Yes, young people do like traditional liturgy

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By Luiz Coelho

I can still remember quite vividly the Saturday before the end of the Lambeth Conference, where I served as a steward. We were invited to a special plenary session at which bishops and their spouses had the opportunity to talk to some of us concerning why we, as young people, still wanted to be members of the Church (In fact, my estimate is that around half of us are following the ordination path and most of the others are actively involved in some sort of Church ministry). It is no secret that churches in general (especially in Western societies) are increasingly losing members of young age, and I could understand that for many of those bishops, it was very vital to hear the voice of the those young women and men who seemed to be so proud of their faith. Maybe what they had to say would help them rescue the unchurched and provide stable growth to their dioceses.

We had, unfortunately, very little time, and only four stewards (out of almost sixty) were chosen to speak for us. They did a good job, but some points, in my opinion, were not touched at all. And since I am in my late twenties, and can still be considered a young adult, I think it would be a good idea to push this conversation forward and foster a discussion on one of the aspects I see young adults articulating more and more interested in: traditional liturgy. And, I fear, many of our bishops have not realized the incredible potential behind this single fact.

The Lambeth Stewards’ Program helped me catch a glimpse of Anglican Youth worldwide. We came from many different countries, backgrounds and social statuses, and we comprised two main generational groups (18-25 and 25-35). However, I noticed that many of us shared a very distinct appreciation for traditional liturgy. Moreover, a disproportional percentage among us -if compared with the amount of parishes compatible with such worldviews- were especially fond of Anglo-Catholic liturgy and ancient Church Music. Yes, I know many probably think we were just “Church nerds”, but these numbers match somehow the data I had before from Episcopal/Anglican youth both in Brazil and in the USA.

What I perceive more and more is that a sizable amount (and in some environments, the majority) of us prefers “old-fashioned” liturgy, and it is not rare to find youth discussing the beauty of an east-facing Mass, the dignifying simplicity of Anglican chant or the pity that Festal Evensong is almost unheard of nowadays. It may also come as a surprise for some to learn that such an interest in traditional liturgical matters is not necessarily attached to conservatism. In fact, among young adults it usually holds hands with an inclusive and socially liberal, yet credal, theology. Even in the few cases where I have ran into theologically conservative and liturgically traditionalist young Anglicans, they have seemed to me to be much more charitable to divergent ideas and more apt to accepting diversity, or even a peaceful co-existence in different Churches, or Church bodies.

One reason behind the popularity of this “movement” among young people is simple, and Derek Olsen beautifully opened the discussion here. I would add a second thought, though; many young Anglicans are attracted to traditional liturgical forms because they offer stability. We have been born in a fast-paced world, and in a short period of time have seen the rise and fall of countries, regimes, technologies, musical styles, fashion trends and even Church movements. At the same time, most of the cultural norms our mothers and fathers fought to liberalize do not apply to us anymore, and only God knows how they are going to be within some years. The world is freer, and it is changing so fast that sometimes it seems to be in a free-fall. The Church, to many of us, is the last glimpse of stability that exists in this post-modern society, and the certainty that its language has managed to be the same for all these years is a key factor for two reasons (among several):

– First, it puts us in an (even more) special relationship with the Communion of Saints, who throughout the ages have used the same responses, anthems and hymns to worship the Triune God;

– Second, because it is a wonderful metaphor of God’s unchanging love and care for humankind. No matter what happens – hunger, fear, war, depression or loneliness – the Church, our safe refuge, will be there with a very familiar and easily recognizable embrace expressed in its magnificent and Christ-centered liturgy.

A year ago I had long, straight and dark brown hair. Eventually I had it cut at a very nice salon in Midtown Atlanta, and got a spiky longish bang, with copper brown highlights. Some months later, while in Rio, I had it cut again, and now I walk around with this funky faux-hawk which puzzles people when they see me – “I know him from somewhere, but I can’t remember who he is…” I was different, but my home parish, the Church of the Redeemer in Rio, was the same when I went there after months in the US. It had the same smell of incense permeating the air, the same red old carpet spanning across the aisle, the same velvet curtains, and even the same 15-minute delay which is so common in Brazil. I opened the same blue 1962 hymnal and was blessed by having my favorite hymn, number 238, as sequence (lyrics by a deceased Brazilian priest, based on the icon of Christ in Majesty, adapted to the tune Kingsfold). I knelt and received the Most Holy Sacrament. They were singing Pange Lingua and, of course, I cried (as usual). It is impossible not to. That was home; that was my family in Christ. Yes, I changed; the people in that church also changed; even the priest changed… but those special moments did not. They reassured me of Christ’s eternal love and majesty, the same way they did to me one year ago, to my relatives decades ago, and to the uncountable brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the ages.

What would my reaction have been if I had been presented to a completely different liturgy, with elements from the so-called “pop culture” such as a rock band, drums or new age music? What if the solid and still stable pews had been removed and substituted by folding chairs arranged in a totally different pattern? What if the hymnal, which consolidates centuries of good and theologically profound Church music, had been substituted by the newest folk songs du jour, which are likely not to be known ten years from now? What if my referential, one of the few stable elements of my world, had completely changed? I guess it would have been a calamity to me.

