Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Contemplation Upon Liturgical Changes

One of the things that gets brought up whenever a matter of what happens or is done in the worship is that whenever a proposed change or practice or custom is given, the charge will be laid sooner or later, "Oh, you only want that because you like that" or its converse, "You only don't want that because you just don't like it."

We will eventually reduce discussion and debates about a multitude of things - styles, ceremonies, mannerism, all of these down to mere preference, and if someone disagrees with what we argue, it will be chalked up not to their arguments, but simply to the fact that they like or dislike something.

I fear that too often this may be true.

I will say something here that may seem surprising to folks who read this blog and others. I will say something that many will assume disingenuous.

I don't like children's sermons. Not that I think they are wrong or intolerable - I just don't enjoy them that much. I don't think that they are fun. They aren't part of my ideal service.

But the question of whether or not in this particular place that I serve that they will be done does not rest on my particular preference.

I, personally, enjoy a very high liturgy. If I had my druthers, there would be chanting and incense and, while technically it is "low", I'd jettison the Lectern and simply read from the horns of the altar. I like the genuflection at the Verba. I miss kneelers. These things are good to me - if I am traveling, I will find as high a place as I like (although, I must admit, I do, according to my own personal piety, prefer receiving Christ's Body in my hand).

None of those practices have I introduced here.

Why? They are not part of his congregations custom and tradition - and hesitate to introduce them precisely because I like them. I am biased towards them. They are something I crave, something I would love to see, something that would make me happy.

But my duty is not to serve myself - I have been called by God to nurture and serve the people of this congregation.

If I make the service to look more like what *I* would like to see, what reasoning do I use? That the service needs to be more reverent? Well, does it *need* it, and if there is a need for more reverence, would those changes increase the reverence that is needed (i.e. is it pastoral conduct that is irreverent),? Or will I use "reverence" simply as an excuse and pretext to follow my own desire?

Perhaps I can say that we need to resist the culture? I suppose, but is that the best way to resist the culture? Our culture craves glitz and glamour and the needless pomp of the red carpet. Would these changes resist that culture, or do I desire it because it is pomp and spectacle, is it a giving into my own desires that I hide under the guise of religiousness?

These are questions I ask myself. I'd advise you to ask them of yourself when it comes to making changes (or even pronouncements about what is good).

I think the change, the movement to something, for the sake of your people, which you do not personally like, is safer. It is less apt to be self-serving, and we are not called to serve ourselves, to make our congregations what we would like a congregation to be. We are called to proclaim Christ, to point to Him, to give out His forgiveness.

I must decrease that He may increase - and often that means my own desires and preferences.

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