Church of England Resurrects Tradition to Attract Millennials • ChurchLeaders.com

 

In the past we’ve touched on the delicate balance that churches must maintain while appealing to millennials without pandering or changing theology. But what if we’re focusing our efforts in the wrong places?

What if the loud music and fog machines are actually clouding the Holy Spirit and preventing people from connecting with God? What if, instead of adapting to a modernized culture with our church services, we kicked it old school?

Source: Church of England Resurrects Tradition to Attract Millennials • ChurchLeaders.com

“Well, that’s exactly what the Church of England is doing. Despite growing secularism in the country, the church has seen attendance grow over the past several years with the help of a centuries-old liturgical tradition: Evensong. Choral Evensong is an evening prayer service that is delivered mostly through song, offering a restful, reflective time to worship God and pause from the busy-ness of life. The choir performs live and is often highly skilled and well-trained…

“Neil McCleery, assistant chaplain at one of Oxford’s oldest chapels, recently said it is rare to see attendance below 150 at a weekend evensong, contradicting the idea that church is facing inevitable decline. Many clergy like McCleery see this as an opportunity to draw more people into a relationship with the church.

“‘We get a lot of people who perhaps come to faith or return to faith by being drawn into that worship experience,’ he said. ‘I do wonder if it might be related to the trend for mindfulness in this era where we are constantly bombarded from the Internet, from media, from mobile, which are hard to get away from.

“The varied musical forms and passages of spoken liturgy mixed with moments of contemplative silence lends balance and completeness to the form of the service, according to ChoralEvensong.org. The high percentage of music is what distinguishes it from other church services for most people and appeals to locals and tourists alike.”

Well, who’d-a thunk it…?

“So what can we learn from this unforeseen surge in attendance in the otherwise post-Christian culture of the U.K.? With millennials leaving the church and a severe decline in denominational membership in America, perhaps returning to a disciplined, reverent worship service would have newcomers lining up to get inside the doors of our churches rather than exiting through them en masse.”

I have said on a number of occasions and in a number of ways – both on and off this forum – that a culture, or a Church, is like a tree: separated from its roots, it is more likely to wither than to experience life and growth. Restoring that connection – grafting it back onto the living “stump” with its extensive root system – may well restore that life and growth.

And while our goal, as Christians, should always be to worship God, first and foremost, and then seek to edify the faithful – not necessarily to “attract” any particular demographic group – I am living proof that faithfully-rendered Anglican liturgy can be a powerful tool of evangelism, including and perhaps even especially to young people seeking a firm place to stand.

I myself can trace my entry into the Anglican tradition (from Methodism, which granted is not so far afield as some) to the experience of the liturgy – in my case, the Daily Office of Morning Prayer – back in 1989, at the age of 24.

So I do not find this the least bit surprising!

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Michaelmas; a sonnet for St. Michael the Archangel | Malcolm Guite

Continuing my sequence from Sounding the Seasons, the collection of my sonnets for the church year, published by Canterbury Press, the 29th September brings us the feast of St. Michael and All Angels which is known as Michaelmas in England, and this first autumn term in many schools and universities is still called the Michaelmas term.

Source: Michaelmas; a sonnet for St. Michael the Archangel | Malcolm Guite

Today, September 29th, being Michaelmas – the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels – in the Western Christian calendar, here is a Michaelmas sonnet by the inestimable Malcolm Guite. Includes both the written sonnet, and a recitation of it by Malcolm, a priest in the Church of England, and a gifted poet. With commentary, including this excellent short sketch of Michael (whose name means “Who is like God?”) himself:

“The Archangel Michael is traditionally thought of as the Captain of the Heavenly Host, and, following an image from the book of Revelation, is often shown standing on a dragon, an image of Satan subdued and bound by the strength of Heaven. He is also shown with a drawn sword, or a spear and a pair of scales or balances, for he represents, truth, discernment, the light and energy of intellect, to cut through tangles and confusion, to set us free to discern and choose.”

Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester, 1626 | For All the Saints

A devoted scholar, hard-working and accurate, and a master of fifteen languages, Lancelot Andrewes was renowned for his learning and for his preaching, and was a seminal influence on the development of a distinctive reformed Catholic theology in the Church of England.

