The turning over of traditional tables

May 13, 2011

Speaking to a professor at Liberty
University, Frederica Mathewes-Green was surprised to find out that the
professor and some of the young people at Liberty were going to a Celtic
liturgical service at a local Baptist church (link;
relevant conversation starts at the 28:50 mark). The professor related
that the baby-boomers wanted the contemporary worship—with guitars and
drums—while the young people of the church were willing to go to the
7:30am service on Sunday morning for a traditional Celtic service. Even
more, these young Baptists were asking for intercession and litany.

Recently, in the 50th issue of RELEVANT, many of the faith trends
the magazine summarized in coverage of their publishing history dealt
with a return to liturgy, ancient-future worship and spiritual
disciplines. There has been a huge surge in liturgical interest among
young people like myself that Christian media has really picked up on.

The Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers see this as a “trend.” It’s something
that young people are into, like Arcade Fire, Invisible Children, social
justice or Tom’s Shoes. In part, it’s seen as “cool” or “hip.” They see
a return to liturgy as a turning over of traditional evangelical or
low-church Protestant tables. It’s a way to stick it to the man or not
be part of the status quo.

I do agree that this liturgical, ancient-future worship movement is a
turning over of traditional tables. But, this turning over of tables is
not a spilling over of  a century’s worth of low-church Protestantism
as the table is flipped over. Instead, this movement is a return to the
center. It’s a journey back home. It’s a realization that almost 2,000
years of vibrant Christian worship had been totally eclipsed and stuck
in closets or the histories found in dusty theological books.

This movement of my generation is a turning over of traditional
tables: but we’re not flipping them over and sticking it to our parent’s
and grandparent’s generation. We’re righting the tables. We’re dusting
them off and putting the chairs back under it.

Liturgy isn’t cool. It holds no cultural currency or hipster value.
Liturgy isn’t valuable. It’s old enough to be in the public domain,
which means you can’t make any money off of it. Liturgy isn’t special.
It’s not something that is canonical or God breathed.

Instead, let me say that liturgy is true and peculiar. It is the oral
tradition of a peculiar people that, while changing over several
hundred years, has been solely focused on instilling spiritual
disciplines and practices in a worshiping people of God so that they can
be God’s mission and see his kingdom come. Is there no greater reason
than that to right the table?

Originally posted at Everyday Liturgy.


Like the Liturgy

While I'm definitely older than the "young" LU students of the article, and despite a solidly low-church Pente-Baptist background, I welcome the embrace of Liturgy. One of my favorite private reads is a collection of Puritan prayers, especially Spiritus Sanctus - a stirring-convicting prayer that's easily searchable on the internet. Most liturgy is strongly doctrinal, which can't be said for much free-form contemporary preaching. I don't advocate a return to a catechism, but liturgy can be a great doctinal aid. I enjoyed the read, and will be listening for more movement in the liturgical trend. Blessings, Larry