February 15, 2017

Answering Objections To "High-Church" Liturgy

A common objection to high church liturgy (Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox) is that it's just too hard to follow. Curious, I did a little research on average reading levels: 8th grade; and the reading levels of popular authors: 3rd - 8th grades. No surprise here.

Then I ran the liturgy through a reading level checker, expecting to get maybe 12th grade. To my great surprise I got 4th grade. I ran various portions of the liturgy separately and got 3rd - 5th grades.
I think the objection has more to do with attention span than difficulty. And to the fact that many people would rather watch a performance than perform the work (liturgy) of worship themselves.

Another objection: "Why are you stuck in the medieval period?" The liturgies are not from the medieval period but are authentic attempts to reproduce and preserve, best we can, the liturgies of the church from the earliest period. In fact, the same basic patterns can be traced even to Old Testament worship. And, while the traditions may be modified (Article 34 of our 39 Articles), we're pretty serious about holding to the Apostolic traditions we've inherited (2 Thes. 2:15) vs. reinventing the wheel.

"Can't invite unbelievers" is another common objection. We don't believe the Sunday worship experience is for unbelievers but believers; small groups is where we seek to reach unbelievers. In fact, the early church often prohibited unbelievers or dismissed them before the Eucharist.

For the believers, the repetition of the liturgy is important. Another common objection: "Okay already! Why do we repeat the same things every week? I think I've got it, let's move on." Two reasons: First, you don't have it until it oozes from your soul even in your sleep--it's formative. And this is very important, as philosopher Jamie Smith, Peter Leithart, and others demonstrate. Second, even if you've got it, your kids don't have it yet, neither do the people who just joined us last week, or the people who will join us next week.

By the way, for anyone who's not up on all this, the liturgies are 70% Scripture and the other 30% are prayers and the earliest creeds, the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed.

Finally, consider this: the Catholic church is BY FAR the largest church in the world, the Orthodox church is second, and the Anglican church is third. Together, "high" churches make up the vast majority of Christians around the world. And the Anglican church is largest on the African continent, the Orthodox church in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the Catholic church in Latin America and Western Europe. So maybe the high-church liturgies are not as offensive as we think. It seems to be only in America where this is so, which raises other questions that are beyond my pay grade.

No comments:

Post a Comment