October 25, 2020

Thoughts At 8 a.m. Mass

09_01_13_AnnArbor03UPDATE: Jeff’s comment is so profound it needs to be read by everyone:

The wedge contemporary evangelicals are driving between young and old is incredibly short sighted and deadly. Doesn’t the Bible itself say that the older should teach the younger? We’ve turned things around so that anything new (even if unproven) and appealing to the not yet mature, still developing young is trotted out as appropriate worship. More experienced, mature Christians who should be teaching the young about and sharing with them their great Christian heritage are instead asked to “get with it” or “get out.” The evangelical church will die if all it can do is try to keep up with secular culture and make its focus offering whatever the latest fads or glitz it can to “attract” the young as if the church were somehow dependent on a Christian advertising machine rather than God to draw people to Him.


I took Denise to morning mass at Stella Maris (“Star of the Sea”) Roman Catholic Church in Moultrieville, SC. Almost 50 in attendance, of every age. Two priests. Two acolytes and two altar boys. Traditionalist. Ad orientem. Eucharist offered in one kind and most didn’t receive it in the hand. Lots of other traditionalist stuff happening. Several Latin masses during the month. All the little things.

I’m watching a father bring his 5 year old (?) to mass, take his hand and dip it in the water, make the cross for him, then take him to his seat and show him how to genuflect. Teenagers around me- apparently on retreat- are immersed in the various actions of Catholic worship, as are all the worshipers of every age this morning. Of course, adults of every age. Plenty of men. At least half or more of the congregation was male.

The traditionalist flavor of mass is more interesting to me, even in this low mass on a weekday, and I’ve read Ratzinger’s Spirit of the Liturgy and know where these priests are coming from. There’s a sign at the entrance to the church saying the parish can’t register any more members from outside their boundaries. Translation: traditionalism is popular down here in Charleston.

The whole idea of the daily mass, and the level of devotion one sees among so many Catholics such as those surrounding me, has to be of real interest to any post-evangelical. Evangelicalism is diverse, but as a movement it is simply engaging less and less with worship, spiritual formation, spiritual disciplines and any form of tradition. The multi-site, internet driven model combined with evangelicalism’s inherent pragmatism and entrepreneurialism makes one wonder if clicking at the computer terminal or taking in the 20 minute drive up/drop in service can be far away as significant models of evangelical Christianity’s virtues.

I am especially impressed with how a small child and an 80 year old man are functioning within the same world of thought, ritual and understanding. Within evangelicalism, we have communities with strong elements of tradition that bind generations together, but overall, we have compromised this to the core, allowing the quest to make the faith acceptable to teenagers to define the style and substance of everything. Where has evangelicalism gone in the last 60 years? Toward maturity and the core of the faith, or toward the latest efforts to be relevant to the young? The old among us are often those who manage to hang on amidst a hurricane of changes.

I see evangelicals doing less and less that will hold anyone in the faith into their 80s. If I were 80, I wouldn’t go near 99% of evangelical churches. The traditionalists somewhere would have me as a customer.

One oddity. No crucifix up front. One on the altar (well, slightly above it), but no large crucifix at the front anywhere. Central figures: Madonna and Child. Is this unusual? I thought the crucified Jesus visually up front was the usual.

In one publication, the priest said that young people are hyper-connected to one another via technology, but unconnected to God. The church must offer that connection in its mass. Quite a provocative take on the purpose of all of this. No surprise how I feel about it, but he is saying that the church’s great role is to be that which connects us to God. You have to deal with that, because he is right about young people, but can the Protestant Gospel offer the connection to God without the church in the role of mediator? If not, then Catholicism makes a lot of sense.

I could never be a Roman Catholic for theological reasons that won’t change, but if I were, this traditionalist-flavored variety would be quite appealing.


  1. Steve in Toronto says

    I hope you will get a chance to visit Saint Michaels Episcopal church when you are in Charleston http://www.stmichaelschurch.net/ it a wonderful and very vibrant orthodox parish.

  2. I find the drift from evangelicalism into more traditionalist churches interesting. James Jordan, Peter Leithart and Doug Wilson get into the subject a bit in this recent round-table discussion (http://www.foucachon.com/nsa_calvin500/roundtable.html). Evangelicalism grows increasingly fluid, and the high-church, liturgical expressions of the faith clearly offer more stability. It seems to me that evangelical outposts that want to keep their members are going to have to find a more liturgical foundation or those members are going to head Anglo-Catholic, Roman, and Orthodox churches to get it.

    • Joel, your link to the round table discussion is broken. I can’t access it.

    • I figured out the problem. Take off the parenthesis and it works.

    • Maybe so, but this area strikes me as very difficult to play the diletante (and I prob. misspelled that 🙂 ) I don’t think that a “little liturgy” is going to impress or influence many. More likely , to me, is that most ev. churches will concede those losses (sadly) and try to make them up in other ways: maybe louder bass guitar, more flavors of coffee at the java kiosk, snazzier guest speakers,……and on and on. Sorry if this sounds jaded, but most ev.’s I hang with think “dead traditions” when the topic of liturgy comes around…..which is NOT often.

  3. I can relate to the appeal of this sort of tradition, my bent is towards higher liturgy, but is it really much more than pragmatism (“a small child and an 80 year old man are functioning within the same world of thought, ritual and understanding”) that causes this appeal?

    Do you believe that the traditions being practiced there are those of the first christians or were they too pragmatic inovations to be relevant to an older contemporary cuture ?

    I think it is the later. Doesn’t make it wrong, but still makes the deciding factor some sort of pragmatism.