Yet, this is probably the most often heard “solution” for the “problem” of declining youth attendance in our Church.

Personally, I do not think that many kinds of alternative worship -provided it has a good theological background and is offered with a contrite heart- are inferior in God’s sight to traditional liturgy. I even enjoy some of the more “contemporary” liturgies under certain circumstances (such as camps or retreats). I respect those who have found their way with Christ through such liturgical styles, and wholeheartedly support the existence of such groups in Anglicanism, provided they somehow find a way of keeping the common prayer tradition and abide by our doctrines of faith and Church governance. And I can say that many young people agree with me in those points, and that, yes, there are youth involved in those “contemporary” groups.

However, this is not what all young people expect from Church, and I am afraid that many of us are looking for something much more ancient and rich in historical heritage. Can I cite statistics? No, I do not have them, but of course I am a young adult, and naturally I hang out with young people and most of my friends are in the 20-40 age range. This is a very eclectic generation, in my opinion, and it is not rare to find people who can appreciate both hard rock and Gregorian chant, pierced noses and traditional albs, green-dyed hair and fine frankincense. Some of these tastes will not last more than one season; others will stay forever. But very often, we foresee the Church in this second group.

I do recognize that in many aspects, the Church has changed in a good way in the last forty years. Liturgically speaking, some important steps were taken. The Holy Eucharist became central in our Church’s spiritual life, liturgies became more sensitive to cultural settings, we have improved lectionaries and laity have become more involved in liturgical life. The problem, however, is that such advances (which in many cases are curiously a return to very ancient principles) not rarely were accompanied by an extreme iconoclasm towards simple liturgical and architectural elements that were not bad per se, and if properly used, could perfectly remain in association with the aforementioned advances (provided those simple liturgical forms are not ‘dumbed-down and condescending as if only priests can think about theological matters). All of a sudden, though, rood screens, east-facing high altars, the act of kneeling (and sometimes the actual kneelers), some musical instruments, traditional chant, and even the Prayer Book format (among so many other things) were equated to the antichrist, and considered the source of all evil in the Church. Here and there, they were practically erased from ecclesial daily life, perhaps in a faster way than the liturgical changes happened during the Reformation.

I understand, however, that all of that was a response to the plea of a previous generation which was suffocated by the evil side of traditionalism, and needed to foster changes in a world that did not want to look forward. Forty years later, however, we are still caught by some of the same questions: “How to attract youth? How to create liturgies that are meaningful to newer generations? How to reinvigorate the Church?” My response to that would be that we went too far in some reforms (mostly liturgical ones) and maybe restoring some of the icons we as a Church broke, allied with the empowerment of youth in the life of the Church would be a great start in attempting to attract some people of my age.

Do not get me wrong, though. I am not advocating any kind of Church-enforced obligatory implementation of solemn high masses. But yes, maybe some communities which would be willing to give it a try should do it sometimes. But do not stop there! Please, allow youth to do something and literally join this stable tradition of the Church. I am pretty sure that many secretly want to swing the thuribles, organize a choir, read the lessons, chant the prayers of the people, lead Evening Prayer or help with Sunday School and Church committees (including the liturgy one). Very often, such positions, which could be shared with – or passed to – youth and young adults, are not. And yes, please try traditional liturgy. Many young people want it, but much more importantly, they want to help make it happen.

Let me end with a final and curious note. Lambeth stewards were awarded with the possibility of organizing a special mass for us and staff people at the Canterbury Cathedral’s crypt. With such an astonishing location and so many liturgical resources, we did our best. Most of us had the opportunity of doing something, whether it was reading a lesson, an intercession, serving as an acolyte, playing the organ or joining the choir. We rehearsed for one week “If ye love me” by Tallis (which was our Communion hymn), celebrant and servers wore a lovely set of silky red vestments and clouds of incense filled that sacred space, as it has been, is now and will be forever.

It was the only service with incense during the Conference, by the way.

Luiz Coelho, a seminarian from the Diocese of Rio de Janero, spends part of the year in the BFA program at the Savannah College of Art and Design. His Web site includes his art and his blog, Wandering Christian, on which he examines “Christianity in the third millennium, from a progressive, Latin American and Anglican point of view.”

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38 Responses to "Yes, young people do like traditional liturgy"
  1. Thank you, thank you, Luiz Coelho. These liturgies have stood the test of time, which is why they still speak to so many of us.

    Notice, too, how many people attend Compline at St. Mark's in Seattle, and what they say about it. (Ironic that the headline calls this "untraditional"!)

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  2. Amen, Luiz! So much of what you say here resonates with my experience--and those of others our age.

    Integrity and authenticity--this is what we hunger for in the midst of a consume-dispose society...

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  3. Sometimes in liturgy as in politics I fear we find ourselves fighting the last war. All too often I fear efforts to attract young people are based less on the young people around us and more on what we wanted as younger people.

