Monday, June 8, 2009

Turning the liturgical tide?

Over on Anglican Down Under I have posted a question about growing churches using the liturgy:

"do we have any parishes which are (a) growing numerically, and/or (b) decreasing the average age of Sunday worshippers present at services by faithfully following one of the main eucharistic services in our prayer book (while offering creativity in music, preaching, children's talks etc in the course of this faithful following of the rubrics and content of the liturgy)?"

So far no answers in the positive!

But here on this site it is worth thinking a little about using the liturgies from the Red Prayer Book (NZPB): if a parish were to use page 404 at its 10.00 am Sunday service and expect to see the service growing and/or lowering its average age of Sunday worshippers, how might this happen?

What answer would you give?

I suspect the answer might have to differ depending on the starting point. For example, from an existing but somewhat moribund page 404 10.00 am service, one could work on aspects of the service. As already hinted above, music and children's talks are key to transformation. Both tackle the culture of the service and therefore affect the climate of expectation about the service. One change could be quite simple, 'There's nothing in the service for my child' to 'Good, there is something for my child. She really looks forward to the children's talk each week.' There is a lot more which can be worked on: Sunday School, creche, fellowship before and after the service, the way the intercessions are led, the length, style, and content of the sermon, and so on.

With respect to the 'age profile' of the service I would especially work on the age profile of the upfront leaders and contributors to the service. From the front an expectation emerges about who is most welcome at the service. (Note that 'work on the age profile' does not mean making any one age group of contributors redundant; but it does mean pro-actively seeking out representatives from missing generations).

But what if the current service is somewhat liturgically removed from page 404? Would there be any point in changing such a service by conforming it to page 404? Well, it would be a hiding to nothing if the current service fills the church and the music in it lifts the rafters. But the possibility of change is manifesting itself in some parish churches where the church is far from full, the age profile is creeping upwards (again!), and the singing is somewhat desultory. But were change embarked on, it would require the best possible practice of the (so-called) change process. Slow evolution might be better than revolution. I would particularly work on the music, the children's talk, and the sermon.

And, in any situation, I would watch the length of the service like a hawke. Our generations, young and old, are busy (rightly or wrongly). We know when the service is meant to start. It is very helpful knowing when it is going to end!

1 comment:

liturgy said...

Thanks for this helpful thread, Peter.
I want to develop ideas from your points, and begin to do that here: