

Third, they believe in preserving and respecting what has been handed down to us. The chapter on "hand-me-downs" is something that I feel some worship leaders may have unwittingly ignored. Tradition is not merely some old old story or idea. It is about stewarding the gift and inheritance of our forefathers and those who have faithfully walked the path before us. It is about being thankful for all we have been receiving on a silver platter. It is in recognition of how God has blessed the past with much vigour and goodness. Traditional when seen in the light of faithful past, will remind us that the traditional vs contemporary debate is altogether a silly comparison altogether. There is meaning in both. Do not throw away something that is traditional simply because it is old. Neither dump the contemporary simply because it is newer. Embrace whatever is appropriate in our individual Church contexts.

Fourth, they believe that there are plenty of resources to jiggle the worship leader's creativity. Thus, the resources they provide are plentiful. For example, the playlist of songs suggestions is helpful as a starting list in preparing for worship. I know of worship leaders who struggle each week thinking of what songs to choose. The playlist does have a theme. The many different flows of worship, ideas for individual services, and many different ways to do worship present to readers a wealth of resources for worship. 

Fifth, they believe that practical use will aid learning. Thus, the ten worship service designs have been fully laid out for worship leaders to learn and to lead through examples. Tested and tried in their own worship communities, the list of ideas remind me once again that worship is more than just singing songs. It is about the whole experience. This reminds me of Leonard Sweet's EPIC acronym for designing worship services in a postmodern environment. While I list the following, it does not necessarily mean I endorse them. They are listed for information purposes.

E =  Experiential
This means worship services in the postmodern culture need to relate to the hunger for experiencing life. Believing and experiencing are the same side to the expression of faith. 

P = Participatory
 In an age where there are rising suspicions on authority and institutions, many modern folks are interested in being able to participate and to have their voices or opinions heard. Thus, in worship services, if the participatory element is in place, it makes it more meaningful.

I = Image-Driven / Image-Rich
People nowadays learn more from images and symbols more than abstract concepts or words. Using a picture, a portrait, or a prop, worshipers will find it more helpful to reflect and ponder on things diving with images. 

C = Communal  / Connective
We live in a age where people not only want to be connected, they want to feel connected. Thus, any programs or processes in Church needs to have this consideration in place.

The choice of the word "Brim" in itself is fascinating. I remember in seminary studies where my friends tell me a core ministerial trait is to serve God not out of our limited abilities, but to serve God fully out of an overflow of HIS goodness, HIS ability, HIS resources, and HIS love. Brim is pointing and accelerating my awareness of this. Great worship resource!

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Chalice Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.


  1. Thanks for your review. I've been thinking about buying this but need a little more insight into what the book is all about. Great review.

  2. Hi Brian, Thanks for your encouragement. I hope you will be blessed by the book.


  3. Any plans for an Android version?