    At a meeting of diocesan priests not too long ago two different priests spoke of how in their different settings young people sought out traditional worship or contemporary worship. In fact there are probably some young people to be reached by each approach, as long as we do either really well (and, yes I do think it possible to do contemporary liturgy and music well as opposed to cheaply, sloppily, thoughtlessly). At worst this is an opportunity to focus on something we have skills and resources to do really well: liturgy. At best we reach more people, using somewhat different tools but using any and all of them with real skill.

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  4. Amen, and amen, and amen.

    I feel like many of those who are arguing for more contemporary liturgy are arguing for what they wanted as youth, rather than what people our age are actually looking for in church, especially in the Episcopal Church.

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  5. yes I do think it possible to do contemporary liturgy and music well

    I agree Marshall. (I shall come out of the closet here.) Much of the music of Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia speaks to me. I have a large collection of it in my iTunes library.

    Although it only occurs in the recesses of my mind, I enjoy the music of Hillsong set in a TEC Rite II Eucharist. I wish that I could experience it for real some day.

    At the same time, much of the music of latin contemporary Christian music also speaks to me. My mind also has a Rite II Eucharist accompanied by this music as well.

    David Allen

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  6. Thanks, Luiz. I second all you've said. Obviously I myself am of the more conservative side, not just liturgically, but I admire your sense of tradition. If anyone wants to see pictures of the Lambeth stewards' Eucharist in the Cathedral, go here.

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  7. Here's the problem. It feels good to know that the traditional worship appeals to young people. But we are losing young people. Where did we lose the connection with them? Is there anything we can do differently that will make a difference?

    And here's a particular harsh observation about young people who prefer traditional liturgy. They are often gatekeepers who make it difficult for those with other views to break in or feel welcome in the church.

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  8. As I've written elsewhere, some years ago when I was dean of the (ecumenical) "Seminary of the Streets" in NYC, Howard Galley and I put together a series of five Eucharists which reflected the historical development of the liturgy in England/America. We began with a 14th century Latin Mass and ended with a 1979 Rite II, even re-decorating the chapel to make it historically consistent.

    Afterwards, EVERY young student (Episcopalian, RC, UCC, Presbyterian, etc.) agreed that the liturgy that was most spiritually satisfying and meaningful was the 14th century Latin Mass!

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  9. To whom are you referring, John Chilton? I literally don't know any young people who are "gatekeepers" of the kind you refer to.

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  10. Good points, John--valid points.

    It's easy for those who appreciate good liturgy to go to far and appoint themselves the rubric police and turn up noses at anything that doesn't rise to their standards. I've done it myself on occasion...and repent of it...

    The answer in my mind is for them to go ahead and soak up as much rubrical and liturgical knowledge as possible. But not to mutter it among the like-minded as critiques. Rather, we've got to share it, to teach it, to invite the rest of community into why we find it so important and so meaningful. Doesn't mean they have to change their preferences, but it means we help teach how our theology is encoded in our liturgy and why we care about it so deeply.

    I try to do that on my blog and in the communities where I move and I sincerely hope others are doing likewise.

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  11. Well, but having certain liturgical preferences doesn't imply that one's own liturgical preferences are the ones that are actually in force. That's not usually the case, I'd say.

    I really don't know any young people that have the power to be "gatekeepers" in their parishes. In fact, the reverse is true, as pointed out in some of the observations on this very thread: young people are for often not very active in the parishes at all.

    But I do agree with Derek; it's really about "theology encoded in liturgy" - and at base, it's about formation. People who are formed in faith do not fall away from it - even if they might stop coming to church.

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  12. (As for the question of young people in the church: a life-changing experience of the Divine, and a rigorous and exhilarating faith life ought to be attractive to anybody, I'd think.)

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  13. As a fellow young adult (23 years old), I will offer my 2 cents.

    I am a contemporary christian music nut. However, I do like traditional liturgy. Why, you may ask?

    Well... I grew up in a traditional setting ever since I was born. Contemporary Christian Music was introduced to me by some young adults I met in my diocese's young adult retreat 5 years ago. That became my genre of choice ever since.

    Anyways... my perception of church is that it should provide an asylum for Christians in our fast-pace world today, as well as a gathering place for Christians young and old. In light of these two definitions I have, I think traditional liturgy is the way to go. After all, it's a nice tradition that should be passed on to future generations.

    Anyways, my solution to the problem is this... rather than creating a contemporary music service catering to our young people, our churches should consider organizing a contemporary style mass with use of contemporary christian music once in a while. The main organizers of these services would be our young people, with the clergy/clergies overseeing the process. My thinking is that we should try our best to meet halfway, if the situation calls for it.

    One note of caution, though... liturgy might not be the sole reason why we are losing our young people. Dan Kimball's They Like Jesus But Not The Church and David Kinnaman's unChristian provide some good alternative explanations to the problem.

    - Bill Wong

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  14. I wish we didn't keep falliing into these dichotomies that will inevitably reduce conversation to personal taste and questions of who is in charge. Here's what I hear as the stuck dichotomy: Traditional vs. contemporary where traditional means Latin Mass or 1928 Prayer Book and contemporary means sort of recently made music of a particular style and ritually informal.

