Re: Contemporary worship obsolete?
- --- In email@example.com, "Ron Freyer Nicholas" <ron@f...>
> Nathan,direction he
> Bob Webber's comments you included in your note reflect the
> takes in his book ANCIENT FUTURE FAITH. It's also what the GenX'ersare
> saying themselves....I came across this reference browsing your list and would like to to
express my appreciation as this sheds light on a an experience I have
been unable to explain to myself - the profound sense of rightness
and closeness to God which comes when I worship in the tradition
where I first encountered God.
I have no ministry involvement or divinity qualifications beyond
being well-read, but I hope my comments to this forum might be useful
on two counts - I am a "Gen X" and the comments of this forum lead me
to believe many of you are not. And having moved around a lot, I have
belonged to worshipping communities of the Anglican, catholic,
presbyterian, Orthodox, and Baptist traditions, as well as regular
attendants at temples, ashrams and mosques. This took place in
England, Scotland, Greece, France, Poland, Czech Republic, Peru, the
USA and Australia, with long periods in England, Scotland, Greece,
USA and now Australia.
The common factor expressed to me by all my fellow worshippers of 20-
35 of every tradition was that we worship to satisfy a spiritual
hunger, and this hunger is present in our lives whether they worship
or not, but it is the impulse which us to worship.
What happens in the church determines whether or not that hunger is
It seems that all of us are looking for some combination of the
1. Applicable instruction. - I would summarise this as good
insightful relevant sermons. I personally have found explanations of
Christian practice in the light of the cultural background and
principles of the early church especially useful. -Eg - taken out of
context, St Paul's letters can be made to sound narrow-minded, rather
than enlightened in a modern context.
2. Tradition - the rituals of any tradition - including worship
styles which try not to uphold Tradition with a capital T - represent
the regularity of God in daily life. If God is eternal and unchanging
in a changing world, then so should the church be, as a reflection of
this vital aspect of God. Everyone I met wanted to go to church and
find it as they left it, at least in part. It meant they could take
their children fully confident of the tradition they were offering
them. It meant, especially in central and Eastern Europe and South
America, that the tradition of the church was interwoven with that of
the family, and that of the community.
3. Spiritual passion and inspiration. This is what the "contemporary
worship" style set out to address isn't it? And in part it works
because it brings the qualities that move us in the world outside
into the church. But I have found personally and in discussion, that
faith itself is the miracle that moves and draws us. For Gen Xers
information is cheap. If you have a "Western" upbringing and
surroundings, you can probably read anything you want and study any
subject that interests you, and so we become experts at categorising.
But we grow up in a culture where everything is "cool" in other
words, it is not appropriate to be passionate about anything. You
should note and categorise and move on. Real passion, -the passion of
faith expressed in stumbling words and faith evoked in actions- stops
us cold precisely because it is strong enough to move people to
action or expressions of faith on a basis which they cannot
categorically prove to anyone else. Of the hundreds of people I have
talked to, all talked about the inspiration of one or two people in
their lives who expressed their faith by demonstrating it, or
allowing others to witness how they were moved by it in their hearts.
4. Community. I guess this is obvious. A church with a warm,
welcoming and open hearted ministry team is a space people want to be
in. If the laws of God as practiced by the church are found
restrictive to its congregation, they will still come anyway, because
holding up standards is a function of the church. But holding them up
warmly and lovingly, with God, not the ministry team as arbiter and
authority, makes a crucial difference to the congregation.
"This is how it is my son, said a priest to a gay Polish friend of
mine- this is the law of God as it was taught to me, and I haven't
found it false, and now I teach it to you, but if it is hurtful to
you then God is with you in your hurt, and I am with you as his
hands. I know that God loves you always no matter what, and asks you
to love him, and does not seek to put barriers between you. Let us
pray together and ask God to help you find your way to him..."
This friend eventually left the catholic church, unconvinced that
the homosexuality of his biochemistry was incompatible with
worshipping God. But he didn't leave Christianity or God. He found
another way to worship.
Perhaps this information is just a repeat of what this group knows
already. But I thought to offer it, since many of you seem involved
in research on this subject. I will read with interest the book that
Ron quoted from.
Currently a 31 year old Quaker Anglican based in Melbourne, Australia
- Hi Bapworshippers
I read Claire's post with interest. I'm another Gen-Xer, and I resonate
with much that you said, Claire. I, too, look for worship in which I can
express a passionate, heart-felt faith. But even more than that, I look for
worship in which I can be interrupted in my solitary reverie, and be
genuinely addressed and called by God as the "other". For me, that means
that most of the "contemporary worship" movement has to be excluded, because
I find it difficult to hear and see God beyond all that personality-driven
entertainment that seems to so characterise that genre.
I prefer so-called "traditional" worship in the Western tradition because:
(1) the texts are not dominated by personal vision or personality: they have
been developed slowly, over time, and therefore seem to reflect the wisdom
of many; and they continue to develop in our own communities (2) the texts
are immersed in an analogical reading of the bible within the forms of life
represented by "western" culture, and are therefore capable of providing
relevant, timely, preaching in and of themselves; (3) the relationship with
texts is not the whole story! Traditional liturgy engages all five senses
with sound, motion, colour, smell and human contact; (4) Traditional liturgy
tells the whole story of the gospel in a profound and coherent narrative
that flows through daily prayers, Sunday eucharist, and seasonal cycles. It
is therefore both a transformation and hallowing of temporal and historical
Of course, traditional liturgy can be done very badly, and often is. But it
has the potential to engage the whole person as an actor and agent in the
whole story of God and God's community.
I look forward to seeing you at worship this Sunday, Claire.
Centre for Studies in Religion & Theology
Clayton, Victoria 3800
+ 61 3 9905 1286
"This is the lesson of both psychoanalysis and the Judea-Christian
tradition: the specific human vocation does not rely on the development of
man's inherent potentials (on the awakening of the dormant spiritual forces
OR of some genetic program); it is triggered by an external traumatic
encounter, by the encounter of the Other's desire in its impenetrability."