    Seems to me that most of Evangelicalism has just chosen the poorer methodology and some traditions treat there pragmatic choices like they are taught right from the mouth of God.

    • I agree in part, but I’m not seeing any claims here for primitivisim or pragmatism. It’s more “Here’s how the church holds a lot of things together, without letting everything go in order to be relevant.” It’s a much more complex and essentially conservative view of worship. I believe, as a Protestant, that’s it’s full of innovations that can’t be scripturally defended, some rather awful (Mary over the altar, kneeling and praying directly to her in front of the altar, etc.) but you can still see, upon reflection, something that is both basic and advanced, rich and simple at the same time. It looks better in contrast to our mess than it does on its own, I agree.

      • I wonder how many traditions do indeed believe that they are doing what the primative church did. I get that impression from many of those who practice high church liturgy.

        Not directed at you, but I just wish people would be honest about the fact that traditions are generally just old innovations.

        • also

          I didn’t mean that high church folks are trying now to be pragmatic/relevant. I meant that the original development of their liturgy often sprang from such attempt.

        • I was raised Ev. Protestant, but for the past 7 months have been attending an EO parish, and this was a sticking point for me for a while. It was difficult for me to imagine (as a pragmatic westerner) that the Acts 2 church had gold lampstands and colorful vestments, despite the claim that the EO tradition has existed for nearly two millenia. But since then, I’ve come to realize that those things really aren’t, and shouldn’t be viewed as, the focal points of the liturgy at all. After all, faithful EO in the 20th c. still worshiped in countries where Christianity was repressed – the church merely went underground; and I doubt that the priests in those times and places bothered getting all the vestments “just right.” The difference between these sacramental/liturgical traditions with the EvProt traditions is not in the form, but the mindset.

          As an EP-turned-EO friend once explained to me, as Protestants (but perhaps more tellingly, as Westerners), often our first instinct is to ask what the least common denominator is in Christianity – that is, “what is the least one must do in order to still be considered a ‘Christian'” – hence the appeal of propositional truths in the realm of faith. This mindset is largely foreign – at least – in the east. (I can’t really speak for the RCC, perhaps someone can chime in). In these “maximalist” traditions, more is usually better until it’s too much. The Acts 2 church, in these eyes, was admirable because they did the best with what they had (like the church in 20th c. communist regimes) – but not because the form their worship took – which in all likelihood was probably much more liturgical than my EvProt sensibilities would like to admit – was somehow more pure, in and of itself.

          Perhaps Fr. Ernesto can offer some help here as well? I am fairly new to all of this after all.

          • “The difference between these sacramental/liturgical traditions with the EvProt traditions is not in the form, but the mindset.”

            Perhaps this is a bit pedantic about terminology, but perhaps what you are saying would be better put “not in the matter, but the form”. It’s not in the material of the vestments etc., but in the spiritual form of worship.

            I’ve heard stories of Catholic priests giving Mass knee deep in the swamps of the Pacific Theater during WWII. It’s not how perfectly everything is done, but in that it is done.

            I had a priest friend tell me once (as he was afraid that as a new convert I might be tending towards zealous legalism, a bit of a cage phase) that one of the primary differences between the Protestant and Catholic mind sets has to do with the conception of what law entails. He said that in the English common law tradition of America, the law is a bare minimum standard that everyone is expected to meet or face the consequences. On the the other hand, the Roman civil law approach (and hence Church Cannon Law) is to set a ridiculously high standard that no one will live up to, to accept that things are never going to be perfect, and to be merciful in the application. For example, the law on the books for fornication between young people might be death, but the usual applied punishment is “oh, you wacky kids” followed by a shotgun wedding (see Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” as an example).

          • “the Acts 2 church had gold lampstands”

            Well, according to St. John in the Book of Revelation, they did:

            “If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”


          • Thank you Sam, I like that. I guess what I was getting at was just to say that when a practitioner of “high church liturgy” draws a link to the primitive (which is actually a surprisingly loaded term) church, they usually don’t mean that the exact liturgical form was the same then as now, but rather that the ethic (perhaps too loose a term) is the same. But to answer George, yes, it is inevitable that our actions – religious or otherwise – respond in changing ways to changing needs, but I think it is also important to keep in mind the principles guiding such changes. (Some great posts below by others on this). My wild guess here is that those principles could scarcely be more different as between the EPs of today and the 1st c. Church.

        • Fr. Yves Congar, one of the architects of the Second Vatican Council, wrote an interesting book on just this subject, “The Meaning of Tradition”. http://www.amazon.com/Meaning-Tradition-Yves-Congar/dp/158617021X

          This is one of the main things the Council dealt with, big “T” Traditions (e.g., the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist) vs. little “t” traditions (e.g., the way the priest wears his biretta during Mass). Part of the wrangles over reforms the past 50 years have been the Catholic Church asking this very question. Pope Benedict, in the book the good Monk mentioned “The Spirit of the Liturgy”, addresses it. http://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Liturgy-Joseph-Cardinal-Ratzinger/dp/0898707846/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1254248802&sr=1-1

        • The history of the various liturgies is actually fairly well-known among scholars. The oldest Orthodox liturgy is the Liturgy of St. Basil (4th century), while the Tridentine Mass is 16th century. The earliest historical description of any liturgy is that of Justin Martyr (2nd century)., who writes:

          “On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. ”

          Notice how familiar this brief account sounds. The only thing missing is hymns, and I suspect this to be a mere oversight on Justin’s part.

          • The hymns being missing may not be an oversight as the prayers themselves were likely sung.

            And just to be nitpicky and beside the point – I think the Liturgies of St. James and St. Mark (coptic) have claims to being older than that of St. Basil. There are arguments for 1st century origins for both.

