Thursday, June 08, 2006I ran across this post concerning liturgy and the revolt against a personalized evangelicalism. The post was spawned by some comments made by Garrison Keillor, and his move towards Anglicanism. I found this portion of Alastair's post to be particularly meaningful.
"Modern hymns and choruses are another case in point. Whilst I have no objection to choruses and hymns in principle, I believe that we ought to be very careful about how we use them. The language of worship should be ‘catholic’ language and not a language that is private to our particular tradition. To the extent that our hymns and choruses are merely from our own time and narrow tradition we have failed to hand ourselves over to the larger Christian tradition. The insipid choruses that predominate in the worship of many evangelical churches (particularly in more charismatic quarters of evangelicalism) are merely echoes of our own language. People often complain that they cannot relate to the language of older hymns and the psalms. This is because the piety of the psalms is quite alien to the piety that prevails in many contemporary churches.
Chanting psalms and singing hymns that unsettle us plays much the same purpose as set readings. They teach us the deficiencies of our own language. The contemporary worshipper, however, wants the language of worship to sound spontaneous, because he values spontaneity over imitation. The language that comes spontaneously to the modern worshipper is not the language of Christian worship but the language of the silly pop ditties that he grew up with. In the name of spontaneity the modern worshipper tends to unwittingly borrow the romantic language of the world. The purpose of chanting psalms and singing hymns is not merely to glorify our language, but to heal it. The language of worship that is given to us by Scriptures and the Christian tradition informed by the Scriptures is one that is quite unnatural to us. It is God’s purpose that, as we use this language, it will become increasingly natural to us. The words, although they are borrowed, are no longer entirely alien to us, for they have converted us to themselves."