I didn't go to church today because I couldn't face another stripped-down summer liturgy. Bleh. Recycled sermons, vacationing preachers, substitute organists, empty pews, last moment lectors, absent acolytes, no choir, no coffee hour. The church on vacation isn't pretty.
But that's not our only problem. We have a problem of relevance. We are trying WAY too hard to find it. When church leaders chase the latest opinion polls, and change their main Sunday liturgies to meet the "market," those who have been shaped by the liturgical traditions of the past are left to embrace the change or leave. What seems to have been left out of the rush to seek the seeker is that the Church was never more embracing or growth-filled as when it was the keeper of mystery, ritual, prayer and sacrament and served the community. (1st - 3rd Century CE)
It will be a sad, sad day when a generation hence American mainline churches are empty (like Europe) and leadership wishes we had hewed to liturgical practice, embraced social justice, and welcomed the stranger and the familiar at the same time.
Am I really all alone in my grief at the demise of the weekly Lutheran and Episcopalian Sunday liturgy -- the ritual of action, listening, singing, silence, Word and Meal that has sustained me spiritually all my adult life?
Are there no clergy around me who think that the rush to reinvent the church by changing worship is getting at the problem from the wrong end? Is technology in the sanctuary really All That?
You'd think with all the gutting of worship tradition that all following Jesus ever meant was showing up for church, and that Church meant getting people in the doors on Sunday morning. I always thought living the faith was what I did with my life the rest of the time, out in the world. Worship was what pulled me back into the tradition of the mothers and fathers, helped me remember, fed me at the Table, grounded me in the mystery.
I'm sad the scramble for growth, money, resources, and relevance has meant the suburban churches in my area are always riding the wave of the Next Big Thing. I've been around long enough to know that there is always a next big thing.
The rush to relevance has left me cold. It's exhausting (no wonder the church heaves a huge sigh during the summer). Think I'll go read Morning Prayer (BCP, p. 75) and have my own church today.
Wish You Were Here.