October 18, 2017

iMonk Classic: Thoughts At 8 a.m. Mass

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Note from CM: Michael wrote this post in September, 2009. Let me ask our evangelical friends — have things changed in evangelical churches since he wrote these words?

• • •

The wedge contemporary evangelicals are driving between young and old is incredibly short sighted and deadly. Doesn’t the Bible itself say that the older should teach the younger? We’ve turned things around so that anything new (even if unproven) and appealing to the not yet mature, still developing young is trotted out as appropriate worship. More experienced, mature Christians who should be teaching the young about and sharing with them their great Christian heritage are instead asked to “get with it” or “get out.” The evangelical church will die if all it can do is try to keep up with secular culture and make its focus offering whatever the latest fads or glitz it can to “attract” the young as if the church were somehow dependent on a Christian advertising machine rather than God to draw people to Him.

I took Denise to morning mass at Stella Maris (“Star of the Sea”) Roman Catholic Church in Moultrieville, SC. Almost 50 in attendance, of every age. Two priests. Two acolytes and two altar boys. Traditionalist. Ad orientem. Eucharist offered in one kind and most didn’t receive it in the hand. Lots of other traditionalist stuff happening. Several Latin masses during the month. All the little things.

I’m watching a father bring his 5 year old (?) to mass, take his hand and dip it in the water, make the cross for him, then take him to his seat and show him how to genuflect. Teenagers around me- apparently on retreat- are immersed in the various actions of Catholic worship, as are all the worshipers of every age this morning. Of course, adults of every age. Plenty of men. At least half or more of the congregation was male.

The traditionalist flavor of mass is more interesting to me, even in this low mass on a weekday, and I’ve read Ratzinger’s Spirit of the Liturgy and know where these priests are coming from. There’s a sign at the entrance to the church saying the parish can’t register any more members from outside their boundaries. Translation: traditionalism is popular down here in Charleston.

The whole idea of the daily mass, and the level of devotion one sees among so many Catholics such as those surrounding me, has to be of real interest to any post-evangelical. Evangelicalism is diverse, but as a movement it is simply engaging less and less with worship, spiritual formation, spiritual disciplines and any form of tradition. The multi-site, internet driven model combined with evangelicalism’s inherent pragmatism and entrepreneurialism makes one wonder if clicking at the computer terminal or taking in the 20 minute drive up/drop in service can be far away as significant models of evangelical Christianity’s virtues.

pe0081863.jpgI am especially impressed with how a small child and an 80 year old man are functioning within the same world of thought, ritual and understanding. Within evangelicalism, we have communities with strong elements of tradition that bind generations together, but overall, we have compromised this to the core, allowing the quest to make the faith acceptable to teenagers to define the style and substance of everything. Where has evangelicalism gone in the last 60 years? Toward maturity and the core of the faith, or toward the latest efforts to be relevant to the young? The old among us are often those who manage to hang on amidst a hurricane of changes.

I see evangelicals doing less and less that will hold anyone in the faith into their 80s. If I were 80, I wouldn’t go near 99% of evangelical churches. The traditionalists somewhere would have me as a customer.

One oddity. No crucifix up front. One on the altar (well, slightly above it), but no large crucifix at the front anywhere. Central figures: Madonna and Child. Is this unusual? I thought the crucified Jesus visually up front was the usual.

In one publication, the priest said that young people are hyper-connected to one another via technology, but unconnected to God. The church must offer that connection in its mass. Quite a provocative take on the purpose of all of this. No surprise how I feel about it, but he is saying that the church’s great role is to be that which connects us to God. You have to deal with that, because he is right about young people, but can the Protestant Gospel offer the connection to God without the church in the role of mediator? If not, then Catholicism makes a lot of sense.

I could never be a Roman Catholic for theological reasons that won’t change, but if I were, this traditionalist-flavored variety would be quite appealing.

Comments

  1. Both of them are semi-Pelagian (God does almost everything but we need to kick in a little bit).

    Not too crazy about either one…but if I were stranded on a desert island with only those two choices, I guess I would rather eat the body of Christ with the Pope rather than go to the bunch who deny that could happen.

  2. Stella Maris is one of Mary’,s titles – I’d imagine that’s why a representation of her is so prominent.

    • I love that title ‘Star of the Sea’ for Mary, which is special to me as my own son is in the Coast Guard.
      Our connection to Mary is a subject often written about through the millenia of the Church. I find this to be a particularly meaningful quote about her from St. Anselm:

      ” “From the moment of her fiat, Mary began to carry all of us in her womb.”

      (Anselm of Canterbury was an 11th Century Doctor of the Church.)

  3. This universal nature of the Church is the reason I have stayed, and cannot image a home outside of Catholicism….and yes, I have looked elsewhere and left unsatisfied. Remember, the word “catholic” in the Nicene Creed is not capitalized! As the late liberal priest, author, and sociologist Andrew Greely put it, catholic means “here comes everybody”!

    In addition to the mix of ages, I would add that there is a racial and ethnic mix in my home parish that is NOT seen at any other church here in Falwell-Ville. Africans in dashiki and turban, Koreans, Thai, African-Americans, older Polish and German ladies in lace veils, and all of us dressed in suits and heels and t-shirts and shorts. A motley crew for sure. Oh….and the music is part latin hymns, part CCM songs!

    One final thought….as a Catholic, I believe that the Roman Catholic Church contains the fullness of Christ’s message…BUT the RCC publicly states that many, MANY other people of faith are also heading to heaven, which is an openness not very many other religions or denominations grant to others!

    • Sounds very much like the traditional ELCA Lutheran Eucharistic liturgy that my wife and I participated in yesterday. Including the variety of music, some variety in complexions, all kinds of attire, the age spread, the teaching of the children, and our view of how much MORE diverse the table will be when we feast together in glory. For certain, it won’t be just Lutherans there.

