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Jul 31, 2005

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Bill Carroll

And yet, we continue to adopt models of ministry that require huge capital outlay and salaries, which often prevents us from effective evangelism among poor people and immigrants. JB Metz's distinction between bourgeois church and emergent church is relevant here. The Church could be growing if we were paying more attention to the people Jesus spent time with. Even if it didn't grow numerically, it could grow in faithfulness and discipleship. The problem with the Church is not that it is too progressive. Rather, it is too conservative and tied up with forms of class privilege. Middle class people, now that they can, often prefer a kid's soccer game or a nice skim latte. Conservative evangelical churches can achieve numerical growth and there are some good sociological reasons for this. The constituencies that filled mainline churches are often no longer Christian. All of this requires recentering on the Gospel and radical, eschatological hope. It also may require us to get serious about the new ecclesiology present in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which, as Ruth Meyers, points out involves an unfinished reformation.

David Huff

Ya know, Fr. Salty ? This is a damn insightful piece of work. And I bet you're close to hitting the nail on the head for most folks. Worth pondering further.

Oh, and Fr. Bill ? You might be amused to know that in the biggest evangelical church in my neck o' the woods, Prestonwood Baptist Church, you can get a skim latte and your church fix all in one - as their Main Street Cafe in the building has a Starbuck's ;->

Bill Carroll

Actually, you can now get Starbucks at the parish where the rector for whom I was a curate now is, but he was his seminary's official coffee czar. I like a latte as much as the next guy, but I prefer fair traded, shade grown organics (and not Starbucks), whenever possible.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

I have to admit, I'm one of those people who likes the "traditional" Episcopalian music. Not because I'm especially wedded to tradition as such, but just because I like that style of music. I wonder if there's a way to preserve what people value in the traditional music, while still finding a place for the other stuff. At least, if it were me, I'd be not so much averse to trying new kinds of music, as wanting reassurance that the old music wouldn't all go away.

Samuel

This can be seen not just here but in my state in India too. There has been an exodus from the CSI (Church of South India) to the Assemblies of God.

The reason is, it is livelier and the music is much different. But no one wants to give that as the reason. The reason the new converts give is that they can feel the spirit there and that the CSI is a dead church.

As far as I am concerned, I love the traditional music I've got to hear in the Episcopal churches I've been too. My mind tends to associate contemporary Christian music with hate and ignorance for the sole reason that I have heard such music in all the SBC and AG churches I have been to.

Any place I see people singing and dancing to "Open the Eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see you" makes me wary of the message to follow.

I am "mobile and have no denominational loyalty." too :-).

Derek

I have a hard time with this issue. I want to be in favor of denominational loyalty rather than a consumer congregationalism. But then--I switched churches myself when on an ordination track. It's complicated and you're certainly pointing at some important topics that church people need to seriously think through in the coming years, especially if the schismatics get their way.

David Huff

I'm with Samuel on the traditional music thing. I also associate "contemporary Christian" music with shallow, conservative evangelicalism.

At my current parish, we hear music from great composers like Bach and sing hymns from the TEC Hymnal. At a former parish, it was all electric bass, drum kits, and "My God is an Awesome God" (which if I never hear again, will be too soon ;)

Bill Carroll

I don't care if its traditional or not. I think that some "renewal" music is shallow and theologically inappropriate. So is some "traditional" music. I'm all for using approved hymnals and supplements, though I'm not a rigorist on that point. These texts and tunes receive careful scrutiny, and that's a good thing. I'm not a fan of much of what's in WLP. What we need is an appropriate degree of continuity with our tradition(s), some attention to the aesthetics, and some attention to both theological integrity and relevance. In general I think the Church does a pretty good job.

David Huff

So far, nothing in WLP has really blown my skirt up, as it were. But I also have had a "what's up with THAT ?" reaction to some things in the regular hymnal.

Of course, by "contemporary Christian," I really meant some of the "shallow and theologically inappropriate" music one hears on the radio & in big, evangelical megachurches (the "worst" of the music in WLP is but a pale reflection of this ;)

I know! How about a "what's your favorite hymn" thread ? One of mine is Be Thou My Vision (#488 in the 1982 Hymnal)

John Wilkins

I like the ones that are early Americana - like hymn 686. I also like the grand Earth and All Stars [412, I thin] but have recently enjoyed 490.

I forbad my choir to sing hymn 335 [I am the bread of life.]

Hymn 25 is amazing also.

Almost anything before the 17th century.

Bill Carroll

My former rector (the one with the coffee) refers to "Shine, Jesus, Shine" as "Shiny happy Jesus." I'm told that some in the C of E, refer to this kind of music/liturgy as "Happy Clappy." If not, maybe we should.

Prior Aelred

Count me in with the traditional music set -- plain chant where possible -- 1940 Hymnal over 1982 -- I visited a parish in Southern California which did nothing but praise music -- didn't have the Hymnal in the pews! I made a point of attending only the early "simple said service" thereafter.

bls

The 1982 hymnal has a lot of good stuff, though. Lots of Anglican Chant in the service music, and gregorian, too.

And it has the Kontakion! Plus all that stuff by Venantius Fortunatus. I love the really old ones - but some of the 20th Century stuff is good as well. Vaughan Williams, after all....

Jim

I used to be a Naval Aviator, and the standing joke among us was that books with fewer words than pictures were useless.

Now I'm an "engineering executive." And that old navy pilot joke isn't so funny. People have wildly differing learning styles. Some of our brightest engineers absolutely have to have the course material and an hour's silence, and they achieve mastery. If we put them in a classroom where others get talked to for 8 hours and achieve mastery, the one-hour-wonders will go stir crazy. Others want it in 15-minute snippets on their computers.

