Monday, March 23, 2009

McPartlanization of the Church (?!)

John Drane once wrote a provocative book about how the church in the late modernist, early post-modernist period was being constrained by the culture of mediocrity - the culture that leads to the churning out of formulaic products, consistently of the same quality everywhere, such as ultimately boring hamburgers was churning out analogous worship services. It was called the McDonaldization of the Church. Hence my playful title, but this has serious intent. Dr McPartlan is a top Catholic theologian who might just come from the 'nowhere' of congregational ignorance (though he is not unknown 'to those who matter') to be the next Archbishop of Westminster. Ruth Gledhill has posted an excerpt of a book he has written on the Eucharist which is worth re-posting here on a site devoted to things to do with corporate worship:

"'The Eucharist renews the very gift that makes us to be the Church, and it follows that the community dimension of the Eucharist is of the utmost importance.

It is really communities, and ultimately the Church as a whole, that receives the Eucharist, not just lots of individuals. We should always be conscious of those with whom we receive; the Eucharist renews our life as brothers and sisters, caring for one another and working together to bear witness to the communion life of the Kingdom of God.

Our life in Christ begins, of course, with baptism, and people sometimes think that an emphasis on the Eucharist as making the Church detracts from the importance of baptism in making the Church. We must avoid any such impression.

Baptism and Eucharist are both given to us by Christ and therefore there can never be any rivalry between them. Rather we must understand how they fit together.

What baptism begins in us, the Eucharist renews, strengthens and sustains. For instance, in every Eucharist we are washed by the blood of the Lamb, as it says in Revelation 7:14; it is a washing that renews the washing in water that we received in baptism. We must never forget that there is forgiveness in the Eucharist, particularly expressed when we receive under both kinds and drink from the cup of the Lord. In a sense, the Eucharist keeps the grace of our baptism fresh in us until the moment when it is consummated at our death."

The book is The Eucharist: The Body of Christ (though I note that he has also written The Eucharist Makes the Church). Both available from Amazon.

For what it is worth, I think Dr McPartlan is right. The eucharist makes the church for it both defines and nurtures our life as a community in Christ. When some of us worry about the future of the church, do we pay too much attention to statistics, 'future trends', blah, blah, and overlook the eucharist: how we lead it, promote it, honour it's role in the life of the church, attend to its good ordering (finding priests, baptising and confirming people), challenging ourselves to (re-)discover and then maintain the highest possible standards of Ministry of the Word and Ministry of the Sacrament?

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