      And BTW… Maybe it’s just our Midwest location or the neighborhood we’re in, but our ELCA parish and the ones right around us seem to be growing a bit, not shrinking.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Throughout a good portion of my life I have come into close contact with many Catholics and former Catholics. They understand Christian tradition, worship, and doctrine better than almost everyone else. They can explain the “why” of worship and aspects of doctrine, and even if they have left the RCC.

      Some of the Protestant Churches I have attended are just “there.” The people who attend know very little about the “why’s.” Many attend worship for the emotional kick that comes from certain kinds of experience. They go to “get something out” of the service and will say just that. Sometimes this means an emotional boost that will get them through the week to come. It becomes, sometimes, a “feel good” religion with God dishing out the content.

      The word “experience” also comes to mind. In my past I heard a lot about people having a certain kind of conversion “experience.” Later if something in their life went wrong, they might question the genuineness of this experience, or someone else might question it for them, even in their absence, such as “did he/she have a real experience?” back there at the kneeling rail during the revival.

      Some of this might sound like a stray from the original subject, However it has left with me a great appreciation of the Catholic Church.

      Generalizations of course.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Some of the Protestant Churches I have attended are just “there.” The people who attend know very little about the “why’s.” Many attend worship for the emotional kick that comes from certain kinds of experience. They go to “get something out” of the service and will say just that. Sometimes this means an emotional boost that will get them through the week to come. It becomes, sometimes, a “feel good” religion with God dishing out the content.

        And when they find something OUTSIDE the churches that gives them a BIGGER Feel Good Emotional Boost?

  4. Richard Hershberger says:

    “I could never be a Roman Catholic for theological reasons that won’t change, but if I were, this traditionalist-flavored variety would be quite appealing.”

    Me, too. The typical parish mass, on the other hand, cured me of any lingering romantic notions about Catholic worship.

  5. I get the point of what Spencer is saying, and I dislike worship centered around the popular and youth culture, but I have to ask: Is the Roman Catholic Church in the US gaining new members, old or young, aside from those who immigrate from traditionally Roman Catholic countries? Isn’t it losing members in considerable numbers when immigration is factored out? Isn’t it in fact the case that many cradle Catholics in the US become alienated from the church of their youth, and become disengaged from the Catholic church as they get older? Is the Roman Catholic Church in the US in fact succeeding in holding onto members as they grow older (I’m not talking only about people formally leaving the Catholic church, but rather the much larger number who attend church only at weddings, funerals, Christmas and Easter, but for whom the church no longer informs, or forms, their lives, however many ritual acts they continue to remember and practice on the rare occasions when they do attend [I worked with a guy who never attended weekly Mass as an adult, but who fasted from meat every Friday for decades nonetheless, bringing his tuna sandwich for lunch, even after the requirement for the Friday discipline of fasting had been altered in a more permissive direction….the church was not important to him, though the little ritual act was])?

    • ROBERT, you are correct that the Catholic Church is losing members if you factor out immigration. But nothing close to the number of people leaving the Episcopal Church. The Presbyterian and Lutheran numbers are also imploding and mainline church’s declining numbers continue. You could also ask how many of them just come on holidays ect. That is not unique to the Catholic Church.

      • Every Protestant denomination, aside from the COG, reports losses in membership over the past decade. Pew Research Center provides the most reliable stats…frankly, I don’t trust many Evangelical reports, knowing that some denominations pad numbers with re-baptisms and transfers in membership from other churches or denominations…You know, the old “They weren’t saved because they were (insert denomination that isn’t your own here)”. http://www.pewresearch.org/key-data-points/u-s-catholics-key-data-from-pew-research/

        I have to wonder, has the post-modern evangelical movement provided us with any meaningful ritual to remind us of our faith, if our actual church attendance wanes? Listening to the FISH? I personally think there’s more depth in remembering the Friday fast, taking that holiday-only Eucharist, etc…But maybe that’s just me.

        This Sunday, I’ll start pastoring a Baptist church that has a demographic that is almost half age 70+, then half age 35-. The younger people in the church have sent me a clear, consistent message…”We want the Doxology…We want Holy Communion…We want the hymnal…We want to do the things that were meaningful to us as kids, for our kids to remember, even if they drift away from church when they are adults.” I plan to give them what they’re asking for.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > I have to wonder, has the post-modern evangelical movement provided us
          > with any meaningful ritual to remind us of our faith

          No

          > almost half age 70+, then half age 35-.

          The donut hole is interesting. You see that hole in many places across data sets. Where are the 35..70 years olds. Is that a generational issue, an economic one, a life-phase, thing…. I don’t know.

          Note – I am in the donut hole [I am 42] , and I see it personally almost everywhere I go. Almost everyone I meet is at least a decade older or younger than myself.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            I am curious – and totally speculating – but I wonder if it was my generation that lead the Lets Modernize Church campaign into success; it feels like it was. During my Evangelical years I saw churches flip from Traditional to the New Tradition (CCM, power point, bands, multimedia, and [Gag!] skits).

            I wasn’t ever an advocate of such, but I watched it happen. Maybe we then, after “winning”, we left I did.

            Perhaps as happens with so many tides in history my generation destroyed the very thing it was trying to save [through the pursuit of misguided ideas].

        • There are no perfect churches…but there are plenty of churches that don’t even try to be perfect or improve themselves.

          What you highlighted, that the younger generation wants something more, is something I wish the leaders at my church would open their eyes to. But they instead seem fixed on a path that will repeat all the mistakes from the 90s/00s in order to be “relevant”, while taking all their advice from one person in the younger generation who hasn’t ever set foot in another church. They want to avoid anything that screams “old church”, such as the giant pipe organ my church has…meanwhile I want to scream a light and rock show is as old church as it gets to us.

          • And the biggest problem is that there i no one to talk to. No one will listen. It’s all deaf ears. Or worse, you are immediately hostile and part of the problem and hate church and the lost.

            Yeah.

            And I also hate once again saying “i told you so” in 10 years.