      • It looks better in contrast to our mess than it does on its own, I agree.

        absolutely, and that’s why so much of evangelicalism is actually a great commercial (with the ev.’s paying the bill , no less) for the orthodox, or at least high liturgical, traditions. I’m sure they are grateful for not having to spend all those publicity dollars.

  4. Doesn’t this point out that the RCC is every bit as divided as Protestants are? If you want the real deal, Marine Corps Catholic Church you go to a parish with Latin Mass, join Opus Dei, subscribe to the New Oxford Review, and so on. If you want a liberal all paths lead to God experience, look for your local gay Jesuit parish. Or you can go to a charismatic parish with guitar Mass. South of the border you’ll have all kinds of syncretism and magical belief. The varieties are all over the place. And yet the claim is that there is ‘one church’ as opposed to us Protestant denominationalists.

    I agree with you that this traditional take on things is the best version going, but if someone joins up looking for that, they will have to drive hours to find it or join with another small group of the like-minded to petition for it in their own (possibly liberal) parish. It’s Protestantism with a different name.

    • Would you agree that Catholiism handles its various divergent movements with more maturity than Protestants, as a whole?

      • Yes and no. Do you ever read New Oxford Review? Google it and take a gander. They are on the warpath for the Latin Mass, conservative values, etc.

        I think what you see in the RCC is sort of a laissez faire, “it doesn’t bother me so I don’t care about it” mentality. The Pope and his admirers aren’t cleaning seminaries in the USA out like the conservatives want them to. They aren’t deposing Bishops who are squishy. There is no church discipline of people who teach all kinds of trash.

        In the USA at least, it seems like a situation where conservative Reformed folks are forced to attend a liberal United Methodist church every week. The liberals (in this case the large majority of Catholics) don’t really worry too much about the conservatives because they are simply a noisy minority. Hans Kung wrote them off 45 years ago. On top of that, there is a conservative in charge of the whole Church, so they also have to deal with that. But they all attend the same parishes and take the same Eucharist. They come and go through the same doors, but are they one in any real sense?

        I don’t know that it’s more mature to paper over differences and pretend to universality. I think at some point it’s all going to fly apart again anyway. Probably the liberals in the US and elsewhere will want to leave over women’s ordination, gay rights or something. But as long as they are comfortable and not forced to leave, maybe they won’t.

        • A lot of your perception is just that: from the outside. It is remarkable that despite the fact that, yes, there are major disagreements, the reality of unity on the lived level is profound. Some people are better about it than others, but I attend alternatively hyper-conservative, hyper-liberal, and moderate parishes, and they are all one in the Sacraments. Again, I point to a response I wrote above about different conceptions of law. Catholics expect things to be messy, and to not fit neatly together. That’s life, as anyone who has a family can attest. 🙂

          • Protestants are messy as well. Life is messy. No big deal.

            But how do you put up with people who disagree with almost everything the Pope teaches and yet have positions of authority? Thomas Reese of the Jesuits comes to mind.

          • “100 Years From Now, All New People”

            Faith and hope are Christian virtues, natch. 😉

            The Pope has been appointing good new people. He just hasn’t been going the “No Prisoners” route. Reform takes time and patience. “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”. The wheat and the tares, and all that jazz.

      • I just went to New Oxford Review’s page and you’re linked on the front page! How about that!

      • I’ve always felt that if you looked at the recent history of the RCC, you could see quite a bit of tolerating diversity. Some of that produces what you see in hispanic Catholicism, but it also produced toleration of the charismatic movement, etc. I agree the idea of unity isn’t lock step, but that seems to be a plus. We are the ones who divide over projection screens and the color of carpet.

        • But you don’t really divide in the Catholic sense. In Catholic lingo, “division” means excommunication and (usually) non-recognition of ordinations. In evangelicalism, “division” means neither of those things. So, using the Catholic definition of church divisions, evangelicals rarely divide over anything. Sure, there will be institutional shake-ups and seminary firings or whatever, but you don’t have excommunications and everything that goes with that.

        • If it were simply tolerating diverse worship styles, (charismatic vs. Latin Mass) that would be great. But in their case it’s tolerating error and outright heresy.

          It would be great to have a single, unified Protestant Church. Bucer, Cranmer and others wanted that. I would submit that we should work for it. But I don’t really think the RCC model is much better.

          • Which error or heresy do you mean? I thought that Protestants would regard Catholicism in general to be in error…?

            For a layperson to get excommunicated, they would have to do something pretty spectacular, like pretend to trance-channel Mary (this was a recent American case).

          • I feel what you are saying, I really do, but in the end the Catholic Church just isn’t very legalistic. It’s just the nature of the thing.

          • Joel if it was one single head it would cause me to pause, that is a unified Protestant front, I agree with everything thing you said , it drives me crazy as a Catholic, many paths to the same summit and such, but the real kicker is what is keeping this mammoth of divergent discord and theological anarchy in one piece? And why would people stay when they could be amongst a vast majority of protestant brothers and sisters of like mind according to personal interest. Papal dogma, or Marian Doctrine, these were the difficulties I thought I’d face little did I know the real challenge for me was to love those liberals next to me in the pew, or should I dare say it, at the altar.

          • Yeah, that doesn’t sound like a very good priest, but contra that article, he is a Christian because he is a baptized member of the Church. If heresy disqualified people from being Christians, we’d all be out of luck.

          • You know what, I take that first part back. I don’t know anything about this priest except one joke he told. There is no mention of what context he said it in, how he explained it, or anything. So even assuming he is a bad priest is not a good thing to do, let alone assuming non-Christian status.

