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:
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?