            THE blind spot of evangelicalism is not looking at the current statistics of people leaving the church and asking “maybe we were wrong during the 80/90s/00s”. YOU created the problem. Doubling down won’t fix it.

            Idiots.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Just like the USSR as the cracks were widening under Brezhnev:
            “INCREASE IDEOLOGICAL PURITY! INCREASE POLITICAL CONSCIOUSNESS!”

            AKA “DOUBLE DOWN AND SCREAM LOUDER!!!!!”

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > you are correct that the Catholic Church is losing members if you factor out immigration

        Yes, true. Declines appear less dramatic when an aging population is factored back in. This also applies to pretty much everybody – although possibly less to Evangelicals as they trended a but younger.

        It is very hard to see what are eddies and what are currents.

        Aside – if group A is loosing or gaining … isn’t asking that question going right back to the Evangelical marketing mindset? An idea is good or pad, a practice is wise or not, because it is or is not. If more or fewer people recognize it as such is not a measure of the idea or practice? Isn’t the question this post asking relevant regardless of demographics?

        Aside – a parish could be growing simply because more people live there, or more *families* live there. Or it could be growing for other reasons – good community, good leaders, …. The same could be said of a parish in decline facing reverse trends. That would be regional/local and possibly indicative of nothing about “national” trends.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        You could also ask how many of them just come on holidays ect. That is not unique to the Catholic Church.

        We call them “Twice-a-Year Catholics”.
        Twice a year being Xmas & Easter.

        • I bought a greeting card one year, it showed a family trudging into a church and it said, this is the time of year we go to church, and on the inside it said, to see what’s changed since Christmas.

          In my neck of the woods, they’re referred to as C and E Catholics. Their children tend to dispense with the C part of it, I’m not sure if their grandchildren will dispense with the E part as well.

        • I’ve heard them called “Chreasters.”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          And there’s also a Jewish equivalent:
          “Four-times-a-year Jews”.
          Four times a year being Passover, Purim, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur.
          (And there’s probably a Muslim equivalent, too.)

      • @ David C.: I didn’t say it’s unique to the Catholic Church, and I know that the bleeding in the RCC is not as bad as in the mainlines. Roman Catholics tend to be extremely reluctant to change their official religious institutional identity, even when they are only nominal, because there is so much cultural identity wrapped up in being Roman Catholic. Besides being a religion, it is arguable that Roman Catholicism in also a kind of civilization, exerting enormous intellectual and social influence over its citizens.

        But Spencer wrote: “I see evangelicals doing less and less that will hold anyone in the faith into their 80s.” What I’m saying is that I don’t see that the Roman Catholic Church is doing this either, doing more to hold people in the faith throughout their lives, and I don’t believe that the richer ritualism of the RCC is doing it, either. I know too many elderly Roman Catholics who never go to Confession, rarely go to Church, have little to no regard for, or understanding of, Church doctrinal or social teaching, even as they hold onto small ritual habits like crossing themselves or abstaining from meat-eating on Friday in ways that are completely removed from any context in the practice of faithful living and believing. I can’t help but see much of this as mere superstition, like crossing the street when you see a black cat.

        • But Spencer wrote: “I see evangelicals doing less and less that will hold anyone in the faith into their 80s.” What I’m saying is that I don’t see that the Roman Catholic Church is doing this either, doing more to hold people in the faith throughout their lives, and I don’t believe that the richer ritualism of the RCC is doing it, either. I know too many elderly Roman Catholics who never go to Confession, rarely go to Church, have little to no regard for, or understanding of, Church doctrinal or social teaching, even as they hold onto small ritual habits like crossing themselves or abstaining from meat-eating on Friday in ways that are completely removed from any context in the practice of faithful living and believing. I can’t help but see much of this as mere superstition, like crossing the street when you see a black cat

          I don’t know how many Catholics Spencer knew in order to form that opinion but my experience with the Catholic Church is not at all how he portrayed it. At least the Catholics offer confession which the evangelicals don’t. How many Catholics did he know that knew nothing of Catholic doctrine and were completely removed from faithful living and believing ? It sounds to me like a huge evangelical assumption based on a very small number of people who he knew. Maybe his wife has a different take on this as she was Catholic.

          • David C., you are confusing Spencer’s words with mine. Spencer’s words are those in quotations. The rest are mine.

            As for myself, I knew, and know, a lot of Roman Catholics, because I was baptized as an infant in the Catholic Church, and my family was, and mostly still is, Roman Catholic. What I’m talking about I’ve seen in my own immediate and extended family, and in friends of the family. I haven’t said a thing not based on my own observations and experience.

    • The Catholic church in the US is in a bad spot. It loses members on one side that want a more rigorous religiosity to evangelicalism, it loses members who disagree with specific teachings (often the pelvic issues) to mainline Protestantism and it loses those who no longer care either way to non-religion.

      I don’t know of any faith other than Catholicism with that exact problem. Are there other religions that lose both on the side of more strict and also more relaxed? I know all religions are suffering from the exit of the non-religious. It just seems that Catholicism is the only one that gets clobbered on both edges.

      • Actually, the RCC is annoying people on both sides of the political line-up, which to me signals a true and unchanging faith that does not bow to popular opinion!!

        Those on the left tend to have problems with what you call “pelvic issues”, because the Church has not waivered in presenting Christ’s message that a faithful marriage, open to children, is the only place for sexual expression at a deep and meaningful level. Additionally , they cannot see the value of human life from conception to natural death.

        Those on the right have problems with issues related to caring for the poor and helpless, and acting in a just and charitable way to all of our brothers and sisters.

        BUT…the bottom line is that the Church is entrusted with sharing the Word of God in its entirety, without regard to how popular the message may be. We absolutely WILL see fewer Catholics in the western world (although the Faith is EXPLODING in Africa and the Far East) but those remaining will be much stronger in their faith and commitment. Both recent Popes have noted this…..and it may not be a bad thing. Better a faithful remnant than a bunch of lukewarm CINO’s!

