Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Practice, Practice, Practice

The habits and customs, the ways of doing things in the Church are all referred to "Practice". Do you rise for the Gospel, what's the order you distribute communion, so on and so forth are all called "practices". And one of the things we remember is that in all places not all practices need be alike.

Sometime practices are different for simple logistical reasons. For example - at my congregation, I am the only one who kneels. Why? Um, the pews have no kneelers. Simple as that - so congregational kneeling is not a practice. Sometimes they have just become habits - "the way we do things around here" that no one remembers why. Sometimes they may come even from. . . the tyranny of the dead. If I were to kick the bucket, but have arraigned for my congregation to receive a beautiful altar crucifix they would feel impelled to use it, even though they haven't had a crucifix since around the 40s, I believe.

So, what do we learn from this fact that practices are different? Are we to learn that it doesn't matter what we do? Are we to learn that we are fiercely independent and should have our run of Churchly practices just cause we want to?

Um, no.

Rather, I will submit two things to remember.

1 - Practices are ultimately tied to practicality.
2 - Your practice could always be better.

First - practices are practical. There is no one, ultimate, right way because circumstances are different in every place, and allowances must be made for that. Practices serve the proclamation of Christ and Him Crucified, and somethings which are nice and neat may simply not fit in a particular place. That's fine - as long as Christ and Him Crucified is proclaimed.

Note that this is a minimizing concept. Not all the bells and whistles have to be in every place. Not that I am a minimalist, for next comes this!

Second - Your practice could always be better. Sometimes, when we think of the fact that things are done differently in different places, we simply view that with an, "Oh, that's interesting," or an "oh well, this is just how we do it." That shouldn't be the point. We should be thinking thusly - is our practice as good as it can be - are we in our services doing the most possible to illuminate the Gospel of Christ? Are we showing the most reverence we can to the presence of God?

See, just because we've done something for years doesn't mean it is the best way to do it. As a secular example, yes, your family may have fried your chicken this way for year, but if you see a better recipe that is just as simple and easy to do - wouldn't your family adapt its recipe? If so, you have wonderful chicken. If not, you are more concerned about glorifying Aunt Olga's memory than having wonderful chicken.

Likewise - if there is a place to improve practice - don't cast it aside simply because something is the way you've always done it. Now, be careful, check and see that the new "practice" is actually something beneficial, good, right, and salutary that actually better points to Christ and isn't the eqivelent of skipping dinner and eating nothing but cotton candy and ice cream.

But when it comes to practice - remember this. Be not ashamed of what you can't do, and be not to proud of what you have been doing. Practice is not to impress folks, but it can always be improved.

1 comment:

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

sounds like a very balanced approach to the whole issue....and also keeping with the idea that when a congregation has a particular practice, they don't give it up easily, and so the change often has to be slow and lovingly.

Pastors need to remember that stampeding toward better practice means that members of the flock get trampled. Sheep are led on foot, slowly and and steadily, going back for those who are not following as easily.