    There are other witnesses for a much richer understanding of 'tradition' - off the top of my head, I think of Cardinal Newman, The Oxford Movement, Cambridge Camden Society, Vlaidimir Lossky, present day (contemporary?) African Anglican liturgy, African-American Anglican liturgy for that matter and American hymnody like shape-note. These point to the huge treasure house we receive from previous Christian generations and about which we must make choices, what to continue, what to renew, and how.

    Meanwhile 'contemporary' in a sense that makes sense to me was evident in efforts to make the best liturgy we could in the San Francisco County Jail. With extremely limited resources in an uninviting, noisy space, TV's on around us, and virtually no shared religious culture among the inmates who chose to come, what does authentic liturgy 'of the moment' look like?

    Tradition is the question of how we receive treasures and resources from those who've loved and lived the faith before us. It's a survival question. Contemporary is the question of how we make community, gather liturgy, welcome people in Jesus name and offer his Body and Blood in this moment, whatever this moment may be.

    of course young people are interested in traditional liturgy. And of course we have to draw on tradition to make something which lives now.

    Donald Schell

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  15. My point with this article was not to say that traditional liturgy is the solution for the "youth problem", or that youth only like traditional liturgy.

    My point was to say that, contrarily to what many people think, not all young people would enjoy only "contemporary" liturgy. This is still a common thought, and, in my opinion, reflects some members of older generations' not being able to change liturgy in their time.

    But yes, many of us yearn for a church experience that transcends the concepts of space and time and that draw us closer to God in His eternal majesty, the same way our ancestors have been.

    I admit, though, that there are other young people who think that church liturgy should use contemporary society as one of its main sources. But they are not the only ones.

    The "solution", in my opinion, is not even related to liturgy "styles", but to empowerment of youth in Church life. It is past time to open spaces to youth participation in real aspects of church life (guilds, commissions, liturgy planning, etc.).

    But it is *my* experience that, when exposed to the history of Christian worship, and to the liturgical traditions of the Church, without the usual prejudices I've been hearing from my mother's generation (ohhh, incense stinks, too formal! whoah, priest giving his back to people, so cold! ugh, chanting is so outdated, sounds boring...), most young people I know will at least want to have some more traditional elements incorporated in their worship. Why? Because they are new, and unusual to us. They transcend space and time and give us this sense of stability we can't find in a world of changing fashions.

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  16. Just one more thought...

    U2charists are not the answer to youth coming back to church. Anybody could listen to U2 anywhere, and although I like their music, what if we changed our liturgy to a "U2charist"? What is the future of U2 within some years? Besides, for "younger young" people, U2 is already something "old-fashioned".

    I do admit that the U2 liturgies have had some success, mostly because of the whole humanitarian concept behind them. I'd also bet they had much more people engaged in "making it happen" than regular liturgies. This makes a big difference.

    Also, U2 music is not bad (at least, that's what many people think).

    And no, I wouldn't mind attending one, but wouldn't have it as my Sunday mass for the rest of my life.

    My only concern when liturgy becomes so attached to specific cultural trends is that it loses its ability to communicate to the whole church catholic. Also, my fear is that, if we adopt such solutions as "the" solution, we will be obliged to change the core of our services every time the world presents us a new trend.

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  17. Donald,

    I recognize your resistance to the categories of "traditional" and "contemporary". I've often on my site and elsewhere argued against a flat-footed understanding of the Tradition and what is, therefore, traditional.

    However, we also have to recognize that our desires for nuance are lost on most who are involved in this conversation and, to put it bluntly, the ones we most hope to reach. If a seeker looking to bring her family back to church after years away, which words on a church website will be more welcoming--"contemporary" or "traditional" And honestly--I don't know that answer. I think it's different for each one for a multitude of reasons. But what Luiz and I and others are feeling is that there are quite a number of us of our age for whom the "traditional" category is the one we're more likely to visit.

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  18. I'm incredibly biased, since I'm the 35 year-old Anglo-catholic curate of St. Paul's, K Street in D.C. (www.saintpaulskstreet.com) I've always loved high church liturgy.

    But the point isn't to make every parish like St. Paul's, K Street liturgically. (I wouldn't mind if that happened, thougth, because then I'd have a lot more appealing job options after SPK!)

    The point is that if you're in charge in any way of liturgy at your parish, please for God's sake (and youth's sake):

    A. Don't be boring.

    B. Don't be sloppy.

    C. Don't be joyless.

    The average "broad church" parish is often all three, in my experience. When I come to church, I'm looking for reverence, intelligent preaching, and people who know how to sing with gusto. If it can't be joyful, it had better be authentically penitential in a Lenten sense, not merely dirgelike.

    Vestments and incense and ceremonial are gravy, and I'll take as much of that as a parish will pour on. But if your parish likes things simpler, or more contemporary, if you can avoid being boring, sloppy, and joyless, you'll be taking a giant leap forward compared to a lot of places in TEC and across the denominational spectrum.

    Whether you like St. Paul's, K Street or not, for example, I don't think it's guilty of being any of those three things I listed above (though admittedly boring is often in the eye of the beholder--we at least do things with reverence and sing our lungs out at SPK).

    Come for a visit! Stay if you can.

