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?