Open source worship: emerging opportunities and problems

One of my emerging projects is getting my head (and arms) around what might honestly be called “generic Protestant worship.”

This is an off-shoot of the intellectual thread that has occupied me lately, and finds its roots within Universalism at least as far back as the last third of the nineteenth century. How can we be a part of the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church”? How can we be deep and broad, while respecting the gifts this tradition has to be, and without becoming (or remaining) sectarian?

One solution (shared with the Unitarians) is to expand the question: when Christianity seemed too confining, how is it possible to be universally religious? Much of the last generation of Unitarian Universalism has been a meditation on this question. And not just Unitarian Universalism, but other experiments like, Open Source Religion 0.2 BETA. (I wonder what the stable release will look like?)

(Which might have something to do with Esperanto’s native religious movement, Hillelism [2009. new link] and here, too in Esperano, of course. I never did finish learning to read Esperanto! )

But I am a part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it owns me. What Unitarian Universalism has created has shaped me in my convications. So back to my first point: how can as many Christians as possible live like they are the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church”? That points to worship.

In ecumenical years past, these negotiations were (and are) handled by select committees, delegated by denominations, to wrestle over doctrine, share worhsip forms, and commission Bible translation. With the demise of denominationalism, moves to (self-)empower laity, and the amazing changes in the ability of far-flung persons to communicate directly with one another, the usefulness and advisability of “think tank ecumenism” deserves to be questioned loudly. It certainly has contibuted to the organizational alienation of Christians within Unitarian Universalism from the Body of Christ.

I look at what is happening with open-source software, and see an interesting model: one that I do not fully understand.

While an open-source programmer can go back to an uncopyrighted source code and work from it unhampered, an open-source Christian has no such recourse. Is there a modern, ecumenically accepted English translation of the Bible outside of copyright? Same with the key canticles of the church, lectionaries, rites, and everything except perhaps some confessional documents. The one great exception is the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church, but that’s hardly neutral. Is the King James Version of the Bible the best, most common ground to work from?

So, in the interim, if I can’t use “the Christian source code” then

1. at least I can point to it, and use what I can within the bounds of “fair use.” Links to good, ecumenical or ecumenically-useful resources will appear in the new Open Source Worship feature.

2. I can learn about the options that licences, like those from Creative Commons, can offer those who want to share in an ecumenical project, and

3. I can start working on that ecumenical liturgy.

Know for sure that everything I develop and find will be disclosed here.

But a paroduct of “think tank ecumenism” will likely stand in the way of a broad-based grass-roots movement from taking off: intellectual property rights.

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