Comments 3

  1. Thank you for this blog post–it is an issue I have been thinking about a lot lately, so this has been timely for me.

    I am working through Smith’s book again in light of some conversations at my home church (a Christian Reformed congregation) about the role of liturgy, and some very positive experiences worshiping in Missouri Synod Lutheran congregations. It seems that there could be some middle road between ultra-liturgical Anglicanism and the evanglicalism devoid of Reformed content towards which we seem to be sliding. That middle road is getting back to Reformed principles of liturgy: A call to worship followed by a congregational invocation, God’s greeting, and mutual greeting. Regular (rather than rare) communion services. Well-put-together and joyful baptism services. Clearly defined times of confession followed by an assurance of pardon. These patterns of worship cannot help but shape us.

    All this need not result in going back to the emotionless intellectualism that often defined the CRC during my childhood, but it also avoids our simply becoming another “Reformed-ish” band of evanglicals who have lost our moorings–a destination we are in danger of reaching sooner than later.

    Chuck Adams (’90)
    Sheboygan, WI

  2. Well said, particularly the observations alluding to the intellectual/class predilections that appear to be the subtext of some extolling the liturgical turn.

    Another cause to pause: Does a more liturgical approach to worship really change us? In other words, given the overwhelming influence of the secular liturgies that Smith describes, what effect does even the best embodiment of worship have on the life of the worshiper? Is it possible that the liturgical turn is simply another item on the religious foody’s buffet?

    Notwithstanding the observations above, I recall the impact of thoughtful, liturgical worship services far more than the content of the many fine sermons I’ve heard.

  3. Maybe your friend was, as the Dutch Reformed theologian Berkouwer put it, an “accidental Protestant.” (As was Berkouwer.) And maybe this essay is mistitled. How about “The Return of…” Unity, Ecumenism, Catholicity, the Church, etc.? That’s the far more important theme than mere liturgy even though liturgy at its best expresses unity or the desire and need for it. The liturgy of the hours for personal or group prayer, services of the word and sacrament — they all mean participating in prayer and communion with the whole church throughout all time and places.

    Most Christians (Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox) worldwide do follow a form of the same ancient liturgy, but there are many variations and ways of doing it that accommodate all kinds of spaces, people, situations, languages, music, etc. It’s definitely not class-bound in any tradition unless you make it that way. I think people unfamiliar with these traditions sometimes see a “high” or more formal service that they’re used to and think that’s typical or essential. It’s not. I’ve see masses that were as spare, austere and personal as a small Quaker meeting. Some Reformed and Lutheran churches sing through their psalms like Anglicans, and all three take “contemporary” approaches that change by the year. Thanks to the ecumenical movement we have a common lectionary and share in each others special saints. Let’s not leave out Judaism either, since it has had ancient and modern influences on the music and structure of Christian worship too.

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