Source: Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester, 1626 | For All the Saints

A man whose memory I hold in the highest esteem!
 
“Andrewes was one of the principal influences in the formation of a distinctly Reformed Catholic Anglican theology, which in reaction to the rigidity of the Puritanism of his time, he insisted should be moderate in tone and catholic in content and perspective. Convinced that true theology must be built on sound learning, he cultivated the friendship of such divines as Richard Hooker and George Herbert, as well as of scholars from abroad…
 
“Andrewes held a high doctrine of the Eucharist, emphasizing that in the sacrament we receive the true Body and Blood of Christ, and he consistently used sacrificial language of the rite. He desired the Church of England to express its liturgy in ordered ceremonial and in his own chapel used the mixed chalice (wine and water), incense, and altar-lights (candles).”
 
He is also the man responsible for perhaps the clearest and most concise description of the doctrinal standards held by classical Anglicanism:
 
“One canon [of Scripture] reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period – the centuries that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith.”

 

How a Protestant Spin Machine Hid The Truth About The English Reformation – Dominic Selwood

Source: How a Protestant Spin Machine Hid The Truth About The English Reformation – Dominic Selwood

I should probably wait until 23 May to post this… but undoubtedly other things will have come up by then to distract me, or eclipse the event. So I shall post it now, while it is fresh in my mind.

I am an Anglican, and I greatly value the Anglican tradition. But I am also a medieval scholar, both by academic training and avocation, and so I am not ignorant about what that Anglican tradition replaced.

And I have read Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars, so I am also not ignorant of how it replaced that medieval tradition of popular Christianity, developed over a full millennium. This essay, however, stands out as a concise yet thorough depiction – and, it must be said, just indictment – of that process.

It is significant both for its own merits, so that one is able to understand and evaluate this period with open eyes, and also as a cautionary tale for what could happen again, as we make our way through the present destruction of historical statues, removal of historic flags and other iconography, and revision of historic understandings of our past.

Wherever one may stand on the age-old (well, at least five century old) conflict between Roman Catholicism and Reformation, one must – or at least, in my opinion, should – ask oneself: is this really the model we wish to adopt? Is this really the path we want to go down?

Personally, and emphatically, I think not.

What Catholics Lost When They Started Tearing Down Their Great Altars

If the grand altars are at their core outward signs of inward devotion, what does it say about plain altars that more resemble a table than a temple?

Source: What Catholics Lost When They Started Tearing Down Their Great Altars

I am an Anglican, and a member of a fairly “low-church” continuing (traditional) Anglican jurisdiction. But I find a lot to agree with in this essay! Christianity is an Incarnational (and therefore embodied) religion. Therefore, aesthetics – and the incorporation (there’s that body thing again… corpus) of all the senses and the whole physical person, not just the mind, heart, and spirit, into the liturgy – matter.

Get too simplistic, too “Protestant,” and you are beginning to get too close to a form of quasi-Gnostic devaluation of the physical, the material, in favor of the spiritual and intellectual.

And that can lead to a devaluation – however unintentional and subconscious – not only of God’s proclamation that the things He created are good (however marred by human sin), but of the Incarnation itself, in which Jesus the Christ, the Incarnate Word of the Father, indissolubly joined Himself to matter in His own person.

Sure, it’s possible to get too gaudy, and too focused on the external (material) elements of the faith. I am very well aware of that. As in most other areas of life, a balance is called for. But we should never forget the definition of a sacrament: an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Without the outward and visible, are we losing important markers pointing toward the inward and spiritual?

Our Lord Jesus Christ was unique in being fully God and fully Man. But we humans, made in the image of God, comprise a spiritual nature which is nonetheless incarnate (the word means “enfleshed”) in a physical, sensory body, living in a physical, sensory world. We neglect either of these aspects, the physical or the spiritual, at our peril.

