Friday, September 25, 2009

Using the Liturgy

In a blog posting entitled "Control," Fr. Tony Clavier strikes a chord that rings deep within me. Here are the two paragraphs that hit home:

Today there are many of us in TEC [The Episcopal Church] whose spirituality and doctrine of the church (ecclesiology) has been shaped by the way we worship. We are alarmed by those whose religious experience is framed not by our structural heritage but by a religious experience which looks to an “authority” above and beyond the language and temper of our liturgy. Some are ultra conservatives, framed by “charismatic evangelicalism” and many, convinced that the church is not a safe home, have abandoned TEC and formed their own home.

The ascendant and dominating party in our church describes and limits our heritage in the light of their cultural, social and “justice” issues. For them the contents, structure and ethos of our worship is no longer the law of faith and of prayer, but a neutral reality which may be used as a vehicle for their reforms.

Using the liturgy for our own purposes and agendas, we miss the possibilities for spiritual, moral, and theological formation it offers. But in order for that formation to happen, we have to be willing to submit ourselves - to give ourselves over - to the shaping power of liturgy and common prayer. We have to trust something (and Someone) larger than ourselves to help shape us as the selves God would have us become. Perhaps the loss of autonomy that entails frightens some of us. Or perhaps some of us are just so hell-bent on making the Church over in our own image (because we just know we are right in doing so) that liturgy really doesn't really matter. Liturgy is just a tool, a means to more important ends, an expression of interests, an ecclesial manifestation of the will to power.

As an Episcopalian once said in my presence, "Maybe one day we'll get a Prayer Book that's relevant." I heard that to mean, "Maybe one day we'll get a Prayer Book that suits my ideas about what's good, beautiful, and true." That way of thinking doesn't fit well within a tradition which emphasizes common prayer. But that way of thinking may be just one of the many challenges to retaining and living the tradition we have received.

6 comments:

BillyD said...

"Or perhaps some of us are just so hell-bent on making the Church over in our own image (because we just know we are right in doing so) that liturgy really doesn't really matter. Liturgy is just a tool, a means to more important ends, an expression of interests, an ecclesial manifestation of the will to power."

I think you have hit the nail on the head here.

The Postulant said...

I think some of our fellow Episcopalians would rather pray that we so pass through (or by) things eternal that we lose not the things temporal. God preserve us from a relevant Prayer Book.

Bryan Owen said...

God preserve us, indeed!

Christopher said...

I would say the urge to make the liturgy a programme is a problem that tends to moralizing on both the left and the right, actually. Usually the two cannot recognize how similar they are to one another. For example, I find the moralizing of Covenant-Communion as loathsome as they find the social justice emphasis. And we do have to be very careful that we don't divorce liturgy from how it is we are in turn called to treat one another. "The lord in his manor, the peasant at his gate" was lovely poetry, beloved hymnody, and plain unChristian.

plsdeacon said...

The longer I live the Christian life, the more I am convinced that it is a life of self-surrender. We are to emulate the kenosis that God the Son did when he descended from Heaven and became man. We are to will the emptying of ourselves so that we can be filled with God's grace.

This includes emptying ourselves of our desires for "relevance" in worship or for worship in a certain style. We are to cease being consumers of worship and congregational life. We are to die daily to self and to egotism so that we can become more fully the person that God created us to be. We are to stop singing "I did it my way" and to sing "Amazing Grace."

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

Fr. Tony Clavier said...

Christopher. Sory you find us all loathsome. We are a diverse bunch on Covenant-Communion so you paint with a very large brush. I rather like people whatever their views.

Blessings,

Fr. Tony