Thursday, May 14, 2009

MacGuffins in Church?

No, it's not a new sandwich from the red and yellow purveyor of fat, a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin) is "a plot element that catches the viewers' attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction."

Sometimes, the specific nature of the MacGuffin is not important to the plot such that anything that serves as a motivation serves its purpose. The MacGuffin can sometimes be ambiguous, completely undefined, generic or left open to interpretation.

Examples include:

The top secret plans in 'The 39 Steps'
The letters of transit in 'Casablanca'
The statue in 'The Maltese Falcon'
The ark in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'
The briefcase in 'Pulp Fiction'.

So what is a MacGuffin doing in church?

We are expecting a higher than usual turnout to the Contemplative Service this Sunday, and some of those people will have had little experience with Contemplative worship. In our planning meeting we discussed using a passage from the Psalms for reflection.

Psalm 36:5 – 9 (BCP)
Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens,
and your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep;
you save both human and beast, O Lord.
How priceless is your love, O God!
your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.
They feast upon the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the well of life,
and in your light we see light.

Their are so many images in that passage that the basic idea was to ask people to pick one of them and reflect on how it intersects with your life - for about 5 minutes. That's great in theory, but as we talked more we knew that some people in the service would spend the entire 5 minutes wondering what image they should pick and whether they had chosen the correct one.

Enter the MacGuffin.

We decided to reduce down all the images to single words and have each congregant draw one at random as they enter the service....words such as Refuge, Abundance, Strong Mountains, Great Deep, Drink, Priceless etc. The congregation would not know what the paper is for until we reach that part of the service. They are then asked to sit with the word they have and look for it's intersection with their life and what God may be saying to them through it.

The important thing is not which word they draw, but the work of contemplating how it connects with their life. The word is not important, it is the 'work' that is important. The word is the MacGuffin that drives the 'plot' of the service forward.


Bill Shirley said...

I'll have to loan you my Double McGuffin "kids" movie from 1979:

I bought it for my nieces. Rewatched it, and there was so much cursing I think my sister would be annoyed. But their getting older now, ... hmm.

Violets are Blue said...

Okay, so the "heart of the sea" necklace is the macguffin in titanic?

Jack, I'll never let go...