Monday, August 20, 2007

Reflection #1-final draft

This is what I eventually sent to the PTBs. Thanks to those who offered suggestions and questions, it helped alot.

Sunday, August 19th was my first official Sunday at Our Saviour. I went to both the 8:30 and 11:00 services. The 8:30 Eucharist was Rite I with language and rubrics from the 1928 Prayer Book. The 11:00 service was Rite II with language from Rite I. Both masses were sung and had incense. I come from very informal, sometimes even charismatic, low churches and I’ve actually never been to a Rite I service.
The 8:30 service aroused in me a feeling of distance. I felt distanced from my fellow worshippers, my clergy, even God. The language was beautiful and pregnant with meaning, but the overall feel of the service left me cold. I was present intellectually, but I didn’t feel like I was a part of the worship experience. The 11:00 service stood in stark contrast to the 8:30; it was intimate, dynamic, and participatory. I left the 11:00 service feeling like “I’d been to church.”
So, why these widely varying experiences? What is being stirred up? A realization, that I’m certain is late coming, dawned on me that I’m partial to the form of worship that I’m used to. I talked with many parishioners after both services and the consensus seemed to be that whatever liturgy anyone had grown up with or first encountered was what the Church should properly be doing. Much to my belated surprise I am not immune to this attachment to liturgy.
As I’ve stated, I come from low churches, but these were also very liberal churches. In conversation at those churches, much is said, in a pitying tone, about conservatives in the church and how they need to “get over it” and “get with the times.” I now realize that I’m just another Episcopalian who is reluctant to see “my liturgy” change. For me, this is a great lesson for my discernment because it shows me that I need to be more sensitive to other people who feel threatened by the church’s changing liturgies and practices. This will be important if I become a priest because there will likely be a new prayer book in the next 30 years or so and I will have to guide people through that change.
For this issue, Mark 2:27 keeps leaping to mind, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” Here, this passage seems to be saying that liturgy was made for us, not vice versa. We must not confuse the worship for the worshipped. Liturgies change precisely because they are for us, it is important for liturgies to change because they stretch us to new directions and understandings about God. But each person is set in time; C.S. Lewis called this “chronological snobbishness”, the idea that our time, the age in which we live, is the most important time. Of course our Anglican history is nothing if not a history of change and resistance to that change
A few years ago I went to a ministry fair and took a class on discernment from John Westerhoff. He talked at great length about consolation and desolation. He was clear that desolation was our own doing; God cannot be removed from our lives. I think that this idea of desolation has to do with this issue of liturgy because, while the language and rubrics might feel strange and unfamiliar, it is still worship. If I’m “not getting it” that’s my own lack of engagement, not the liturgy’s fault. I’m left with the question though: why do I find it easy to see God in the familiar and not in the archaic and novel, when the Bible shows time and again that God works in the unfamiliar and seemingly useless?

4 comments:

BB said...

I think it sounds great, a comma error towards the end. Yesterday, weren't you telling me more scripture quotes you were going to use? Should you include more than one? Also maybe inlcude a little bit on why liturgies NEED to change, why we can't (or shouldn't) keep the same thing (because we change). Rita talked about this a lot in our 101 class. Change is constant and good and all that. She may be able to give you better language than me. Love you!

Anne said...

Good insight on your particular brand of snobbishness. Where else does this lead you. What other elite ideas will separate you from your flock? Then too, how do you minister to those in the flock who are stuck in the 1928 book, the King James bible and language that is archaic (sp?). Just thoughts, not sure if they are helpful. Rita is the one to advise you on the process.
Good Luck
Anne

Chez Bleu Maison said...

As I’ve stated, I come from low churches, but these were also very liberal churches. In conversation at those churches, much is said, in a pitying tone, about conservatives in the church and how they need to “get over it” and “get with the times.” I now realize that I’m just another Episcopalian who is reluctant to see “my liturgy” change. For me, this is a great lesson for my discernment because it shows me that I need to be more sensitive to other people who feel threatened by the church’s changing liturgies. [Good!] This will be important if I become a priest because, there will likely be a new prayer book in the next 30 years or so, and I will have to guide people through that change.

For this issue, Mark 2:27 keeps leaping to mind, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” Here, this passage seems to be saying that liturgy was made for us, not vice versa. We must not confuse the worship for the worshipped. Liturgies change precisely because they are for us, it is important for liturgies to change because they stretch us to new directions and understandings about God. But each person is set in time; C.S. Lewis called this chronological snobbishness, the idea that our time, the age in which we live, is the most important time. We should recognize our own chronological snobbishness and extend more charity to each other about our attachments to liturgy.(I might remove this section) [Don’t remove this section; rather expand it into chronological snobbishness should be overcome for us to relate to other generational issues in our lives as well. How we relate to the church, worship, family and the care for those around us is mandated by God for us to overcome chronological snobbishness. It is a fundamental issue that transcends all aspects of our lives.]

Anglican tradition weighs in on this issue of liturgical changes; we have a long and sometimes violent history of changing prayer books. The Episcopal Church is a dynamic church. It is peopled with smart folks who are very sensitive about our paternalistic past and are trying to rectify that past. However, as I learned in my lay committee, the Church isn’t doing much to minister to those who feel left behind.

A few years ago I went to a ministry fair and took a class on discernment from John Westerhoff. He talked at great length about consolation and desolation. He was clear that desolation was our own doing; God cannot be removed from our lives. I think that this idea of desolation has to do with this issue of liturgy because, while the language and rubrics might feel strange and unfamiliar, it is still worship. If I’m “not getting it” that’s my own lack of engagement, not the liturgy’s fault. Too often what we see as the correct way of worship is simply our favorite method.

[? Do people “outgrow” their liturgy? Does life’s circumstances cause change in them personally? And through maturity or change, do they attach to a new form of worship that is more meaningful to them? Does wearing your childhood “liturgy” seem like old clothes to you and you feel the need to put on a new “robe” to worship God? What about your own personal journey in your faith? Have you outgrown your family’s tradition of worship and put on a new “robe?” Surely, it is not the liturgy’s fault – old or new – but a sign of growth in seeking the Lord’s face. Do you remember our conversation when you were a boy? “Mom, what is the meaning of life?” “To glorify God.” “Why does God need all that glory?” “He doesn’t. We need it to become more like God.” A liturgy of life. Selah!

End your paper with the singular true statement – that it is not the liturgy that is important but the person who seeks God. It is the church’s responsibility to provide support in each person’s quest to glorify God through worship and daily living.]

BB said...

Yes, I think if you need to cut something, cut the CS Lewis bit and maybe the changing prayer books stuff. To make it more personal, I like what your mom says at the end. I think it's pretty obvious we like what we are familiar with, and it's hard to change, but that a Church's responsiblity is to help people find their connection with God through his or her favorite kind of liturgy. That's why there are so many diffeent kinds of chrches out there! I feel like you are saying you should learn to like the stuff your'e not comfortable with, but do you really WANT to like it? Personally I go to the kinds of churches I do becasue I like the way they are presented. I got nothing out of St. Ann's, but I was MOVED by St. Francis! I can respect the beautiful language incense, tradition, but if it doesn't strike a chord, it just doesn't. Can that be changed? Should it be? Can I respect it but not like it? Can you as a priest?