    • The use of the adjective “gay” to characterize the Jesuit parish is gratuitous and unnecessary..

      Jesuits tend to be liberal and inclusive, but they are a diverse group of men. Their parishes are not “gay.” The parishes tend to attract the marginalized RC who is uncomfortable in the more traditional parish for a any of a variety of reasons.

      iMonk, I understand if you choose to moderate this comment.

      • Juanita, I am following the lead of the late Fr. Neuhaus, who condemned the Jesuits for this reason:


        “Avery Cardinal Dulles did his usual incisive job in reviewing Passionate Uncertainty, the McDonough-Bianchi book on the state of Jesuits today, his incisiveness always being tempered by generosity of spirit (FT, April). Discussing the book in the New York Review of Books, Garry Wills notes that the Society of Jesus in the U.S. has declined from 8,393 in 1965 to 3,635 today, with a marked increase in the number of homosexuals. There are more ex-Jesuits in the U.S. today than Jesuits. He writes, “It is not surprising that the numbers of heterosexuals have declined, as many left to marry and others were deterred by the celibacy requirement from entering. The remaining or arriving gays have formed protective networks-the authors call it a ‘lavender Mafia’-to provide the sense of community otherwise so hard to come by in the order. Of course, this works against a larger sense of community, since some of the Jesuits interviewed express resentment at being excluded by the gays.” Father Raymond Schroth, a Jesuit, comes to a more sanguine conclusion in a review in the Newark Star-Ledger (March 3, 2002): “Yet the overall portrait is one of men content in their vocations, who have drawn closer to the person of Jesus while leaving an earlier Almighty God figure behind.” In view of recent and much-publicized developments regarding sexual abuse by priests, including Jesuits, one hopes that men who are on such friendly terms with Jesus will be able to get a reintroduction to his Father. One waited to see how America, the main Jesuit publication in this country, would deal with the book. The editors assigned it to a social scientist who took issue with the authors’ interviewing methodology; observed that, if one read only the statements of those who had good things to say about the Society, one would come away with a better impression of the Society; and suggested that the “inspiring” official Jesuit documents provide “a more reliable picture.” There are undoubtedly problems with the McDonough-Bianchi book, as Cardinal Dulles noted, but surely one might have hoped for at least a hint of openness on the part of America to the possibility that there is a problem or two in the Society as well. In other contexts, such denial is sometimes called stonewalling.”

        • Well, Neuhaus was not a one man Magesterium. There are plenty of good Jesuits, I’ve met them (even though they don’t go to the same Traditionalist parish as me, wow!). There are problems with some of the narrow-minded legalism among the First Things crowd, to be honest.

          • I agree they are rare but there are good Jesuits. Father Mitch Pacwa is a good example… I can’t think of anybody else right now but I am sure there is more than one.

            The Jesuits are still stuck on their social engineering experiments at some point somebody will reform what was once a great order. If not, well, it was nice having them while they existed. The more you dissent from Church teaching the less people are going to join you. Look at the thriving orders:

            The Fraternity of St. Peter and the Order of Christ the King sovereign Priest.

      • I didn’t read the sentence as all inclusive but as an example.

        And I’m conservative.

    • No I would say welcome to the endless Liturgical wars within the Catholic Church. Again one must go back to Vatican II and what was said and what was done to get an idea of where people go off the reservation.

      As a guide I will provide you with two things that would help you immensely in your journey through these troubled waters:

      The second Vatican Council can be summarized in two prevailing thoughts.

      1. What Vatican II says
      2. What the “spirit” of Vatican II says.

      See there is a difference between dissent and a disagreement. You can have a disagreement when you have to answers that are both possible and could work out in different ways in order to achieve the same goal. Dissent is when there is one right and true answer however people go about doing their own thing, because that is where “they feel” they should go.

      In the Church there is the right answer that people choose to ignore it is not the fault of the Church, saints and sinners after all.

  5. Attend a “strip mall” church, teach in a Baptist school…but I really miss aspects of the weekday Mass I used to attend. I quit going for theological reasons, but there was something within that worship that I miss. You hit on something here Michael…the connection. There’s just something we don’t get in modern evangelical circles. Why can’t there be both? Why can’t we have old and new together? Past and present? Must it always be one or the other?

    • Hello Anglicans and Lutherans. Your phone is ringing.

      • absolutely – I attended my first Lutheran service yesterday – for much the reason that have been brought up here – Was it an amazing service? no – it was kind of akward for one not from the tradition, and the people could have sung more (though the preaching was EXCELLANT!) but there was something in the historicity and liturgy that is missing in our evangelical churches.

    • there’s something about the smells and the bells that shouts TRANSCENDANCE. Have to admit that my Vineyard offers little in that category.

      • Yes, that’s it. . . well, er. . . part of it, at least!

        My Xenos Christian Fellowship offers little in that category, too, Greg. But I suppose that is its point. . .

        • do you mean some kind of conflating TRANSCENDANT with MYSTICAL/IMPRACTICAL ?? as if NOT being transcendant was a quality ??

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Didn’t IMonk make a posting a year or two ago about “MAO Inhibitors”, where “MAO” stood for “Mystery, Awe, and Otherness”?

  6. The veneration of Mary seems to be the norm in Catholic churches. A church near where I live, the Church of the Vietnamese Martyrs, has a spectacular display of the Stations of the Cross around the parking lot, with Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane in one corner. But the real focal point of the parking lot is the gigantic statue of Madonna with Child, which is fenced off and placed on a wood pedestal. The pedestal itself is carved in the shape of hands holding up the Madonna with Child. Behind the church are more statues depicting the Nativity and the Mysteries of Mary, or something like that. I had a Catholic friend explain it to me. Plus there was one area with a large number of chairs that had a statue of Mary parked in front of them. Jesus might have factored into the devotion at this church, but Mary was the star.