    • Someone needs to pull out Mike Bell’s “Changes in Religious Affiliations” chart to see who’s gaining and who’s losing.

      http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/michael-bell-looking-at-the-pew-forums-changes-in-religious-affliliation-data

  6. Last April I began attending an Antiochan Orthodox church. I am a catechumen now and plan this to be my home till I ‘m called home. I’ve experienced since then Russian and American versions of Orthodoxy. It’s amazing how the very types of Orthodoxy accept and work with each other. Every where I’ve been you could describe as Michael did the traditional Catholic service he attended. Large amounts of children., teens and all ages, together. Amazing how the teens and children are connected to the older. The honor they pay to them is amazing. Our parish of about 80 or so has 5 catechumen and several people just walking in every month. The priest of our parish son is a priest in Alaska. Yesterday he quipped that evangelism there is simply opening the door. Several times a month someone or a family walks in saying they want to be Orthodox. Don’t think that these churches are filled immigrants. Other than the Russian churches, these churches are nigh unto 100% American converts. Even the Russian churches are mostly converts.

    • My Eastern Catholic parish is the same way. All ages are present, especially children. Although it began as an ethnic parish, there are only a couple of families who are of the same ethnicity as the Rite. We’ve had 18 chrismations in the past year (we are a small parish, so this is a high number for us). Most parishioners are converts or Roman Catholics who came back to the faith and have decided to follow the Byzantine life.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      So what is the appeal of the Eastern Rites?

      • Nope. I talked about an appeal to a traditional Western Rite. It’s further down in the comments. You probably haven’t gotten to it yet.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > So what is the appeal of the Eastern Rites?

        A non-specific answer, from my perspective – they are [unashamedly] what they are. Same for the Romans and other Orthodoxies. No Spiritual-But-No-Religious B.S.

      • HUG,

        I think for a lot of people it starts with antiquity. Combine that with being pretty much unknown in this country, and the fact that most non-Catholics know practicing WR Catholics in their social circles, work, etc. and think – rightly or wrongly – that they know what Catholicism is, and I think people become curious about the Eastern ways. There is much about the Rite and its beauty that will hold people in it for quite a long time if they simply remain at this point. I’m not sure how much is the Rite itself being old and different, and how much people catch on to those deeper theological things that are expressed in the Rite. If someone gets curious enough to start investigating the theology and “mindset”, the deeper differences between RC and EO become more apparent.

        For me, it was a theological journey all the way: the depth of Theology expressed in the Liturgy, and most especially that God is Good and Loves Mankind, and has no need to punish – Christ’s teaching and acts are done from love as the only motive, and with the ultimate intent of the Union of God with Humanity, not simply a Beatific Vision. For a devout person, there’s also hardly any divide, in “mindset” or most aspects of praxis, between a monastic way of life and how everyone else lives; that was also a big draw for me. What kept me from reverting to Rome was mainly the Roman view of the papacy and the understanding of what the Church is that underlies it.

        If you are interested in exploring those depths, Philip Sherrard’s short books “Church, Papacy and Schism” and “The Greek East and the Latin West” talk about the differences that are underneath the outward similarities, and what contributed to those differences coming about. His bias is evident, but he is not one of those who bash all things Western.

        Dana

  7. I’ve spent considerable time contemplating the rearing of children in the faith. In my youth, I thought it was all about large, loud, bright, puppets, bands, and segregation of age in worship. I’m older now. I’ve moved from the flash to recognizing that intra-generational worship maintains a person through their lifetime. The sacramental/symbolic nature of the Liturgical church allows for connection to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on multiple levels.

    I attend the Cathedral church of the Episcopal church in the Diocese of SC (yes the “conservative one”). As a Diocese we encourage churches to not remove children from the services. (We do only at our high mass during the sermon.) We have recently implemented into our children’s community groups (think Bible Studies) the materials presented in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. This has been something that resonates with our congregation, many of whom would consider themselves evangelicals still attached to their non-denominational or Baptist roots.

    Why:
    1. Christocentric – What is the most important thing children know? Christ’s life, teaching, death, and resurrection.
    2. Gospel – There is not difference between discipleship and evangelism for the child of Christian parents (our primary attender). But the child is able to communicate with God in ways that we as adults may not fully understand. We must allow his faith to be nurtured by presenting opportunities for the child to meet God in his way and grow in his faith and knowledge of Christ.
    3. Bible – The centrality and exhalation of the word of God in the lessons – literally read from the same Bible they will hear in church.
    4. Sacramental – Finding how the Eucharist points to Christ; learning the various parts of the service, learning the materials used in worship. All this so the child is steeped in the depth of the Eucharist. (and other sacraments)
    5. Developmentally appropriate – It is about the questions pondered not about the right answers (by the teacher’s or curriculum writer’s view) given. It is about wondering and pondering together about the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed with the 3 to 6 (ends in awe and celebration), a wondering with more historical context with the 6 to 9 (ends in a moral thought), and a looking at the Greek with the 9 to 12 (ends with an action). The teacher doesn’t tell the child where she will go – it is developmental to the child to go there.