Jesus, for me, is alive and vibrant in "Bread of Life," and I love the childen's song of "Shine." I also like the Boynton Mass that we used to do at my Episcopal boys' school, as well as any of the music in the Hymnal, because even the pieces that seem wierd tend to make me focus on their messages. And the messages all point to redemption.

Jim

I used to be a Naval Aviator, and the standing joke among us was that books with fewer words than pictures were useless.

Now I'm an "engineering executive." And that old navy pilot joke isn't so funny. People have wildly differing learning styles. Some of our brightest engineers absolutely have to have the course material and an hour's silence, and they achieve mastery. If we put them in a classroom where others get talked to for 8 hours and achieve mastery, the one-hour-wonders will go stir crazy. Others want it in 15-minute snippets on their computers.

Jesus, for me, is alive and vibrant in "Bread of Life," and I love the childen's song of "Shine." I also like the Boynton Mass that we used to do at my Episcopal boys' school, as well as any of the music in the Hymnal, because even the pieces that seem wierd tend to make me focus on their messages. And the messages all point to redemption.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

I have a lot of favorites, but today I'll pick "Master, Let Me Walk With Thee."

Prior Aelred

BTW, Salty --

I was extremely remiss above in neglecting to point out that this is an excelletn post from you -- I've been pondering it ever since I read it

Also very interested in Samuel's comments about the CSI -- I have heard that the Anglican Church in Nigeria is losing lots of people to the more Pentacostal & indigenous churches as well & that this is part of Akinola's motivation -- maybe so

We had a couple of students from a nearby college visit here -- one was Mar Thoma & one CSI (light skin, dark skin) -- both in communion with the Anglicans -- would never have had any contact with each other in India (lighjt skin, dark skin) -- both delightful people, BTW

Caelius Spinator

Put me down for early Americana, anything to a Welsh tune, VHF especially Pange Lingua , and "Father, we thank thee who hast planted" (302 in the 1982 Hymnal).

I agree with Prior Aelred about the 1940 Hymnal, which I used to have great fun with when I played the piano.

Jake

Some excellent points made here.

I can recall the shift in my lifetime when folks no longer had to go to church to keep the neighbors from whipering about "those heathens" next door. Lots of dead wood dropped off. Folks decided to sip coffee and read the Times on the patio instead of going to church. Or maybe play a little golf. That's when the numbers started to drop.

As far as the marketing techniques used by some mega churches, I'm not so sure. If we begin by meeting "felt needs," will they eventually become the focus, and the "real needs" get lost in the euphoria caused by big numbers?

I'd say that the majority of those with whom I've discussed their change of churches never mentioned any theological reasons. Not blatantly anyway. But if you think about any situation long enough, there's usually some kind of theological statement in there somewhere.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

But if you think about any situation long enough, there's usually some kind of theological statement in there somewhere.

I suppose that's true; a lot of our not particularly thought out preferences about worship style or church organization may contain some kind of theological statement, if we thought about it closely enough. (Now, I wonder what theological statement is contained in my automatic negative reaction to churches that are just too darn big?)

bls

Mmmmm, Welsh tunes. I agree; that's some of the most beautiful music ever.

The thing is, I think, that Christianity is changing form. It's true that almost everybody used to go to Church out of social obligation, and that this has completely changed. But maybe this is to the good, in the long run. Maybe this process is the disentangling of the Church with the culture - the end of the "Constantinian captivity," now that the Church has become powerless.

Maybe now we can get beyond the social aspect of it, and into the mystical and metaphysical at last. I think everybody's interested in "the meaning of life," and I really think the Church could be a place where people could get in touch with that.

bls

(Not that the social aspect is a bad thing, either. Both are reasonable, and can be good, I think.

But I hope for something deeper than only that.)

trevize

I couldn't agree more with bls's post. Christianity has thrived in China without the sense of obligation which has all-but-disappeared in the West. Some might say the phenomenal growth there is largely BECAUSE of being forced underground. Emerging churches have great opportunities to reach people outside of the Sunday-at-church context.

CCM is an interesting topic. I've observed that much of the more recent music (last 5 years) to emerge from local "names" here in Australia, such as Hillsong United, has shown marked improvement in lyrical content from their releases of, say, 10 years ago. There is usually a new balance of reverence, passion and correct teaching in the words, as well as a drop in "happy-clappy" repetition.

I was fortunate to hear from Mike Guglielmucci about how he wrote the powerful, guitar-driven song "Big" which has been sung often at my church. I honestly feel that many people today can more easily demonstrate their faith and love for God by screaming "There's nothing my God cannot do" at the top of their lungs. Whether hymns or CCM, the real question is whether these convictions are translated into every-day faith and worship.

J. C. Fisher

I think that for Episcopalians to "go contemporary", would be confusing the brand (Hello, "New Coke", anyone? *g*)

To look at it as something other than marketing: well, I haven't been impressed. But, "takes all kinds" y'know?

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name
Lo, He Comes (to "Helmsley", 57)

and

To Mock Your Reign (as set to Thomas Tallis, 170) :-)

bls

I agree, though, we ought to be more passionate about talking about ECUSA.

We have a fine thing here, an excellent thing, and we really ought to be talking it up. There is a whole group of "unchurched" folks who grew up in - and have rejected - conservative or fundamentalist religion, and who want something that speaks to them. Many of these people are longing for a beautiful Christianity - one that honors both ancient tradition and reason - and we've got it.

We've got to be more....um....evangelical about this.

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