The design of churches is one – only one, but an important one – aspect of this. As this essay points out,

The physical design of old churches was meant to dictate several things: ornate artwork on the walls, domes, and arches was meant to pull the eye upward and spark meditation on the divine mysteries, the altarpiece was placed in the apse to orient the congregation properly, and incense was meant to draw together and sanctify the individual properties into one event. That sort of order and hierarchy has been misplaced and is often focused inward, not upward… it is important to remember that how a building is designed is integral to its function.

And the function of a church building is, or should be, to orient the congregation toward God. Not toward itself (or ourselves), not toward the priest: toward God. And the design of the building, including any artistic elaborations – and of course, the liturgy itself – should lead the eyes, the other senses, and through them, the heart, mind, and spirit of the worshipers, God-ward. If that is not happening, something is missing.

And all too often, in today’s churches, it seems that something is indeed missing.

That is not to say that magnificent, ornate altars are guaranteed to focus the attention and lift the spirit of worshipers toward God, or that simple, plain ones cannot do the same. And the same is true of church interiors generally. But generally speaking, we devote time, attention, energy, and yes, money on what is important to us. That is simple human nature.

So, where is our focus? What does the construction of our churches – and of our liturgies – tell us about that focus? I can’t begin to provide a definitive answer to that question; it varies with each church, each congregation, each minister. But it’s something worth thinking about!

Dear Traditional Worshipers: How Do We Find Our Way?

It’s not about sentimentality. It’s not about taste or preference. It’s about meaning.

Source: Dear Traditional Worshipers: How Do We Find Our Way?

“It’s devastating to see what’s happened to worship in the church… The blindness surrounding the issue is astounding. The insistence that the common trends of the day are most fitting for public worship is wrong and short-sighted. It’s [grievous] that most churches now let Christians choose to not learn the historic creeds, or the great tradition of hymns and songs, or the great privilege of praying together and reading Scripture together. The commercialization of our sacred time, well, it’s nothing short of tragic…

“[But] it’s not enough to say ‘we like [traditional worship].’ That doesn’t matter. The worst thing that ‘contemporary worship’ did when it came on the scene was to promote itself as just another worship option, and then get away with labeling the liturgy as a choice, also. When we make the conversation about preference, we don’t get anywhere… It’s not about sentimentality. It’s not about taste or preference. It’s about meaning. So maybe we need to rethink our plan of action…

A lot of wisdom, here, in my opinion.

John Mason Neale, Presbyter and Hymnodist, 1866 | For All the Saints

Neale was both a scholar and a creative poet whose skills in composing original verse and in translating Latin and Greek hymns into fluid and effective English verse were devoted to the Church. Composer of many original hymns and translations, he greatly enriched English hymnody.

Source: John Mason Neale, Presbyter and Hymnodist, 1866 | For All the Saints

“His Hymns of the Eastern Church (1862) included a number of Easter hymns, and their inclusion in a number of English hymnals introduced an important Eastern emphasis on the Resurrection into Anglican worship. Despite his poor health he was a prolific writer and compiler as well, and his output included such works on hymnody as Medieval Hymns and Sequences and [the aforementioned] Hymns of the Eastern Church as well as Liturgiology and Church History and a four volume commentary on the Psalms.

“He also founded, with longtime Cambridge friend and colleague Benjamin Webb, the Cambridge-Camden Society, later known as the Ecclesiological Society, the arm of the Oxford Movement devoted to recovering (sometimes going behind historic precedent) Catholic practice in Anglican church architecture, vestments, and liturgical acts.

“Gentleness combined with firmness, good humor, modesty, patience, devotion, and ‘an unbounded charity’ describe Neale’s character. Though he never received preferment in England, his contributions were recognized in the wide inclusion of his hymns in Anglican and other hymnals and in such actions as the presentation to him by the Metropolitan of Moscow of a rare copy of the Old Believers’ liturgy. He died on the Feast of the Transfiguration in 1866, having left a lasting mark on worship in the English-speaking world.

“Most hymnals since the late nineteenth century have included many of Neale’s compositions and translations. ‘Come, ye faithful, raise the strain,’ ‘Creator of the stars of night,’ ‘All glory, laud, and honor,’ ‘Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle,’ ‘Jerusalem the golden,’ and ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’ are just a few of the hymns that will long remain in the corpus of English hymnody.”