Allentown, PA — Having recorded and toured with international acts like Guster and John Mayer, musician/songwriter John Hardt, a graduate of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, found himself called to the Allentown area last year to serve as a music and arts partner for a local church congregation and, on his own time, to engage the wider community with new expressions of worship, art, and music. Coming from Indiana by way of New York City, Nashville, and Seattle, Hardt began gathering artists and musicians in the Lehigh Valley around an experimental expression he calls broken liturgy.
broken liturgy events center on the re-interpretation of familiar hymns in open, contemplative spaces. In Allentown, broken liturgy has gathered at the Allentown Brew Works, Zion’s Reformed UCC Church, and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Allentown, and in Bethlehem at The Secret Art Space and at the Independent Art Space in Kutztown.
“We try to be intentional and creative about art, song, movement, space, action, sound, silence,” says Christopher Cocca, one of the broken liturgy collaborators. “With that there’s a hope that every gathering is different. Different for the musicians, the artists, and the friends who come to participate in spontaneous liturgy…what the church fathers called ‘the work of the people.’ I think we have a hunch that folks are looking for spiritual expressions that are familiar and creative. Americans, particularly, seem to thrive on reinvention. But beneath it all there’s often a need or a desire for continuity, for things that have been valued over generations.”
From Hardt’s perspective, broken liturgy gatherings are, at their core, “one hour experiential events seeking to reclaim artistic expression and give authentic meaning to ancient rituals. Music. Art. Liturgy. Words.”
broken liturgy convenes this Sunday at 6:30 PM at the Swain School, 1100 S. 24th Street, Allentown, in celebration of a first-ever EP release from the collective. songs from a broken liturgy: vol. 1 debuted on Bandcamp last week and will release physically at the Sunday gathering. The album, running about 30 minutes, will be played live in its entirety and available for purchase. Because the EP seeks to capture some of what a broken liturgy gathering is like, Hardt shares this tip: “It is meant to be listened to all at once. So find a nice “holy” place, give yourself 30 minutes. And listen.”