    Nathan Humphrey+

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  19. Derek and Luiz,

    I appreciate Derek's contextualization of this conversation with the question of how we describe church on a website. Finding or shaping simple, evocative description that conveys to those not yet part of the church what matters to us and to them is urgent work.

    Meanwhile (as Derek well knows) I think the words matter enormously because they enable us (or limit us) from talking about what we do, how we're together and how we meet God in Christ.

    My guess is that a 14th Century Latin Mass done beautifully feels so powerful and whole to a lot of youth (as it would for me) because it flows from a religious culture and community that was ritually rooted and in full flower and was confident about how it stood vis a vis the tradition. In its own context that 14th century liturgy was made in a time of bold Christian innovation and imagination. It (and a whole lot of other material from a lot of other periods before and after it) offer us stunning resources for making powerful, truthful liturgy. I think of Jesus' image of the Scribe who had entered the kingdom of God and knows who to draw from tradition gifts old and new.

    When we let the culture (church or secular) define ---what WE mean--- by 'traditional', we're reduced to a word that's only a code for familiar or nostalgic. It becomes 'old not new.'

    Vladimir Lossky says tradition is the work of the Spirit in the church, that is, it's a creative act. Most of the use of the word 'tradition' or 'traditional' that I hear obscures a search for the Spirit at work or wondering how what was old becomes something startlingly new.

    Real traditioning is the creative work of choosing what to hand on (no generation hands everything on to the next) and how to hand it on. Any liturgy that's not as richly traditional we're capable of making and as fully contemporary as we're capable of making it is less than faithful.

    Luiz, what I really appreciate here and find hopeful is your sense that a new generation is asking that our living community of faith take the work of tradition-learning, tradition-sharing, and tradition-making seriously. I'm grateful for that as I see it.

    And I think what's stirring is too important (and too holy) for us to aneasthetize it with our grandparents' or great-grandparents' answer, which today seems to come down to a diluted version of the 19th Century Ritualist movement's enthusiasm for the Gothic and their vernacular version of late medieval populism.

    I'm grateful that early in the 19th Century John Mason Neale was courageous enough in his vision to push the church to embody and enact much more mystery, darkness, beauty, color, and music than the Enlightenment had ever imagined it could or would again. And I hope and pray our church can take tradition-making seriously enough that we feel compelled to delve deeply into the past AND listen to the present moment as we create liturgy and language that gives us hope for a living church in the future.

    Donald Schell

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  20. The underlying problem I see is that the church expects young people to come to them rather than going to the young people. It is not a revolutionary idea that young people might enjoy traditional liturgy, but it is revolutionary to crack through the misguided assumption that all young people want is contemporary music and liturgy. We as a church need to do more toward asking people (of all ages) what they need and meeting them where their needs are rather than wondering why they don't show up.

    It is not just our liturgy that holds us back. We are often successful and meeting the needs of parents and their children. But, what happens when those children go to college? Graduate from college? Before they have children? Before they get married. There is a gap of activity and a gap in participation. Why is that? What need are we not serving?

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  21. Donald,

    You said: Real traditioning is the creative work of choosing what to hand on (no generation hands everything on to the next) and how to hand it on. Any liturgy that's not as richly traditional we're capable of making and as fully contemporary as we're capable of making it is less than faithful.

    I definitely agree. What you describe there is part of the work of traditioning but imho, misses the first step both logically and conceptually--and that is the immersion in the actual documents of the tradition. Not just what our parents, friends or mentors have said but tradition--but the texts and materials of the tradition itself. Then, having found them, having the courage and respect to truly sit with them, to be attentive to them and to what they would teach us. Only then, I would suggest, are we ready to start "re-traditioning". You're right, it's not about taking some-else's word, but neither is it an activity for a lazy Saturday afternoon--it takes both work and discipline.

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  22. and Derek,

    I agree with you that deep and careful exploration of documents of the tradition and where possible wide experience of liturgy (including a variety of Anglican, RC, and Orthodox in as many flavors as possible) and deep and broad experience of Episcopal parish liturgy and Episcopal/Anglican monastic liturgy is important for forming us to make the choices re-traditioning and enculturation in the moment (contemporization I guess we could call that) actually require. Thanks for pushing that emphasis.

    Donald

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  23. Margaret,

    I think your point is absolutely true. I will offer my 2 cents here.

    When I made my relocation last year, I had a sense of what I need and what I want. So, I tried my best to make sure the church I relocated to have as much of both as possible. Then, for areas where the church can't fulfill my wants and/or needs, I will try my best to work with or work around them.

    However, I think a good bit of our young people today lack what I have. Why? I will point to a few reasons (though it might not apply to everyone).

    1. Inadequate programs for our young people. Young people need just as much (if not more) guidance from clergies and/or ministers as other members of the church. A youth minister should be there at every church. Sure, that means putting some churches deeper into the red. But, it's a nice investment for our churches' future. If churches can't financially afford one, share a youth minister AND do something collectively with one another from time to time!

    2. Powering youth to the church... I personally am for this under one condition- as long as they are not forced into doing so. Sometimes pressuring them into doing something would just be counterproductive. So, have flexible plans in place if the youths are unwilling to participate.

