Thursday, September 2, 2010

It can be done

If there is one thing I really admire about the Roman Catholic church it is the ability to have a full mass with hundreds of people present and participating in under an hour. Having experienced this on different occasions in different parishes in different dioceses I assume this is not merely about the efficiency of one or two priests but about a culture and a custom. True, the brevity of such services, relative to Anglican/Protestant equivalents, owes much to brief homilies, and another occasion could discuss the merits of short versus longer sermons. But brief homilies is not the only explanation. It is rare, in my experience, to sing long songs/hymns (let alone turgid ones) in Roman services. We Anglicans could consider whether we are insufficiently vigilant about the length of songs/hymns, especially ones set to unattractive tunes. Prayers of the faithful are normally pretty crisp too. And, not to put too fine a point on the matter, there is rarely fluffing about with flicking through pages of prayer books and the like, or longish directions about this or that.

It is not so much that I think God is better served by shorter worship services than longer ones: one day the whole of everlasting life will be a (timeless) worship service! And I have experienced plenty of great services that last longer than an hour but which are superbly led on the basis of great preparation. But having also participated in some services which seem to 'drag' as they 'meander' through bits and bobs of service items, I do wonder if God is better served by his people being able to attend fully to all that constitutes a worship service because nothing makes our finite, all too earthbound bodies and brains tired, wearied, or simply distracted.

1 comment:

liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

I’m totally with you on this one.

Last week I presided at a Choral Eucharist. The community numbered about 500. The choir is 85. About a half or so of the community communicate.

We had opening hymn, normal liturgy, choir kyries (certainly not brief - from Messe Cum Jubilo by Durufle), sung Gloria, chanted psalm between readings, sermon, silent time for reflection, prayers, offertory & hymn, Mass parts & Lord’s Prayer sung, two pieces from the choir during & after communion, final hymn, sung Amen, processional & recessional…. all within 50 minutes.

There is certainly no reason to rush – but you are right, so many Anglican services appear to be rehearsals, rather than the actual worship service.