Monday, July 19, 2010

Bass guitar versus written liturgy

I am enjoying the opportunity Christchurch presents to participate in a large variety of evening services, something not possible in my previous diocese where (as far as I knew) only four parishes had regular evening services (though I understand the count is now up to five). Here in Christchurch city alone I have visited seven different evening services, and have at least four more to experience.

Most of the services I have been to are characterized by 'youth': youth band, youth led, even youth preachers, and lots of young people in the congregations.

It is very, very encouraging to see such a large number of young adults gathering in Christ's name to worship God and to listen to God's Word proclaimed.

Not unexpectedly most of the youth oriented services involve music bands, and the sound thumps along very nicely with bass guitar, drums, keyboard and (sometimes) an assortment of other instruments.

It may be me and the generation I grew up in, but I like this form of music, its rhythm and beat. It can transport me to heaven as well as a choir singing enchanted classical music accompanied by the organ.

Mostly, of course, the choral approach is associated with written liturgy: "Evensong" or "Choral Eucharist". Mostly the bass guitar approach is not. The songs are the liturgy. The bass guitar is the engine driving the soul heavenwards.

Ultimately the divide between the two forms can be reconciled in certain ways, not least though young people growing older and making transitions to written liturgies.

But not all make the transition. And it could be a mistake to extrapolate from "my" experience of growing older to this generation's youth and their likely future experience.

While I have argued previously here (and elsewhere) that current ACANZP's liturgical rubrics and canonical rules permits an extraordinary range of liturgical possibilities, I do continue to wonder if there is a way in which ACANZP might offer specific affirmation of the 'bass guitar' approach!


liturgy said...

There is a third approach (a via media?). Your post ties together "liturgy" and "written". I am interested in an approach that unlinks those two words, where "liturgy" is the worship of the Christian community - writing it down, is just writing down what happens. Certainly, our NZ Prayer Book uses the "reciting lovely poetic stuff to each other" = "liturgy" approach - but that is not the only approach. Had we produced a prayer book from our worship up, rather than from our poets down, we might very well be in a different place. And your issue about "transition" might very well have been a meaningless question.



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
Not so much to disagree with you but to keep reflecting ... what I am sometimes experiencing in the 'bass guitar" approach is a series of things (particularly songs) punctuated by speaking which may be as banal as 'Our next song is a cracker' and as profound as 'Let's sing of the deep love the Father has for each of us.' While neither is written down, and (arguably) both are 'liturgy', I would argue that the latter phrase is more likely to be retained and repeated regularly in worship services, perhaps even written down in a written form of worship service (that is, become 'written liturgy').

A transition issue does arise, I suggest, whether one is moving from informal to formal liturgy, from unwritten to written liturgy, or - case in point here - from "first thing which pops into my head" liturgy to something more considered, which reflects the liturgical mind of the church through the ages.

But I agree with your point that "writing" is just writing down what happens.

I suppose I am saying that some things which happen are better than others, at least in the sense that they are more likely to be shown appreciation by being repeated at a future date!

liturgy said...

I guess, Peter, in my (& young people's) experience of some (much?) "written"/"formal" liturgy - we also experience "Our next song is a cracker" type comments there. In fact regularly "written"/"formal" liturgy comes across as forced, artificial - being used "because it is there"/"because we are required to". So in "written"/"formal" liturgy we experience, "Oh I'm sorry, I'm on the wrong page", "Oh dear I clearly haven't used this service for a while", etc. type comments - those are the "realer" moments devaluing the "written"/"formal".

Don't know if this makes sense...


Peter Carrell said...

Unfortunately, Bosco, it makes perfect sense!!

I suppose then a distinction could be made between content of liturgies (exclusive of directions given and comments made), possible types being (i) written liturgies (ii) unwritten liturgies which are similar to written liturgies (e.g. because I am blessed with the ability to spontaneously verbalise prayers similar in quality to (good) written liturgies, (iii) liturgies composed of songs selected for the occasion, (iv) liturgies composed of regular songs for the occasion (i.e. daily office services) and (v), (vi) and so on!