Monday, 5 November 2012

All age family worship - "pandering to perceived "market" sensibilities?"

'All age family worship' (if we must use the modern jargon) is the mass, of course....
But I was struck by this post by Bishop Daniel Martins, himself under threat, it seems, from the totalitarian tendency within TEC in the United States. 
It's water in the desert to hear a bishop (and an Anglican bishop at that) make sense on this particular subject, rather than merely repeat the conventional wisdom of the need to regard our worship as primarily a shop window for the unchurched, and accordingly to transform the liturgy into a branch of the light entertainment industry. 
It always seems an uphill battle talking to some of our clergy and laity about this, and to try to get them at least to consider the point that regarding an hour on on a Sunday morning (designed for something else entirely - the offering of the sacrifice for the living and the dead) as our main evangelistic endeavour is both complacently lazy, and depressingly unconscious of the real problems of proclaiming the Gospel in today's culture:
" I'm now just about confident enough to say it outright: the Sunday Eucharist is not for visitors or guests in general, and certainly not for "seekers." We need to stop thinking of the Sunday Eucharist as a potential new member's first point of contact with the Christian community. That is a huge horse pill for us to swallow, because it contradicts all of our instincts; it is completely counter-intuitive. But if we look at that horse pill askance, that's a sign that we're still mentally in Christendom, and have not downloaded the new post-Christendom mental map. Making our buildings and services more "welcoming" to visitors made perfect sense in the old order, when not everybody went to church, but most everybody at least had a particular church that they didn't go to. It is close to completely incoherent in the post-Christian world.
The truth is, if a visitor walks into the Sunday Eucharist "cold," with the little or no prior knowledge of Christian faith or Christian worship, and does not find what goes on confusingly boring at best, and quite possibly offensive, then we're probably not doing it well enough! We've probably unwittingly dumbed it down, pandering to perceived "market" sensibilities.
So, yes, as Matt Marino says, the invitation before us is to make the mental shift from "they come to us" to "we go to them." The invitation before us is for our celebrations of the Eucharist to have more integrity and vitality than ever, not so they can be more attractive to newcomers, but so the baptized faithful can be adequately fed and energized for the work of mission and ministry in the world. None of this will be easy. It runs counter to anything most brands of Christian, especially my own, have any accumulated experience or wisdom about. A friend remarked to me today that the advent of the post-Christian era is either a catastrophe or an opportunity. If we deny it, and live mentally in a bygone time, it's a catastrophe. But if we acknowledge it, and gear up for bearing witness to gospel in the actual world we live in, letting go of the privileged status we are still tempted to think is owed to us, it can be a tremendous opportunity.
Read it all here 

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