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?
“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!