  8. About the time this article was written I went to a church visiting as someone I knew was being baptized. I saw a lot of older people with silver on top and then there was some younger people. The younger people were pushing a style of worship and as they were singing and playing guitar and using the drumsets I could hear the grumbling from behind me. It made me sad to think here was the old guard who faithfully had given their time and money all these years and now they were unhappy. One of the younger men who I knew said things like they are just going to have get use to it or leave. I wonder first why the older didn’t cheer the younger on and I wondered why the younger didn’t have more empathy and join in some very good hymns too. One of the things I miss so much are the older hymns in my own church. Guess I’m getting older myself. When they are sung, although sparingly, I feel connected in a way that I do not in the contemporary. My spirit seems to roar inside and lift in a way with power. I’m not saying I don’t experience the spirit in the modern for I do. I have always looked in the hymnal for dates as to when songs were written. I have always wondered what was happening as new songs were brought forth at those times and if they experienced things as we see today. Why do people walk away today from the church, maybe because of the same way I feel a lot as I see theology and doctrine being more important than people are themselves. Our church would pride themselves in saying they are not like this but you better not say you are not so sure about divine healing and some other things because you might not be so graciously received. I remember the young man who said they could leave and after he had caused enough upheaval he himself moved on citing doctrinal differences. Of course after several more moves he and others have started their own church. He is the same one who laughs at the gifts except for teaching of course which is okay because he can do it at anytime. I’ve been there it is not so powerful. I was never raised Catholic and I’m fairly certain I am like the author above here. Most Catholics I have encountered outside of the church walls have the hardest time identifying with the Father in any close relationship. It makes me sad as most have a hard time believing they are loved in the way they are and their hearts seem hardened. I shouldn’t probably say this but hey what the heck, this has been in AA rooms because I was not able to stop drinking. I learned a lot about God in these rooms especially working through the steps. The whole program was first based in God and really still is. Many within the room have the hardest time with God and those seem to be mostly Catholic and I don’t know why. Sometimes I wonder if it the hard stance that is given because of not being able to partake in communion. Just like many churches that have suffered falling away I wonder how many find their way back towards the end of their lives. Maybe we all could just find a way to love a little bit better.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I remember the young man who said they could leave and after he had caused enough upheaval he himself moved on citing doctrinal differences. Of course after several more moves he and others have started their own church.

      Let me guess…
      A whole DOZEN strong, the ONLY One True Church since 33 AD who ALONE have gotten it right?

    • My spirit seems to roar inside and lift in a way with power.

      Singing the Gospel will do this to those who believe in it and understand how it is the central, orienting core of their being. Too much of contemporary “worship music” assumes the Gospel, rather than proclaims it. This is why I have such little patience with it.

    • w, The openness of your heart and your words consistently amazes and humbles me. I will tell you that I’m a former Roman Catholic who has a very hard time relating to God the Father. I can tell you that it was a very hard thing to be excluded from partaking in the Eucharist at my mother’s funeral. I going to tell you that I have my own addictions, and that every day every step of the way I have nothing to depend on but the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and the love and prayers of the Communion of Saints, which I’m very glad includes a brother like you. I want you to know that I, too, will love and pray for you.

      • Hmmmm, wondered why I was drawn to your comments and could relate to what you were writing so well. Yes there will be someone on the east coast lifted by our communion and that will include my prayers as well my friend.

  9. Growing up in evangelical churches, kids either stayed in the service with their parents or exited just before the sermon for “junior church”. Everyone sang the hymns, heard the prayers, did the responsorial psalms, etc together, and it was only when it came time for instruction that we split up. In retrospect, considering the 45 minute sermons, that seems a pretty sensible compromise.

    My niece, on the other hand, is growing up in a pretty typical evangelical church for this area. She never worships with the adults at all, for every event they have there she is immediately placed into an age-group sorted area and activity. What baffles me is that the service she is not going to could hardly be accused of being boring – rock music, flashy stage effects, a big show. It’s LOUD, too, so I don’t see how the noise of having the kids in would even bother anyone.

    What happened? How could the services get more entertaining and yet less welcoming to kids at the same time? I don’t get it.

    It is particularly hard for me to understand due to my own church context. Yesterday morning our 3 year old “deacon” dutifully ran around in his black robe and blessed everyone, making sure to position himself front and center when something priest reading-like was happening in the altar so he could hold up his little black Bible.

    • The loud rocky service works best when you ghettoize the kids. If that’s the only place they see lights and guitars, they want it in church. If they are allowed to get it elsewhere, it’s less meaningful at church.

  10. Beautiful post. Here in the Albuquerque area, there is a strong sense of traditionalism coming from the youth, which in turn draws and brings together all ages. Young people memorize and study ancient Latin hymns and request that they be sung during Mass. Elderly people suddenly remember these hymns when they are sung and a sense of community across all ages is restored.
    A Pontifical High Mass was organized by a group of young men (laymen and seminarians) in their 20’s. The parish was packed. The fastest growing parishes are those who are getting back to their traditional roots. You will often find all ages attending these parishes. The ones stagnant in their growth are the parishes full of hippies who believe in the “Spirit of Vatican II.” These hippy parishes see little growth, are full of middle-age and elderly people, have low attendance at Daily Mass, and have limited confession times when compared to their traditional counterparts.
    There are a number of young seminarians, who have been studying in Rome, now being ordained priests. Their thorough education, youth, and zeal drive parishes to go back to traditional roots.
    At the university, self-organized Catholic clubs have sprung up under the guidance of traditional priests due to the lack of outreach from the liberal parishes for college students. The traditional Catholic clubs have been far more successful in evangelization in terms of numbers and retaining members than their liberal counterparts.

    • Now I realize why.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The ones stagnant in their growth are the parishes full of hippies who believe in the “Spirit of Vatican II.”

      Because nothing gets old-fashioned faster than Over-Relevance.

      Caught any Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In footage lately?
      (But then, Dan & Dick never had any pretensions of anything more than a current-events comedy revue.)

      These hippy parishes see little growth, are full of middle-age and elderly people, have low attendance at Daily Mass, and have limited confession times when compared to their traditional counterparts.

      Back in the Sixties there was this Science Fiction TV movie titled “LA 2017”, set in a future ecological-dystopia Los Angeles. At one point two characters pop into some sort of club to talk privately. Inside is loud Sixties acid rock, psychedelic light show, and a typical Sixties counterculture type band in full Haight-Ashbury drag. Then they do a close up on all the hippie types packing the club — and they’re all in their seventies and eighties, still dressed in love beads, tie-dye, and peace signs, still singing about Berkely and Hashburry and Sticking It To The Man and Dope is Groovy. Like they time-stopped but didn’t stop aging.

