In some correspondence we’ve been having Donald Schell recently raised the question of the state of the liturgical renewal in the Episcopal Church. He wondered if it were distingrating.
I replied that I’m not sure which verb is most appropriate: has it dissipated, stagnated, bifurcated, fragmented, polarized—or something else entirely…
I think it’s an important question but first we must take stock of several indeces before the question can accurately be answered.
- How do we measure the state of liturgy or liturgical renewal overall? One of the major indeces that people “check” is web/forum/blog chatter. And I don’t know how reliable this is. For every anecdote about an exploding parish with liberal or charismatic or anglo-catholic liturgy, I can point to conter-balancing anecdotes. Meanwhile the majority of parishes keep doing what they’re doing (don’t they?). But what exactly is that? What does MOTR look like regionally and nationally—and how much effect are the ultra-progressive or totally traditional “shrine” churches having on what MOTR looks like?
- Where are clergy receiving their liturgical formation? Is it residual formation from home parishes? Is it from what they learned in seminary? Is it adjusting to whatever their parish they land in is used to?
- What exactly are clergy learning in seminary? Not just what books are they reading, but what are their chapel experiences designed to do—root them in a particular tradition or show them the range of “what’s out there”?
- What exactly do we mean be “liturgical renewal”? Do we mean the teaching and discipling process that ought to accompany teaching the liturgy, or do we mean the tide of thought referred to as “the Liturgical Renewal Movement” spearheaded by Aidan Kavanaugh, Don Saliers, Gordon Lathrop, Gail Ramshaw, et al.?
- What else is going on in the American religious landscape? Let’s not be too inwardly focused here. A large part of what we refer to as the “Liturgical Renewal Movement” (essentially the reforms of Vatican II that filtered into the mainline protestant churches) was fundamentally ecumenical. What happened in the ’79 prayerbook was deeply related to what happened at V-II. Now when we look around, a—if not “the”—major movement in Roman circles is nothing less than the “Reform of the Reform”. You can’t tell me this isn’t having an effect…
- One generation is starting to lose its ascendancy; another is on the rise. Major sticking points and differences between these generations include their approach and attitude towards authority and their approach and attitude towards the past. However, anything as broad as an appeal to generations is tarring with a broad brush—what size brush is the right size?
What’s your sense? Furthermore, how do we move beyond “senses” and figure out where people are? Or, alternatively, is the church best served by the presentation of a new synthesis?