    3. Have someone set a good example for them at their churches! If your youths have nobody to look up to in their church, I AM WILLING TO BE THEIR EXAMPLE! (You got that right!)

    For me, although I did numerous things in my former church before, I pretty much have to start from scratch. Making matters worse, my new church is 180 from what I used to (since I had been used to Chinese churches). Yet, less than a year later, I have my hands in various ministries in my church again. Why?

    A. Being part of a racial/ethnic minority should not deter you from doing ministry. The satisfaction of a successful day doing ministry will make you feel you belong in the church. Besides, if I can do ministry at my church, why can't you?

    B. The reason why God gives us unique talents is to serve him at his church. Besides, it's better to give than to receive.

    C. You are the future of the church. You don't want your church to fold during your life time, do you?

    D. We young people often blame the older folks for procrastinating in putting us in situations where we might not succeed. (This is an allegation I believe is true, btw.) But, we young people also have a fault, too... in losing confidence and giving up when we fail. In turn, the older folks could be reluctant in giving us opportunities to cooperate with them. So, as young people, we should be programmed that ministries are not guaranteed to be successful. If we don't succeed the first time, learn from the failures and try again!

    E. Capable people often have to do more than their share to help the church out. The least you could do is to appreciate their hard work, if not help out. After all, last thing churches need is to overwork capable people and have no replacements in line to replace them. (I have been on the other end before, just so you know.)

    F. Ministries in the church should not be limited to the ones that your church already have. Rather, if you have the means or resources to help setup or introduce a new ministry to the church, do it!

    For me, I am bringing Chinese ministry to my church. I don't have to, but I do so because I wanted to help expand the scope of Chinese ministry nationally as well as set a success story for fellow Chinese Episcopalians in non-Asian Episcopal churches to do the same. For the latter, I wanted to teach these people that they are part of Chinese ministry and are responsible for making Chinese ministry better!

    4. Youth program is too far down in the churches' agenda. Are youth group issues that trivial?

    5. Our youths could be ill-equipped to do ministry. A simple solution is to include a ministry crash course of some kind in the youth groups' curriculum. The crash course will consist of invitations to a pilgrimage/mission trip, it would be excellent! I owe my ministry success to the Red Shirt project, which is a pilgrimage/mission trip organized by Rev. Michael Cunningham and Rev. Robert Two Bulls. Without them, I would just be an ordinary church goer.

    When they completed the pilgrimage and/or mission trip, you need to tell that, "Your journey as a pilgrim and a minister of God starts here!"

    - Bill Wong

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  24. It isn't the liturgical style, the date the music was composed, the instruments that play it, the technology that communicates it or the theology behind it.

    What makes the difference is the presence (more likely absence) of young people up front.

    This applies both to worship and to ministry; empower the young to lead.

    Tongue in cheek: we should have a mandatory retirement age for lectors and intercessors. One gray hair and you're gone—unless you're Olivia de Havilland at the American Cathedral in Paris, and then only on Easter Day.

    For Oscar winners we'll make an exception. For everyone else, sit down, a teenager can read just as well as you can and they need the job.

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  25. Thanks, Donald. And just to be clear, my mention of re-traditioning as a "lazy Saturday afternoon project" was not directed at you and your projects. I know that you have done the work. I disagree with several of the answers you come to, but value your sincerity and the effort behind it.

    I believe that when you change something you know what the liturgical and theological meanings of both what you change and what you introduce. For liturgy is truly theology made kinetic and aesthetic. My concern is with those who change our liturgies and liturgical spaces for the sake of innovation and novelty who *do not* recognize the theology woven in our liturgies and thus do not understand what they are changing.

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  26. We seem to be using terms without definitions as if we should all "know" what they mean.

    Can someone define "Traditional Liturgy"? And in it please include a cut-off date (ie things after or before such a time are not traditional)

    The Eastern Rite, for example, was undergoing editing by the patriarchates as recently as the 1930s. And by local jurisdictions as recently as this decade. When did it stop being traditional? Is the Roman Mass of 1967 traditional? Or is it any more or less artificially imposed on several local indigenous traditions than, say, the so-called "Tridentine" rite? What makes liturgical evolution of the Mediaeval West (ie, Corpus Christi, Rosary, Franciscan Piety) any more or less "traditional" than the parallel evolution today?

    Is the Scottish Liturgy of 1982 (AMAZING rite, btw) any more or less traditional than the tie-dyed vestments of St Gregory of Nyssa parish who are using 4th century (and earlier) liturgical practices?

    Are we really talking about Piety? Are we failing to see some rites a pious? Or are we simply saying "these rites - pious though they are - are not working for me?"

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  27. I don't find what Luiz is saying to be mysterious. He mentioned straightforwardly some of what he was talking about: "Anglo-Catholic liturgy and ancient Church Music"; "the beauty of an east-facing Mass, the dignifying simplicity of Anglican chant or the pity that Festal Evensong is almost unheard of nowadays"; "centuries of good and theologically profound Church music"; "rood screens, east-facing high altars, the act of kneeling...., some musical instruments, traditional chant"; "'If ye love me' by Tallis....a lovely set of silky red vestments and clouds of incense"; etc.

