Evangelicals seeking traditionalist spirituality

Yes, I know I write frequently about the ecumenical/catholic turn that my own spiritual life has taken over the last few years, both in terms of theology (see especially here, the post I am most proud of) and also in practice: I now strive to practice more liturgy, keep the Christian year, observe weekly communion (thankfully, more Methodist churches are doing this), and make relatively regular use of the Anglican/Ecumenical rosary; I also get excited about the little ways our worship that displays historical rootedness - whether that means icons, or incense, or robe-wearing ministers (please don't think that I am advocating organ-only music, I believe the Charismatic movement has taught us alot about worship that can be incorporated without at the same time ditching those displays of historical rootedness - thus ancient/future worship is closer to my ideal). I write about these things so much because I believe I have discovered something important.

And the stories (or observations) of Evangelicals who have made similar moves abound (so we invent phrases like "walk the Canterbury Trail" or "swim the Tiber"). Here are a couple of articles I ran across recently. The first is a shorter one from a Baptist minister-turned Eastern Orthodox priest and the second is an illuminating article from the Internet Monk. This second article is, I would say a must read (especially if what I am saying doesn't resonate with you).

Both express a dissatisfaction with the spirituality of American Evangelicalism. This yearning for a deeper spirituality, one that is not based upon getting one more "mountain top" experience of God (through newer, more annointed, more relevant, music/conferences/7-step plans), but rather a spirituality that has been proved over centuries and capable of seeing me through the dry, dark valleys. This yearning may be one reason why Richard Foster's work has been so popular - which itself is very "catholic" in the broad sense of the word (the way I usually use it and the way my fellow Louisianians rarely do) - Foster listens to voices across the ages and across the divisions of the One Church.

My hope for The United Methodist Church (UMC), now faced with the decision (among several other big decisions regarding "identity" in the coming decades) of whether we will follow many of the free churches into the entertainment buisiness, is that we will instead turn back towards our own very catholic spirituality that we inherited through our Anglican heritage. Lest we forget, the UMC is - as our doctrine, liturgy, and history continuously testify - a Church of the Anglican tradition, and I believe we need deliberately to recover, appropriate, and celebrate that, as many are now seeking to do. So let us whoop out those prayer books, robes, or whatever, and let us get on with the business of dying, with Christ, to the world. Let us learn to do this using liturgy, fasting, vigils, cross-bearing, such spiritual disciplines as chastity and obedience, and other things that are not "relevant" (read: 'entertaining' or 'crowd pleasing') to contemporary society.

O God, make speed to save us.
O Lord, make haste to help us.

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Blogger Stephen said...

Reminds me of William Peeples' service at our Board of Ordained Ministry retreat.

What did you think of the Wesleyan Service? Is it a good reclamation of our heritage with a still look forward?

11:08 PM, November 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. I really enjoyed this particular blog and browsing through your broader blog more generally. I find myself quite engaged by a return to some of the beautiful traditionalist liturgical practices as well.

Thanks... a fan from Canada.

1:14 AM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

Hey Stephen,
At my last BOM retreat Rev. Peeples' led us in the Wesleyan service as well. I think it's a fine thing to do, but I would just as soon use the liturgies in the hymnal. Word and Table 4 is very similar to what he used, though the liturgy of the word would have to be printed in a bulliten or something, since it is not in the hymnal (it is in the BOW).

I'm glad they are re-emphasizing the liturgy because one of my concerns is that our churches sell out their heritage and try to become copies of non-denom churches in order to increase numbers. But we don't work like non-denom churches and those folks are gonna be real disappointed when it comes time for charge conference or move day, etc.

I think they are on the right track in re-emphasizing mystery and liturgy. I hope they'll go get some albs and also some book stands so the celebrant at the table can get his hands into it - at least a little.

I do hope they also try to be creative. At Asbury seminary's website the other day I saw a CD for sale featuring Wesley hymns sung by a praise band. That is the direction I think we could experiment more so as to incorporate new trends AND our own heritage.

How are things at OSL? I'm feeling a little inclined to get back involved.

Dear Anonymous,
Thanks! I hope any of my rambling may somehow, by God's grace, be helpful or at least entertaining for you!

7:22 AM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger Stephen said...

OSL is a wonderful place to talk about these things. Reclaiming our heritage and liturgy while looking forward with vision. At the last retreat (I didn't get to go), they talked about some new churches that are using liturgy as a pattern to reach unchurched people especially young people.

There is also a new PDF I want to get from Upper Room called "Living into the Mystery" which is about the continual celebration of the Eucharist in our church. Something that I think would benefit all of us if correctly done.

I have no hard data, but I think that the non-denom, seeker sensitive, pop-style, worship as a draw is coming to an end. Our youth have said that they think this stuff is fine for a concert, but they want a much deeper and meaningful service for worship. Whats funny is that the mega-Baptist/non-denom church in town is starting a "Traditional Worship" service.


1:51 PM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger Neil said...

Amen! Too much entertainment, too little content.

Our youth group - which is generally quite well run - plays this "guitar hero" video game before Sunday School each week. I always think, "Is this what we raised money for?" I feel like a grumpy old man.

2:25 PM, November 18, 2007  

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