  11. I’ve been a Christian for 40 years ii’ve been through Hope Chapels, Calvary Chapels, AOG, SGM, Vineyard, EF Church, Southern Baptist, various non-denomination types, etc I’ve done several church plants. I’ve seen them start, and I have seen them die. But the most painful was a church I joined when it had 50 members. We built it to over 600. People were saved. People were healed. Lives were changed. Gods’ power was manifest in the meetings we had. People came from all around just for the worship. To shorten the story, after 15 years, the church was gone. Poor leadership Poor decisions. The church is forgotten now. It’s memory only lives on in the broken lives of those who were abandoned. Since the church was independent it had no moorings to historical church history It had no relation to the historic body of Christ. The bottom line is, its all about relationship. One to another. Body to body. Church to church. It’s about each part being connected to a whole. It’s all about being connected to the church universal. There are way to many lone rangers in the body of Christ. I know. I’ve met a lot of them. Hey HUG, you should like my post!

  12. Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

    Catholics are not the only Christians turning to traditional worship. In the Pensacola, Florida area, at least, there were a handful of Assemblies of God which marketed a “traditional” first-wave Pentecostal experience; with gospel music and congregational hymns instead of “Praise and Worship”, revivalistic, conversion-oriented preaching instead of third-wave shamanism. Interestingly, it draws a mix of generations. I thought it would be only the white-haired crowd, but younger Pentecostals seem to appreciate it as well.

    Even if the tradition is only a hundred years old, it is drawing better then ‘the latest thing’. This despite the presence of the Brownsville Revival and all of that.

    In Orlando, Florida, one of the fastest-growing PCA churches is one that self-consciously models its worship after the liturgy of the cathedral of Leiden during the so-called Second Reformation, and was investigating a capella psalmody. There are some mp3 files of Gaelic traditional psalmody here and there on the Internet. They’ll make the hair on your arms stand up.

    Six thousand people here in the Atlanta area participate in shaped-note hymnody choirs. Most of them are not churchgoers.

    Most evangelical churches I pass on the way to the Orthodox parish seem to have “Traditional” and “Contemporary” services, with the Traditional taking the 8:30 time slot and the Contemporary taking the more favored 10-11 time slot. I wonder what the demographics of those services are. What it reminds me of is when Coca-Cola reintroduced Coke “Classic” after it became apparent that New Coke had laid an egg. “Contemporary” services are so Boomer/Gen-X oriented that they are no longer ‘contemporary’ in any meaningful sense.

    I leave you with Virginia Woolfe, from Orlando:

    But the change did not stop at outward things. The damp struck within. Men felt the chill in their hearts; the damp in their minds. In a desperate effort to snuggle their feelings into some sort of warmth one subterfuge was tried after another. Love, birth, and death were all swaddled in a variety of fine phrases. The sexes drew further and further apart. No open conversation was tolerated. Evasions and concealments were sedulously practised on both sides. And just as the ivy and the evergreen rioted in the damp earth outside, so did the same fertility show itself within.

    • More facts to be ignored. The kids want rock shows. Thta’s how you appeal to the unsaved. It’s FOR THEM we are doing this!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Then why are these rock shows always Boomer Rock?

        Like reissues of Beatles White Album and early Rolling Stones for the nursing home set?

  13. I am Roman Catholic to the backbone, as was my father’s family for a thousand years. But my mother’s mother, of blessed memory, was a Southern Baptist. So, wanting to learn about her faith, I decided to go to the blogs of members of the SBC and learn from them directly. My first was a (and is) a wonderful site now called ‘Istoria’ and is managed by Wade Burleson, for whom I have great respect. When he had to close his blog for a while, I went to one called SBCvoices and eventually I was ‘confronted’ in this way:
    ” You know very well that “the gospel” is not the same as “The Gospels” – it would be good if you would not feign that confusion again.”
    Thing is, I didn’t ‘know very well’ such a thing and still consider the Good News to be announced in the sacred Scriptural gospels of the saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. As for the ‘biblical gospel’ that was ‘not the same’, I never did ‘get it’, no. Descriptions of it ‘vary’ greatly among those I have read about. That this ‘biblical gospel’ was described to me as ‘not the same’ as the canonical Gospels remains for me a puzzle I haven’t worked out in efforts to understand the reasons for that claim, but I don’t think they are good reasons at this point.

    A journey into discovery about Christians of other faiths can be uncomfortable, but it is worth it for what can be learned and gleaned about how these Christians directly share the ways their belief in Our Lord has been lived out. I will never regret undertaking that journey into attempting to meet and understand, especially in the case of my Southern Baptist grandmother’s ‘denomination’.

    • Christiane, high-church Protestants (like yours truly) get the same thing.

      I encounter all kinds of problems – in some places, with some people – when I mention that I’m a member of the ELCA. People see “evangelical” as pertaining exclusively to the evangelical movement, not to “of the gospel” or “of Christ.”

      I usually try to avoid having to explain that, because it can easily lead to confusion and hurt feelings.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > People see “evangelical” as pertaining exclusively to the evangelical movement,

        My Goodness! How possibly could people be confused about that?

        That “Evangelical” refers to the movement referring to itself as Evangelicalism. …

        >not to “of the gospel” or “of Christ.”

        These people are NOT confused – Evangelical refers to people associated with the Evangelical movement.

        The Gospel refers to the message of Christianity.

        (not((Evangelical|Evangelicalism)==Gospel))==True

        Those not associated with the Evangelical Movement who insist on calling themselves Evangelical are the ones who are very confused; and probably just very stubborn. And only confusing the matter.

        • You are technically incorrect here. “Evangelical” can be used to refer to Lutheranism. In my limited experience, when Germans here the term they just assume you are talking about Lutherans. In the US, “evangelical” originally referred to the broad Protestant movement ascendant after the Second Great Awakening. This would include the Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists. Both “mainline Protestantism” and “fundamentalism” grew from that tradition. In the middle of the twentieth century, neo-evangelicalism grew out of fundamentalism and presented a more moderate, ambitious face to that movement. The neo-evangelicals, however, soon claimed the term evangelical for themselves.

