I’m not a fan of the make-over “reality” tv shows….

I’m not a fan of the make-over “reality” tv shows. From the few I’ve had the misfortune to catch, I see what I consider a fundamental flaw in the process. Typically, the show begins by showing a person whose wardrobe has not been updated since the late ’80s. Yes, scary. By the end of the show, the person has been “transformed” into a hip, cutting-edge, fashionable modern person. My suspicion, however, is that in another twenty years, you could haul up the very same person and see some one whose wardrobe has not been updated since the early ’00s… My fear is that the trimmings change but the essence is left untouched.

I’ve been thinking about this especially as it applies to liturgy. My class has really helped my focus certain aspects of my liturgical thought especially as it applies to liturgical change in parishes. The point I’ve
found myself making over and over again to my students is this: there are no liturgical changes in a congregation–there are theological changes that have liturgical implications and repurcussions. We don’t do–or *shouldn’t* do liturgy or liturgical actions or rites because they’re “cool” or even “neat”–i.e., the trimmings, we do them because they are the communal expression of the local church’s theology–i.e., the essence. Because of this, one of the most important jobs that church leaders (which means clergy, vestry, and anyone who cares enough about the church to spend their time reading geeky religion blogs like this one) have is basic
catechesis–what do we do and why do we do it. We have to teach people the Gospel–that’s key–but also the the communal implications of the Gospel and how those implications about God and us come together in the liturgy. If “liturgical changes” are made they can and all too often are simply cosmetic and even if they mimic an authentic spiritual tradition without the theological heart and core they’re just as useless as a tv makeover.

Here endeth the sermon.
For now.

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5 Responses to I’m not a fan of the make-over “reality” tv shows….

  1. LutherPunk says:

    That’s not a sermon…that is a theological smack down! And a good one at that.

    There are a heckuva lot o rites that I think are way cool, but have never/will never do them for the reasons you just described.

    BTW, was thinking of you and M today during MP. The reading from the ’28 office just struck me that way. Continued prayers.

  2. *Christopher says:

    This could get us to something like Schmemann and Kavanaugh’s oft misunderstood use of lex orandi, lex credendi in which Encounter (in worship) leads to adjustments in persons/relationships worshipping (theologia prima) which leads to theological reflection (theologia secunda) which leads to changes in liturgy and around again. It’s a fine model for beginning to think about changes in liturgy. I think the application of recognizing shifts in the communal understanding theologically is also about shifts in how the community is relating in terms of the Gospel.

    LaCugna proposes a slightly more complex model allowing for two-way interactions, which does seem to fit the history of theology changing liturgy (change of Father “and” the Son “and” the Holy Spirit by Basil) and liturgy changing theology (Augustine’s reflections on infant baptism leading to a discussion of Original Sin).

    What I think is important is working with others as you say to think theologically in catechesis.

  3. Derek the Ænglican says:

    Christopher, you know the theorists better than I do but it certainly looks like thy’re in accord with what I’ve seen and am teaching.

    Thanks, lp!

  4. Marshall says:

    This is in line with what Marion Hatchett taught (at least, what he taught me). He would go on to teach that liturgy needs to be adapted to the needs of the congregation in question; and that to that end one needed to consider the liturgical practices across the breadth of the whole church. That could allow one to bring or adapt practices unfamiliar to a specific congregation, but well established in the tradition. Again, not for current fashion, but to bring the Gospel to the congregaion. He would insist of course that this required a good deal of teaching – in line with your thought about changing the theology of the congregation and allowing that to shape changes in liturgy.

    All that said, I’m about ready for a new Book of Common Prayer.

  5. bls says:

    Well, yes and no. I can say for sure that liturgy changed my theology over time and even suddenly, via symbol. (The Procession with the Paschal Candle at Easter Vigil is one example; “The Light of Christ” chanted in the dark is a very deep thing, and helped me to take another step in suspending some of my previous disbelief. I’d think probably everybody – every convert, anyway – has some example like this.)

    Ritual can be (or become) empty, though, which I think is what you’re saying and I agree, of course. I’d also like to say, though, that while I think the theology is (mostly) correct, we absolutely need new ways to explain it. Many, many people just don’t have the language anymore, and have a purely rational view of the world. But Christianity is mystical at its core; rational arguments only go so far and no further, IMO.

    This is the big task going forward, I’d say.

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