our lovely liturgy

July 24, 2007

I’ve been having a bit of a love-hate relationship with the liturgy over the past few years. On the one hand I believe that our times of worship should become much more than preaching, and that preaching don’t even need to be the central element anymore. On the other hand I remember as a kid never understanding the liturgy, and even after 5 years of theological education, I’m struggling.

So, a few thoughts: I just had a class in liturgy, in which the lecturer presented us with what he see as the 3 main liturgical traditions.

1) Where the preaching of the Word (I guess some would say the Bible itself) is central. This is generally the mainline protestant churches: Reformes, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist etc. You will find the pulpit central in their church buildings.

2) Where participation is central. Genererally charismatic churches, Pentacostal, and African independent churches. In Western forms of these congregations you will find a stage being central, making room for more people than just the minister.

3) Where ritual and sacrament is central, meaning that the way in which we present God through these is more central than preaching. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox (please let us know if this isn’t correct, Steve) and Anglican. The Altar would be central in these buildings.

For many reading this is would probably be general knowledge by now that you will lately find different traditions borrowing from each other.

Part of our theological education is that you have to hold one sermon which is attended by a lecturer and another minister, and then you have to sit through a critical discussion of the sermon afterwards. Not neccesarily a bad thing, but not genereally experienced very positively by students. I attended this discussion after one of my best friends sermon on Sunday.

There was a somewhat critical discussion on the liturgy, and after everything was over we continued the conversation, together with one of the local ministers. He said something interesting at one stage: In a lot of books you read today you will find people saying that the liturgy should change, but we seem so struggle to find concensus on what is supposed to happen. Fact is, I think we are experiencing a bit of a liturgucal crisis at the moment. At least in our congregations.

I don’t think I have the answers either, but one thought for now. I’ve experimented with this a few months ago while having a church service at Klein Kariba holiday resort. This whole rush, trying to fit in all 12 elements into every service is kind of getting on my nerves. And furthermore, I wonder theologically if it’s really a good idea to overemphasize this few elements, by repeating every Sunday that: You can’t keep to the law, you have sinned, but Jesus forgave your sins. Is this really that central to scripture that we, in a reformed tradition, should overemphasize it in our liturgy? How about taking one of these elements, or of many others which are available, and building our liturgy around this one elements, and really make something out of that?

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