          You are correct, though, that neo-evangelicalism has for all practical purposes abducted the term. This necessitates any other use of the word, although correct, to be explained again and again.

          • Exactly, Danielle.

            Adam, I am Lutheran. The synod I belong to is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We are not part of what I’ll call the lowercase-e evangelical movement.

            I find your comment a little over the top and if you read here regularly, you’re already aware the Chaplain Mike is part of the ELCA.

            You can always click on CM’s link to the ELCA website (over on the far right side of the page) and get educated.

          • And so here we are, trying to explain this yet again.

            Which is why I usually try to avoid mentioning it if possible. I kinda thought it might not come up here. Oh well…

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > You are technically incorrect here.

            And it completely doesn’t matter – Language is not used technically except within academic/scientific spheres.

            Words and language are not static.

            > “Evangelical” can be used to refer to Lutheranism

            In 21st century America? Yes, someone can do that. It will be notably ineffective at communicating what you actually mean – and a fault of the speaker not the hearer. The purpose of language is communication.

            > Both “mainline Protestantism” and “fundamentalism” grew from that tradition

            Which is interesting…. to the historian and the linguist. Language is not a mausoleum.

            > This necessitates any other use of the word, although correct, to be
            > explained again and again.

            And most people won’t be interested in the explanation. And in written text the author is not there to explain – “Oh, what I really mean is…” A reasonable response to that is always “Then why didn’t you just say that?”

            Who hasn’t experience the agonizing experience of watching a well-intentioned academic speak academically to a general audience – and fail utterly. This is not the audience’s fault. The academic doesn’t [or refuses to – back to “stubborn”] actualize how language actually functions.

          • Adam – just give over. There’s nothing to argue about.

        • Re that comment from the SBC minister, this: “” You know very well that “the gospel” is not the same as “The Gospels” – it would be good if you would not feign that confusion again.”

          the strange is that even this minister KNOWS that Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were called ‘The Four Evangelists’

          surely that ‘biblical gospel’ of his must include much of their reporting or the entire Christian world would never have given them that title out of respect ?????

          no wonder I get confused . . . sometimes wandering into fundamentalist-conservative-Christianity is like falling down the rabbit hole where things are not at all what they seem to be. 🙂

          • A *lot* of common words are completely redefined in the context you mention, and it *is* like Alice’s experience in Wonderland, though not half so much fun.

            There are dictionaries, of course, with clear (often multiple) definitions, but I think people in many of the conservative churches never crack them open.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Even less fun:

            Screwtape wrote Wormwood about redefining common words into their “diabolical meanings”.

        • Btw I am neither stubborn nor confused, nor is my synod.

          Really, you went way too far in your response to me and I’m not exactly pleased with the tone.

  14. In addition to what numo wrote above re Mary, having a representation of her “front and center” is a very ancient practice. In Orthodox churches, everything about the physical building, including the architecture, points to the Incarnation as the ultimate Union of God and Man in our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ – which itself points to the End for which we were made: union with God. The icon of Mary with the Christ child known as “more spacious than the heavens” – either with the Christ child “enthroned” sitting on her lap or as blessing the whole world from within her womb (abstractly represented as a circle superimposed upon her body – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_the_Sign) – is always in the vault or otherwise on the wall or ceiling above the altar area. The message is not that Mary is equally as important as or more important than Jesus; rather, it is another representation of the Incarnation, and the proclamation that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh (1Jn 4.2-3).

    Crosses are prominent, both in the usual shape and in the decorative elements as abstract; we can’t escape them if we tried… There is usually a large icon of the Crucifixion in the north transept near the altar, which is called “The Golgotha.” There are other icons, both fresco and panel icons, of the Crucifixion at various other points in the church, and the placement of most of them is significant as well. In my church, the crucifixion fresco is above the Dormition (death as “falling asleep) of Mary on the back wall; we see it “coming and going” so to speak. The Cross is every bit as important, but with a much different emphasis than in churches where it is the only thing on the front wall.

    Here is a recent photo of the interior of my church:
    http://www.saintseraphim.com/images/2014%20St%20Seraphim%20Day%20July/13.jpg
    You can see the “more spacious” icon in the apse above the altar area. There are crosses at the center of the top of the iconostasis, and at the top of the center doors of the iconostasis. There are crosses sewn onto the paraments, and onto all the vestments; very often the cross form is woven into the design of the fabric of the vestment fabric itself. The Golgotha is at the bottom left.

    Here is a view of the frescoes that we see as we leave:
    http://www.saintseraphim.com/images/events/2012/Nina%20Antipovs%20100th%20Birthday%20and%20Transfiguration%20/DSC_0331.JPG

    Eventually all the white plaster will be frescoed. It is true fresco work, painting on the plaster while it is wet, not simply painting on the walls. Our fresco artist is a monk who lives in a monastery in a neighboring county. From start to finish, it will have taken more than 20 years. The dome, recently completed, took an entire year. Just about the only benefit of far-less-than-normal rainfall the past year was that the drier weather helped the fresco work go faster. http://www.saintseraphim.com/images/2014%20St%20Seraphim%20Day%20July/12.jpg

    The inscription around the Pantocrator (Christ the Ruler of All) is from Psalm 102: He hath looked out from his holy height; the Lord from heaven hath looked upon the earth, to hear the groaning of them that be in fetters. The context is vs 19-21. That context is what we are supposed to be aware of – that is the “theme” not only of the dome fresco, but of all of what we see around us in the church building. Sometimes on first entering an Orthodox Church building, the visuals can be overwhelming, but after having been there for nearly 6 years, it has become very cozy for me. When the dome was being frescoed, the iconostasis and many of the other icons had to be covered to protect them; it seemed very bare, like removing the family photographs and the pictures of my friends.

    Dana

    • Beautiful, Dana. Thank you for the pictures.

    • thank you so much for sharing this, DANA . . . so beautiful!

