Cartoon blatantly ripped off of Tony Jones’s blog here
Last week Tony Jones wrote a blog post entitled “Frank Schaeffer is Wrong about Progressive Christianity.” I was trying to think of a response to both of the posts, and a way that I could title this post “Frank Scheffer AND Tony Jones are Wrong about Progressive Christianity” but I don’t think Tony is wrong. Frank wrote a post entitled “Progressive Christianity Is As Broken As Evangelicalism: Here’s How to Fix It” and then went on to say that what was needed to fix Progressive Christianity was a return to ancient liturgy. He writes:
“The great weakness of Protestant American Christianity across the board is that by and large it dispensed with liturgy. Having dispensed with liturgy it dispensed with the signposts that point people toward an identity that binds communities together.
In other words we need to rediscover and return to what never was broken but was stupidly abandoned by “freethinking” evangelical denominations, the Puritans rebelling against kings and bishops, and reclaim the forms of worship where the rough edges have been worn smooth by millennia of usage. We need to use them again not because they will save us or are the “only” way (they aren’t) but because they work!”
Tony Jones wrote one parenthetical statement in his post that made everything about Frank’s post make sense: “(Frank is a member of the Orthodox Church).”
Alright…I get that. When I was in Idaho, I was good friends with an Antiochian Orthodox Priest, Fr. Patrick O’Grady, and also worshipped with his church occasionally (here and here). So I get the Orthodox perspective to some degree. And I get that if you had been burned by the Evangelical church and turned to the Orthodox Church, you might have been heavily drawn and seduced (in a good way) by the liturgy that they practice. Totally get that.
But to assert that we simply need to reclaim ancient liturgy in our progressive Protestant faith communities in order to become more relevant or to begin to provide a faith that truly connects with people today, makes no sense to me.
Frank Schaeffer begins his post with this line: “I don’t think there will be some new age of religion dawning in America anytime soon unless a lot of people change their minds about worship.”
Amen. I will say amen to that. But my reason for agreeing with that statement is completely the opposite of Frank’s, and that’s where Tony was going with his response as well.
We do need to change our minds about worship. We do need to let go of the nostalgia that so many people hold on to, thinking back to the glory days of the Presbyterian Church (…insert your own denomination here…), and allow ourselves the freedom to change. To try new things. To unbolt the pews for God’s sake. To loosen up. To realize that for many people, old school/traditional language and liturgy doesn’t connect and doesn’t help draw them into a sacred space to encounter the Divine.
Now – before you all mention this in the comments – yes, I know there are young people today who are drawn to liturgy, to the incense (the smells and bells that Episcopals do so well), to something that does seem to have a connection with the ancient…and I say that’s fine. There are plenty of churches that won’t change their liturgy or how they worship, and those people will have churches to attend.
But for all those who are yearning for something new, something different, some other ways of connecting with the Spirit…why don’t we begin to allow for the Spirit to move in our worship and give up some of our control and insistence on always doing things a certain way.
I loved how Tony ended his response to Frank: “The fact is, going backwards is never a solution to what ails an institution (like the church). The future comes in moving forward.”
Let’s do that. Let’s not just go back and use the old and ancient liturgies because they’ve “stood the test of time” but let’s write some new stuff that actually speaks to our world today, that speaks to our experiences of God, and speaks to people in a contemporary dialect and language that makes sense. Let’s embrace the gift of creativity from God, and start getting creative with our worship, and not just doing what we’ve always done.
Let’s be the church that is always being reformed and do some worship reformation.