    As opposed to the disapproval and disapprobation of all of the above, which most of us have heard from Episcopal clergy (and sometimes laypeople) at one time or another.

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  28. (I personally have heard, dozens if not hundreds of times - and continue to hear - that kneeling is really not on in TEC. Sometimes it's because "they didn't kneel in the early church," sometimes it's because it's viewed as "medieval" or groveling of some sort - and sometimes no reason is given.

    Kneelers have indeed been torn out of many parishes. And the same goes for many of the more "traditional" churchly habits and/or accoutrements. I'm completely puzzled over the kneeling issue; why do people care about this so much? What's so great about standing around for an hour? I don't get it, honestly.

    So many of us are quite aware of what Luiz is speaking of, and it has little to do with drawing a timeline to define "traditional.")

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  29. B. Snyder, many of us may be "quite" aware, but the Ex-Eastern Orthodox on the page (me) is not. So go with it...

    Kneeling: Indeed, the oldest liturgical tradition - still practised in the eastern rite - is to have no pews at all. And no kneeling. Protestants invented pews - for longer sermons - and they've filtered out into the Roman and Byzantine rites, especially in America.

    Kneeling is expressly forbidden on Sundays in the Nicene Canons (same package as the Creed) and kneeling at all during Paschal Season (which is seen as one huge Sunday) is forbidden as well. The reason is *exactly* because the Patristic church traditionally understands kneeling as penitential. Sometimes it was assigned as a penance - kneeling instead of standing as was our right as children of God before the heavenly throne (the altar).

    Kneeling on Sundays - Contra the Canons - is a later development. An innovation that caught on in some places. But thankfully seems to be going the way of other innovations. Thankfully, the ancient Churches of Rome (for example) are finally removing their pews - installed to make tourists comfortable - and returning to the traditional standing. Standing as "stood the test of time" as you say, which is why is still speaks to many of us.

    What you seem to be saying is "traditional"=one specific time-zone; mediaeval kneeling. Traditional does not equal the Patristic standing period or its modern revival. It seems to be picking one place in time and saying it's traditional but not another place in the same timeline.

    Anglican Chant, like Wesleyan hymns - both with their modified secular tunes - was the Christian Rock of the period, while the Pipe Organ (or most any other musical instrument at all) was the Praise Band of the period. All of the examples you noted are all rather recent on the spectrum compared to the older traditions modern liturgists are trying to recover.

    I agree with Derek: there are some folks who drop standard liturgical practices for no reason. Others seem to have theological reason when they do such things - reasons with which one may agree or disagree. But a lot of folks stick to "standard liturgy" simply because "we've always done it so", without realising that "always" isn't as long as they thought, or as widespread. Or because they fail to understand that the older rites support some of the more-modern ones.

    My point is that what's being said in the discussion has little or nothing to do with "Tradition" and more with simply preferring one time over another. That's OK. We all have preferences.

    Yet phrasing it in language of "Traditional (=only that one time-zone I like) vrs something else" creates a false dualism, as Donald notes. My assumption is that no one can define "Traditional" in any rational way... but it will be a nostalgic, emotional statement about "What we used to do" rather than "what we do now". Or it will be a statement about what "feels mysterious".

    Both are highly subjective and I question their use in evangelism.

    Shabbat Shalom!

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  30. Yes, well: female clergy are an "innovation," too - so I really can't get too very worked up about how the early church arranged the furniture. Honestly, I truly, truly don't care; there's almost nothing less interesting to me than the early Christian church. (Personally, I think that, due the dearth of much hard information about it, the "early church" has become another tabula rasa, on which people can write their own personal preferences. And BTW, we do say Confession at Sunday Eucharist, so I'm really not buying the argument against "penitence on Sunday." Sorry. In any case, if not Sunday - then when? Most people don't say daily prayers, and the Office isn't offered in most parishes any longer.)

    But I don't really think any of that is the point of this post. Let me quote Luiz again, to make the point: "The problem, however, is that such advances (which in many cases are curiously a return to very ancient principles) not rarely were accompanied by an extreme iconoclasm towards simple liturgical and architectural elements that were not bad per se, and if properly used, could perfectly remain in association with the aforementioned advances (provided those simple liturgical forms are not ‘dumbed-down and condescending as if only priests can think about theological matters). All of a sudden, though, rood screens, east-facing high altars, the act of kneeling (and sometimes the actual kneelers), some musical instruments, traditional chant, and even the Prayer Book format (among so many other things) were equated to the antichrist, and considered the source of all evil in the Church."

    This, to me, is the thrust of this post; why the iconoclasm? Why the jettisoning of the "medieval"? Why is the "early church" the model for everything all of a sudden? What happened to the 2,000 years that followed? Was it all unmitigated evil? Nothing there for anybody? What about St. Francis of Assisi? If you don't get medieval, you don't get St. Francis, you know - or St. John of the Cross, or Meister Eckhardt, or Julian of Norwich. Etc.

    Is this just a fad? If so, we're just holding out till it passes. In any case, I think the use of the word "traditional" here is just because there's no other convenient one-word identifier; I don't think the definition is really very crucial.