    I went to Washington, D.C., not long ago and visited the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Wow. And this, according to what I read online, is a “minor basilica.” In the main sanctuary is a huge ceiling mural of Jesus during Revelation, but most of the rest of the shrine is dedicated to Mary. Not just to Mary, but to various ethnic presentations of Mary: Eastern European, Vietnamese, Filipino, etc.

    • Good points. But what about the practically perfect ways in which evangelicals and other Protestant denoms ignore Mary? (Except at Christmas of course).

      BTW, I’m Anglican.

      Shalom +

      • Since evangelicals and other Protestants don’t believe Mary dispenses grace or placates the Son, there’s no reason to make her a focal point of worship. You might notice that Moses, Joseph, Elijah, Abraham, John the Baptist, Jeremiah, and Paul are just as “ignored” in the structure of Protestant worship.

        • I was with you until Paul. Paul gets preached more often than Jesus, and we worry more about doing what he says than we do about Jesus. He’s treated almost as the second son of God, IMHO.

    • Bill:

      1) Ignore her? Not in any church I’ve ever attended.

      2) Mother of God? Check. Virgin? Check? Instrument of the Lord for incarnation? Check. Her Yes was crucial? Check

      3) Always virgin? Protected from Sin? Mediator? Pray to her? Queen of heaven? Assumption? No. And what would you expect?

      4) See Scot McKnight, The Real Mary.


      • Some Lutherans regard Mary as “ever-virgin” but it’s kind of a non-issue (we’re not dogmatic about it). We remember her (and all the saints) weekly when we pray that we “that may follow them in godly faith”.

    • All Marian devotion lead to her son Jesus Christ. The message of all legitimate apparitions of Mary is “Do whatever he tells you.”

      • I understand that to be technically true, and I know that the use of the word “legitimate” in your comment is important, but it is still quite confusing when you look at it from the outside, and see the GIGANTIC statue of Mary in the center of everything, and the half-size Jesus sitting in the corner. Whatever may be technically true in doctrine ought to be reflected in practice.

        It is similar to the concept that you can tell what is important in a culture by looking for their biggest buildings. Americans may say that they care about freedom and justice, but our sports stadiums and business centers are always bigger than our courthouses.

        • I don’t know that I’d want to live anywhere where the courthouses were the biggest buildings. That implies way too much legal process.

          • Jenny Bluett says

            All I know is that at the moment of conscecration, the small host the priest elevates becomes my visual focal point and is more ENORMOUS as the center of reality in our worship, bigger than any statue of Mary in my parish, or even in a parish where a Marian statue is perched about the altar for that matter.

    • “most of the rest of the shrine is dedicated to Mary”

      Clue is in the name there, Mr. Poet. National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – not going to have a lot of imagery of St. Callistus, for example.

  7. Sounds wonderful in many ways. Appealing… and then they go and lose me with Novenas of the Miraculous Medal. I don’t get the difference between that and Peter Popov’s Miraculous Spring Water. I love our Catholic brothers and sisters but stuff like that is so discouraging.

    • It often is simply: “If God uses it….” and there you go.

      The church has always been subject, in my view, to Luther’s criticism that it simply failed to judge by scripture those things that ought not to be done, but instead in the name of charity and devotion allowed them.

    • Not all RC Churches do this. I grew-up Catholic and rarely were Novenas ever offered to any sort of Miraculous Medal or any such thing. It’s a permitted devotional practice; extra prayer time. Not necessary! There is not “theology” as such to cover this sort of thing except it’s semi-private, not commanded or demanded, purely voluntary and no one is forcing anyone else to go. Like Bible Studies in Baptist Churches…you won’t find Scriptural support for Sunday School either. Catholicism is a spectrum, not a monolith, and different Diocese, Parishes, even Pastors, bring different emPHAses to their flocks.

      I understand that traditional practices that went out when I was in High School, back in the early ’70s, are finding their way back into the Church. Interesting. But what may be a devotional practice in, say, Philadelphia, may be absolutely unknown in, perhaps, Chicago. Or, more to the point, in a particular Parish in Chicago…

      Catholic can be very diverse. When I was a kid, certain ethnicities were known for certain practices. It is no less true today. As immigrants make themselves to home here, they bring with them the practices of their home country with them. So novenas amongst one nation may be commonplace…and completely foreign in another. And their Churches are merely blocks away, yet under the same Bishop, here, in the States.

      Yet, on a Sunday Morning, or a Saturday Night, the Mass will be essentially the same. You could go to Mass in their Churches and have the same basic experience, say the same prayers, know all the responses, and know what is coming next…even if the Mass were said in Spanish, Vietnamese, or Polish… Just skip the Novena they may be having on the First Friday of the Month 😉

      • A man walked up to a Franciscan and Jesuit and asked, “How many novenas must you say to get a Mercedes Benz?”

        The Franciscan asked, “What’s a Mercedes Benz?”

        The Jesuit asked, “What’s a novena?”

        • Sam, I cannot resist Jesuit jokes, so here we go:

          There are three things that even God does not know about the Church:

          1) How many congregations of religious women are there?
          2) How much money do the Franciscans have stashed away?
          3) What do the Jesuits really think and what are they going to do next?

          A Franciscan gets a haircut, and then asks how much he owes. The barber says he never charges clergy. The Franciscan thanks the barber and goes home. The next morning the barber finds a big basket of fresh bread from the Franciscans’ kitchens.

