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Reviving our church: Budde interview kickstarts conversation

Reviving our church: Budde interview kickstarts conversation

Lisa Miller’s recent story on Bishop Mariann Budde of the Diocese of Washington has kicked off some interesting conversation in the On Faith section of The Washington Post’s website.


In this essay, the Rev. Bill Tully, rector of St. Bartholomew’s in New York City, and former rector of St. Columba’s in Washington writes about the Episcopal Church’s resistance to change:

Progressive in doctrine, Episcopalians (and our “mainline Protestant” peers) are often deeply traditional. We’re good at liturgy and music, and at bringing authentic ritual to life’s rites of passage, but we get fussy and downright implacable if someone tries to change our ways. We find acceptance and a sense of grounding in our local congregations-and those are truly good things-and then cling to the Way We’ve Always Done Things until we begin boring people to death, or running them off, and wake up to find ourselves to small to thrive. ….

Episcopalians are the ultimate and extreme “legacy church.” No matter how committed the local rector is to change, no matter how deft she or he is in managing it, there is a huge and nearly immovable weight of tradition. Some of it is so good that it might- rightly reinterpreted and freshened- be the way forward to real growth in size and health. But it takes a lot of energy. We almost inevitably tilt backward for every step and a half we take forward.

In a related essay, the Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd, III, former dean of Washington National Cathedral, and now priest in charge at Trinity, Copley Square in Boston, writes:

I

n Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, and other mainline churches, “worship wars” have sometimes broken out as pastors introduce new language, furniture arrangements, and music, while many in the pews cling to the stately traditions they have known all their lives. I’m finding that quite a number of young people aren’t drawn to hand clapping and “praise” music and are increasingly intrigued by the beauty and sense of mystery in Gregorian chant and in a traditional Eucharist with hymns, candles, and vestments.

I’m seeing churches growing because they are providing clear, engaging sermons and classes teaching the basics of the faith. I’m seeing urban churches taking on new life as they welcome new immigrant communities in their neighborhoods.

It’s a yeasty time. Christianity is being reinvented. My guess is that it will get smaller for awhile. Many churches built in the religious boom years of the last century will close. There will be tensions between experimenters and traditionalists. Denominational loyalty will continue to fade. But fresh ways of blending the old and the new will continue to emerge. And yet again an ancient protean faith will find new forms.

What new forms is our “protean faith” finding in your neighborhood?

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Weiwen Ng

Due to dissatisfaction with the current worship opportunities in the Episcopal churches near me, I’ve not been into church. But I can tell you what I’m drawn to.

I am not drawn to modern praise music in the style used by many Evangelicals, as I find the theology expressed in the music simplistic. I am, however, drawn to more modern expressions of worship. Clapping, being more emotionally demonstrative during the service – both of those draw me in, and they are traits of modern Evangelical music as well as music in the historically Black churches.

I am not drawn to most of the hymns in the 1982 Hymnal, though. They’re too stiff. I’ve also been in more than one sparsely populated church where the organ is overwhelmingly loud. I detest that when it happens – I feel that the congregation’s voices, not the organ, should be the centerpiece.

It is possible to blend a more modern, global music style with the sense of timelessness found in the lyrics in the ’82 Hymnal. The Taize chants and John Bell do this very well, as do many modern Roman Catholic hymns. Wonder Love and Praise, from what I’ve heard, does OK as well.

Not being Black myself, I find that LEVAS is not a 100% fit for me. That said, there are a number of songs I like from there, but only the title Hymn should be played on the organ. For everything else, use the piano or go a capella. As I alluded to earlier, I think many congregations would do well to take some lessons from LEVAS’s worship style.

I think that Samuel Lloyd is correct that denominational loyalties will fade, and that fresh forms of worship will continue to emerge. I’d urge Episcopalians who are drawn to more traditional worship to recognize that the church as a whole needs to create room for experimental worship styles. Allowing room for experimentation does NOT mean we want to abolish traditional worship right away. It means that we’re going to let our faith evolve. I think the most meaningful worship styles will be blends of the old and the new.

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