Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Place of Solemnity and Ritual in Worship

Having pointed out something alarming in the Episcopal Church yesterday, let me today point out a great article from an Episcopal priest. I read this article back in November and have been meaning to comment on it since. The article, subtitled “An Episcopal Priest on Casual Ministers & Reverent Marines,” appeared in the November issue of Touchstone. I thought this was a powerful piece, and I encourage you to read it. It is only 1.5 pages in the print magazine. The article grew out of the stark contrast observed at a funeral between the presiding minister and the Marines involved.
The author noted:

The care and dignity of the military rite put the Christian rites to shame. I don’t believe that the priest was intentionally irreverent or unprepared. But by comparison with the marines’ reverent ritual, the chapel service and the committal seemed slapdash.

The author then made six observations. I will highlight three:

1. It is hard to be casual and solemn at the same time.

2. It is hard to be solemn if you are in a hurry.
Haste says that something else is more important than what you are doing at present…
The trend … in the last forty years has been to shorten the services, to streamline things, so that people don’t get bored. ... The mentality says, “We know you have more important things to do, so we’ll get through the worship as quickly as possible.”

3. Ritual still has power, even in a culture that in many ways despises it.
My point is not to embrace all of Episcopalian liturgy but to highlight the importance of solemnity and meaningful acts in our worship. Breeziness may be hip, but it is not well suited for arresting the attention of a flighty culture with eternal verities.
I encourage you to read this article and consider the way in which you lead the people of God in worship.


Rae Whitlock said...

Great article, Ray. Bob Kauflin just recently posted a similar sentiment (but from a slightly different direction) on his blog.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. V.N.,

I used to be one to joke around during the worship service, including the sermon. I liked to mention football rivalries, poke fun at others, etc. These things are common in SBC churches.

Over the past few years, however, God has led me away from these things. I now take the assembly of God's church very seriously. Recently I was in the kind of worship service I used to lead, and found the cutting up and the mention of football games quite out of place.

Thanks for your attention to this subject.

Love in Christ,


Ray Van Neste said...

Thanks Rae. I appreciated Kauflin's comments. He gives the fuller picture.
I do believe that humor can have a place in preaching. The point is the overall tenor. Is there an awareness of the fact that we are dealign with eternal realities, encountering the Holy One.