          An Augustinian gets his hair cut by the same barber. The barber also tells him than he never charges clergy. So, the next day the barber receives a nice bottle of wine from the Augustinians’ wine cellar.

          A Jesuit gets his hair cut, and the barber again says that he never charges clergy. The next day, when the barber gets to work, there are twelve other Jesuits already waiting for him.

          A Capuchin dies and goes to heaven, humbly knocks on the door, and is let in without any fanfare. One day, a long time later, he notices lots of commotion. Flowers are arranged, all the candles are lit, and a red carpet is rolled out. He asks an angel what’s going on, and is told that they are preparing to welcome a Jesuit into heaven. Perplexed, he asks St. Peter, “I always thought there would be justice and equality in heaven, with no one receiving preferential treatment. Why are you going to such great lengths to welcome a Jesuit, whereas you hardly took any notice of me when I arrived?” St. Peter tells him in reply, “Don’t you see? Another Capuchin enters heaven almost every week, but you can’t imagine how long it’s been since we welcomed the last Jesuit up here!”

          And just for all the good Jesuits that are still out there:

          The Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits were having a big meeting that went well into the middle of the night. Suddenly all the lights went out in the meeting room. The Benedictines immediately started chanting Psalms glorifying God, the Franciscans took out their guitars and sang songs praising all creation, and the Dominicans began preaching about the metaphysics of light and darkness; meanwhile the Jesuits went to the basement, found the fuse box, and reset the breaker.

          A Franciscan and a Dominican were debating about whose order was the greater. After months of arguing, they decided to ask for an answer from God when they died. Years later, they met in heaven and decided to go to the throne of God to resolve their old disagreement. God seemed a bit puzzled about the question and told them he would reply in writing a few days later. After much deliberation, God sent the following letter:

          My beloved children,

          Please stop bickering about such trivial matters. Both of your orders are equally great and good in my eyes.

          Sincerely yours,

          God, S.J.

          • A Jesuit was in his office smoking a cigar as he prayed the Divine Office. His secretary noticed him smoking and asked if that was permissible. The Jesuit responded “I don’t know, I’ve never asked. I’ll ask my superior tomorrow.” The next day, he reported to his secretary that “I asked my superior, and he said, ‘Of course it’s okay to pray while you smoke!'”


            A Jesuit, a Dominican, and a Trappist monk were stranded on a deserted island. While foraging for food, they found an Aladdin’s lamp. Rubbing it a genie appeared and said, “Usually the person who found me gets three wishes, but because three people found me, you get one wish each.”

            The Jesuit wished to teach in a great university. POUF — he was gone!

            The Dominican wished to preach in a grand cathedral. POUF — gone!

            The Trappist said, “Well, … er … ah… I just got my wish, already.”


            A story is told of a man floating over the countryside in a hot air balloon. He became lost and finally came down in a tree. He saw two people walking by and so he shouted out to them, ‘Where am I?’
            One of them replied, ‘In a tree.’
            ‘Oh, you must be a Dominican!’
            ‘How did you know?’
            ‘Because what you say is true, but entirely unhelpful.’

          • Or then there’s the one about the Jesuit, the Dominican and the Franciscan out walking when they came upon the Holy Family.

            The Franciscan fell to his knees in adoration, overcome by the sight of the holy poverty of Our Lady, St. Joseph, and the Christ Child.

            The Dominican fell to his knees in prayer, worshipping the reflection of the Blessed Trinity in the Holy Family.

            The Jesuit walked up to St. Joseph, put his arm around his shoulder, and said “So, Joe, any thoughts about where you’re going to send the kid to school?”

    • For reasons like the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne?


      There are certainly many devotions that are not appealing to me on a personal level. One that is increasingly popular in recent times is the devotion to the Divine Mercy.

      Yet other people get great good out of them. Chacun a son gout?

  8. I agree, iMonk. I grew up RCC in a fairly conservative parish where my parents still attend. I separated from the RCC because of some theological issues (’nuff said). But I still enjoy a good traditional liturgical service when I get the chance. (One big plus of visiting my grandmother!)

    There are several “high” Episcopal churches that I have visited that are also rewarding in this way. But I think I will stay where I am. At least my congregation’s “traditional” service is a decent substitute for a formal liturgy. (It’s not liturgical, but best I have found – and I agree with the theology.)

  9. I am currently attending a PCA Church I previously attended, under a different Pastor, from 1993-1995. At that time, we had just built the building, and there was a push for the more traditionally-minded to have a less contemporary, seeker-sensitive time of worship. So we got it, at o’dark-thirty in the AM. We sang hymns, recited creeds, that sort of thing. We flaunted our Presbyterian distinctives. Meanwhile, at 11:00, the Worship Band sang songs, making their joyful noise (no sarcasm here!), and worshipped as egalitarian as possible. Sermons were topical, dress was casual, and there was no Presbyterian speech at all whatsoever. Teaching was more self-help than theological…and anything smacking of cathechism was not allowed.

    And there the Great Divide began.

    We left that Church and spent the ensuing years in another one. But now I’ve gone back for personal reasons and whilst a great many things have changed, the Great Divide has not. It is reflected in the Session as well. There are Elders from the First Service and Elders from the Second Service and rarely do the two worship at “each other’s” service. It is reflected in the “generation” of these Elders. First Service Elders are older than Second Service Elders; they have more knowledge of distinctly Presbyterian theology, they wear suits more often (:grin:). But where it really shows is on Communion Sunday. On a recent Communion Sunday, there weren’t enough Elders at the Second Service to serve Communion properly…and those that were there made a mistake and missed part of the folk there…because the vast majority of our Elders were at First Service.