    But you're right: no kneeling among the Orthodox; I'm pretty sure the Orthodox are into prostrations. When I start seeing that in Episcopal parishes, maybe I'll start buying some of this. As it stands presently, all we're doing is standing around like zombies. Or maybe like Puritans....

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  31. If you feel the "definition is not very crucial" you seem to be implying the word can mean anything you want - in this case "traditional" means "stuff I like". The definition is exactly the crucial point. As I noted, the point is that one over the other is not more or less "traditional". So why use the divisive language? You've well made my point for me!

    Personally, I prefer to ransack the entire warehouse of Liturgical Piety to find liturgy that works in expressing Christian Doctrine to the current age. That's the important function of liturgy - not finding something we like, really, or even something we dislike. The Anglican default mode of a pious Victorian reconstruction of a medieval fantasy is a bit played. We can move on, now: but we don't need to move beyond. Even that pious Victorian stuff needs to be retained and accessed.

    Regarding prostrations, they are, canonically at least, not supposed to be done on Sundays either: for the same reason. They are penitential. I know some Orthodox do them as they feel, at any time. The rule is standing on Sunday.

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  32. If you feel the "definition is not very crucial" you seem to be implying the word can mean anything you want - in this case "traditional" means "stuff I like". The definition is exactly the crucial point. As I noted, the point is that one over the other is not more or less "traditional". So why use the divisive language? You've well made my point for me!

    Perhaps. Except that what I'm interested in is an actual answer to the question being asked - which I notice has not been forthcoming in all of this drawn-out discussion of the use of a particular word. And I wonder why the latter is preferred to the former.

    In in any case: we're not Orthodox. We do have a "tradition" (if we're going to do nothing but worry about this word) of our own: it's Anglican. Mass and Office in equal measure; Scripture, Tradition, Reason; a particular history. This is our heritage - so why the extensive effort to avoid our own tradition in favor of somebody else's? If I wanted to be Orthodox, I really do know where to get that. I don't; I'm Anglican for a reason.

    Wholesale cultural raids of other traditions merely prevent us from moving forward in our own in a holistic way. And it keeps us from accessing our own history and our own history of faith in favor of a mythical "Golden Age" - i.e., the "early church." (In any case, in the early church, I believe Open Communion would have been anathema, given that Catechumens would not even have been allowed to remain for the Service of the Altar. So again, the anti-"innovation" stance doesn't really seem to wash. When I see the non-baptized being excused from Eucharist, I'll start believing this is a real argument.)

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  33. (P.S.: I don't think anybody has mentioned the "default mode of a pious Victorian reconstruction of a medieval fantasy."

    Why bring up something that's not at issue here?)

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  34. Huw,

    I actually wrote a little piece on the presence of the "no kneeling on Sundays" bit in the Nicene Canons. It true that no kneeling was allowed on Sundays and in Easter--but prostrations between psalms and prayers appeared every other day of the week. That's where the problem lies. We may keep the letter but we entirely miss the sense and purpose if we don't kneel on Sundays. The point isn't that Christians shouldn't kneel. Rather, the point is that the usual penitence for our constant sins can be set aside for the days of high celebration concerning what God has done for us. If I read it right, that's B. Snyder's point---If folk aren't doing the Offices daily in community then they still need that sense of corporate confession to get a true sense of the fullness of the Christian life.

    Anglicanism does have an ethos that is distinct from both the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox expressions. That ethos itself can be field-guided into different subsets. But just because those subsets exists and because variety exists I don't think it's fair to say that anything can and should go liturgically--that we can draw on *any* past Christian liturgical strand. The Eastern stuff is great---I'll not disagree with you there. But the last direct Eastern influence on the Church in England was Archbishop Theodore of Tarsus in the 7th century. The grand majority of any Eastern ideas were mediated by Western minds and concerns and languages.

    Want my definition of traditional Anglican liturgy? It'd be "the text and the music of the Sarum Mass and the Sarum Office as revised by Protestants (with theological convictions from the patristic to the puritan) in the English tongue". How does that sound to you?

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  35. Yes, that is my point, Derek. To me, the current "early-church" forbidding-of-kneeling stance merely results in an avoidance of penitence altogether - extremely problematic in a faith in which repentance for sins is central. And I find it puritanical, as well, to be honest; what kind of bizarre religion deems it reasonable to attempt to exert total control over its own members' body movements and personal piety?

    In any case, kneeling is not only penitential - and there are plenty of New Testament examples of reverential kneeling. This is just what Luiz is talking about in this post, when he mentions receiving the Sacrament in tears; any religion that would forbid this is not worth wasting time on, if you ask me.

    I don't agree, though, that we need to pin down what "traditional" means; I don't think that's the issue here at all. As I said above, there's no other word that expresses in shorthand what Luiz has also expressed quite well in longhand; it's a placeholder, that's all.

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  36. (But thanks for calling attention to the "letter vs. the spirit of the Law." I hadn't noticed that, but I think you're quite right.)

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  37. You're right, B.--the definition of "traditional" is not what's at question here it is a different question.

    And yes, there are multiple senses to kneeling--none of which are terribly amenable to contemporary American attitudes whether it's feeling penitential or feeling awe in the presence of another...

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