    • I am so very blessed to be able to worship in this space.

      D.

    • Dana,

      Your church is beautiful. Whenever I have the opportunity to see the “innards” of an Eastern Orthodox church I take it, the representation of the three fold purification/illumination/unity played out as part of the church’s architecture. If the priest is there that is an added bonus as I’ve had some wonderful discussions on the eastern point of view of Christian thought. I’ve had the most welcoming experiences from the Greek expression… the Serbian Orthodox tend to tie closer to culturalism and may be made up of a larger percentage of immigrants in my neighborhood, hence I find the group a bit more guarded.

    • I’d love to see your church in person, Dana! True fresco is rare, and it would be great to see the artist at work.

  15. The Force of Character (And the Lasting Life) by James Hillman is a fabulous look at the loss of our Elders. I cannot recommend it enough. From page 80:
    “The release from this effort may be one of the major blessings of aging, affording it an entirely outsider’s kind of wisdom. But we don’t ease into this blessing, this wisdom, without some agitation. You try vainly to regain the facility that puts a name to a face, to walk to the right door, to match a pair among the socks. When muddling begins, agitation follows. You feel like a child who can’t do it right, like an adult who is slipping. But you are not a clumsy child or an impaired adult. Like an ancestor you are beginning to grasp the world less personally, responding to impersonal and lasting essentials. When I was an adult, I spoke as an adult, I felt as an adult, I thought as an adult; now that I have become an ancestor I have put away all adult bothers. I will be agitated because the newspaper was brought in late, but I don’t care or even notice that it is yesterday’s edition.”
    The kind of insights that every excited, on fire, young gospel wielding hooligan could benefit from. The world does not need one more obese ego graduating seminary to share the life experience that in reality has hardly begun. For that we need elders. The young pastor has his critical role but without the wisdom of elders who willingly embrace their place, the church is subject to unnecessary folly.

  16. “The kind of insights that every excited, on fire, young gospel wielding hooligan could benefit from. The world does not need one more obese ego graduating seminary to share the life experience that in reality has hardly begun. For that we need elders.”

    Preach.

  17. It is my impression that many Baby Boomers are very much allergic to any slight hint of a liturgy in a church service. The attitude seems to be, if I really have Jesus in my heart, what use would I have reciting some old creed? Of course, I am in an area heavily influenced by fundamentalism, so that might color it. I have heard that young people – some of them – have a renewed interest in historical Christianity. But I have spoken with some Baby Boomers, admittedly of the evangelical to fundamentalist type, and they seem to think that in a liturgical church it is boring and the same thing every week and we don’t read the Bible.

  18. The biggest problem with having services and programs aimed at particular demographics isn’t so much that they judge the target audiences wrong (although I think they often do), or that the emphasis becomes “relevance” over substance (although it often does). To me, the most insidious thing about is the way it divides communities of people. There may be an argument to be made for presenting teaching and worship in a form to which people can relate. But even if they don’t know it, people have an equally great need for each other–and not just for their immediate peers. I’ve always enjoyed friendships with peers. But people in different age ranges have played just as great a role.

    It occurs to me that there are two places where those connections can develop. One are kin networks. Some of us are embedded in huge local kin networks, which makes for a readymade package (like it or not!). Others of us aren’t, so the next place where those connections can occur is in shared space or institutions. But if your spaces and your institutions are carved up along demographic lines, the chances for those connections diminishes. I would far prefer churches to a place where that happens.

    This is a tangent, but I almost wonder if Americans need a way to create informal local kin networks. When my husband and I found out we were expecting a baby, we had just moved to Baltimore. With a start, we realized that our both our families and our longer-term friendships were in different regions of the country. It was clear whom to make godparents from this far-removed network, but it also made sense to have someone local. But, on review, we didn’t know anyone all that well, although we were on friendly terms with new neighbors and workmates. In fact, we knew exactly one person who, upon finding the Zombie Apocalypse had begun, would be likely to come to our house and get our son. So we made him a godfather. This turned out to be a stroke of brilliance, because we lacked an abundance of local connections, and my son’s godfather is single. The result has been that we’ve kind of adopted each other. I’m not sure what the lesson to this is: Have more babies and find more fictional relatives? It certainly highlighted to us how often it is that people actually want more connections but simply don’t have them.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > This is a tangent, but I almost wonder if Americans need a way to create informal local kin networks.

      Simply, yes.

      > find more fictional relatives?

      That’s my advice.

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  20. This post is as relevant to today as it was then. One of the things I noticed when I visited my folks smaller Nazarene Church is how all ages came together as one family. It was beautiful to see.

  21. In Michael Bird’s review of the book “Evangelical versus Liturgical: Defying a Dichotomy” by Melanie C. Ross, Bird writes about Ross’ view:
    “…sacramentalism ought not to guide our ecclesiology, for the Gospel of John has significant insights into the doctrine of church without making the sacraments its centre. Indeed, “the Johannine/Synoptic relationship provides a promising ecumenical lens for understanding evangelicalism’s relation to liturgical Christianity” (p. 79). Drawing on Miroslav Volf, she also argues that there is something “existentially prior” to the construction of liturgy, namely the confession of faith (p. 86), with the “obligation of openness” identifying the church’s catholicity, not necessarily its textual forms (page 89). The goal of her argument is to try to find common ground: “Evangelical and liturgical scholars alike share a commitment to ecumenism, a nuanced understanding of Scripture that eschews fundamentalism, and a desire to think together about issues of ecclesiology and sacraments”

    I have yet to read the book, but I think it would be interesting if you did some posts on the book.

  22. “…can the Protestant Gospel offer the connection to God without the church in the role of mediator?”

    Short answer: yes.

    The problem is the symbols of Christianity neither connect us with God nor with each other; rather, they divide in both dimensions.

  23. The author of Evangelical is Not Enough is Thomas Howard. He had been raised evangelical but by the time he wrote the book he was Episcopal, and later became Roman Catholic.,

  24. Excellent book.