    It is my opinion that The Great Divide exists throughout Protestantism and is killing it. But I could go and visit my Parents’ Catholic Parish (I grew up Catholic) in Chicago or Scottsdale (one diocesan, one Franciscan) and not experience this. I could go and visit my friends’ Orthodox Church and not experience this. The Great Divide does not exist like this because Liturgy is not meant to be social. Liturgy is meant to be about GOD. Social is AFTER, and outside of Liturgy. Indeed, there is LOTS of social apart from Sunday Mass/Divine Liturgy. The vast majority of my Parents’ friends are friends in their Parishes and have been for almost 60 years. Yet, somehow, in Protestantism, where I have been for nigh unto 30 years, Social IS Sunday Morning, Sunday Evening (where applicable anymore)…

    Why? What have we lost since the Reformation (or whenever)? For myself, when I go to Mass, I go with the intent that I will worship; that I will meet with the Living God and partake of Living Bread and walk away with His Grace, in His Mercy. I don’t go expecting that the music will be especially grand or the sermon will be the high point because *that’s not the point of why I go*. When I go to my Home Church, I go to be taught; to hear a message. I expect music that is singable (accompanied by something that doesn’t blow-out my already feeble hearing…and I’m in my early 50s), a good sermon, and fellowship because there is precious little fellowship outside of Sundays due to time and distance constraints. I go to be ministered to (in fact, in my Widowhood, I was told this; that if I wanted to be ministered to, I needed to be in Church on Sunday Mornings!).

    So… whilst I realise, the problem may be mine exclusively (not the Churches), might it be, that the problem may not be mine uniquely?

    • “The Great Divide does not exist like this because Liturgy is not meant to be social. Liturgy is meant to be about GOD. Social is AFTER, and outside of Liturgy. Indeed, there is LOTS of social apart from Sunday Mass/Divine Liturgy. The vast majority of my Parents’ friends are friends in their Parishes and have been for almost 60 years. Yet, somehow, in Protestantism, where I have been for nigh unto 30 years, Social IS Sunday Morning, Sunday Evening (where applicable anymore)…”

      Sounds like your parents sought God and they got the social benefits added. I think in my experience I’ve gone to church primarily for the social aspect, and ended up missing both God AND the social aspect. “Seek first the kingdom and all these things shall be added to you” etc. 🙁

      Everyone needs friends and community. If someone says that they only go to a certain church for GOD alone and not for socializing, its probably because they already have friends and family and don’t need church to provide that.

      It is probably better to have fewer church options than too many options, for me anyway. the only time I ever fully commited to a church was during college at a secular campus and I joined one of the only two campus fellowships, the lack of choice was a good thing for me. after graduation I never found a church because I couldn’t pick one.

      • I grew up being taught that you were supposed to find your friends at church. (and then later, you’re supposed to meet members of the opposite sex at church… which doesn’t work very well as a 27 year old woman, but there you have it)

        It has taken me until just recently to realize – that while I would have always said God was why we went to church – I did look too much for some place I could make friends. When that isn’t the main purpose. Do we need fellowship? yes, but having a church family is not the same thing as having friends. I’ve finally realized that I’m never going to be able to find both the theology/liturgy I am looking for, and friends at the same place (I’m just too traditional for most 20s and 30s folk around here) and I need to put the priority where it needs to be, rather than looking for churches based on their singles groups.

        This is why I think I may very well join the Lutheran church I visited. Would I prefer a larger church with more young people? sure. But there was Biblical preaching, and I’m finding myself more in agreement with them than with any other denomination these days, and I’m realizing that at some point – I have to stop expecting to be able to have it all.

        For that matter – I do have friends outside of church and its a good thing because they are folks I can minister to – when all your friends are within the Church – how are you ever supposed to reach the world?

        • “It has taken me until just recently to realize – that while I would have always said God was why we went to church – I did look too much for some place I could make friends. When that isn’t the main purpose. Do we need fellowship? yes, but having a church family is not the same thing as having friends. I’ve finally realized that I’m never going to be able to find both the theology/liturgy I am looking for, and friends at the same place (I’m just too traditional for most 20s and 30s folk around here) and I need to put the priority where it needs to be, rather than looking for churches based on their singles groups.”

          I was taught that it is a very serious sin to marry an unbeleiver, so if a Christian wants to marry, they have no choice but to look for a mate in their church. Where else are you supposed to go? But if you go to church to find a mate, you get accused of not putting God first.

          • oh – I was taught that (and I completely agree with not marrying an unbeliever) – I just don’t think that Church is necessarily the only place to meet another believer… They might bo to another Church (biggest problem around here? there so many churches that all the singles my age are spread out 3 or 4 to a church – and in most cases there were NO single men my age at all)

            I don’t think its necessarily wrong for it to be a consideration – but I think we place it higher than it ought to be at times…. I just don’t think its right for me to church hop just in the hopes of hitting a singles class of some size…

    • if I wanted to be ministered to, I needed to be in Church on Sunday Morning

      blunt and to the point, eh ?? Very good post, hang in there and keep up the pilgrim’s progress.

      Greg R

    • “The Great Divide does not exist like this because Liturgy is not meant to be social. Liturgy is meant to be about GOD. Social is AFTER, and outside of Liturgy. Indeed, there is LOTS of social apart from Sunday Mass/Divine Liturgy.”

      “…when I go to Mass, I go with the intent that I will worship; that I will meet with the Living God and partake of Living Bread and walk away with His Grace, in His Mercy.”

      Well said. I miss the gift that daily Mass was for me.

  10. Martha Spurlock says

    John Paul II was a true, blue Marianist. Benedict not so much. Benedict is the intellectual. JPII was a man of action and a populist. Benedict knows how strong that Marian devotion remains in the RCC.

    During JPII, the official recognition of the CO-REDEMPTRIX of Mary surged around the world. Liberals love Mary on par with Christ (she’s the goddess, after all!) and old-time Catholics love the Blessed Mother ’cause she’s “gentler” than Jesus — my dad’s generations (born in ’34) are more devoted to her. They view Jesus in reverence and awe, but don’t feel “squishy” about Jesus like they do Mary and saints.

    There will be no bridging that gap with Protestants as long as Marianists – who are often the most devoted to tradition — are command such large number.

    • http://rccommentary2.blogspot.com/2009/08/pope-benedict-xvi-mary-and-priesthood.html

      Not sure where you’re getting alot of this, though Papa Ratzinger did talk JPII out of defining co-redemptrix as a dogma, for the best.

      Though really, all Christians are co-redeemers per St. Paul:

      Col1:24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church: 25 Whereof I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God, which is given me towards you, that I may fulfill the word of God:

      (24 “Wanting”… There is no want in the sufferings of Christ in himself as head: but many sufferings are still wanting, or are still to come, in his body the church, and his members the faithful.)

      1 Corinthians 12:26 And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.

      Romans 8:17 And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.

    • As one Martha to another, any mention of Mary as goddess makes me want to punch someone in the nose.

      Very hard.

      Doubtless there are the confused and the syncretists who think of Mary as another aspect of the Great Mother Goddess, as on a par with Isis and Cybele and what-not. People being ignorant does not change what the facts are.

      I think you may be closer with what you say about the older generations and the devotion to Mary and the saints – “(they) don’t feel “squishy” about Jesus like they do Mary and saints.”

      That “squishiness” may have been responsible for the “Jesus is my boyfriend” genre of contemporary church music in Protestantism. I agree that the emotional, sentimental, and romantic element gets to spend itself on Mary rather than Jesus, and speaking for myself only, I’m just as happy with that. I’m not comfortable with the “And he walks with me/and he talks with me/and he tells me that I’m his own”, Buddy Jesus notion.

      I’m not very sentimental, and a lot of popular devotion is too flowery for words. But if we’re going to have that element of human nature, and I think it’s inescapable that we do, then I’m just as happy to have it shoved off on Our Lady.

      Remove Mary, and that tendency gets shoved onto Jesus. Or gets expressed in the ‘Mom and apple pie and the flag’ sentiment which means you get hauled over the coals if you don’t preach a suitably treacly sermon on Mother’s Day.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        That “squishiness” may have been responsible for the “Jesus is my boyfriend” genre of contemporary church music in Protestantism.

        It’s not just in church music.

        Ever flushed money down the toilet of a Christian (TM) Dating Service? I have. Why do the women bother to sign up for a dating service when they already have their Perfect Boyfriend Jesus? It’s false advertising for all us guys signing up and forking over the $$$ hoping to find someone who’s not already taken.

        • Headless, our version of the Christian Dating Service is the Knock Marriage Bureau.

          Or the small ads in the back of “Ireland’s Own”, which run along the lines of “Bachelor farmer from Mayo aged 60, 40 acres with sheep headage payments and owner of combine harvester, looking for wife aged 24-30. Must have own milk quota.” 😉

          I abide in blessed singleness, never having had the call to the vocation of Holy Matrimony and so avoided all dating sites, Christian or otherwise.

          In my mother’s time, people got married as she recounted the following story to us: a woman went to the mart in town and met a man looking to buy heifers. She told him “I’ve a nice little heifer at home” – and that was how she arranged a husband for her daughter.

          On the other hand, my maternal grandfather married my maternal grandmother for love, and was disinherited from the family farm for it by my great-grandmother 🙂

      • Martha wrote, “I’m not very sentimental, and a lot of popular devotion is too flowery for words. But if we’re going to have that element of human nature, and I think it’s inescapable that we do, then I’m just as happy to have it shoved off on Our Lady.”

        Hey, that’s a good point, Martha. I am not very sentimental either, in spite of the fact that I get teary at Mass.

        • JoanieD, for pure treacle, you can’t beat some of the 19th century devotions around the virgin martyrs.

          I think we’ve got a hangover in popular devotions of that kind of emotional appeal and we haven’t gone back far enough to older sources which were much more tough-minded.

          I’m particularly thinking of St. Therese, who is popularly known as the Little Flower, which does convey an impression of swooning, not to say simpering, when in reality she was as tough as a gad – a fifteen year old girl who takes advantage of a papal audience to tell the Pope “Holy Father, make the Carmelites let me join!” is certainly no shrinking violet 🙂

          • Having said all that, and denounced the emotional appeal and sentimentality of much popular devotion, let me now totally contradict myself 🙂

            I find this image charming, even though it is almost teetering on the edge of kitsch – the tiny dragon lying on its back beside St. George. and the male saints in the height of mediaeval fashion? Yet it is appealing, if faintly ridiculous:


          • I have never understood the attraction of the Little Flower, not that she wasn’t tough, but just the way she (or her followers) come across just isn’t my cup of tea.

            Give me Teresa of Avila, instead.

      • Hey- don’t kill the messenger — I went to school with feminist/lesbian Sisters of Mercy. They were ALL Marianists. The feminine side of God. It’s a heresy to the core. Goes way beyond “dulia” and “hyperdulia.” My dad felt squishy about Mary and the Saints because he’d been taught that by sentimental Irish priests and nuns.

        • I also taught with feminist/lesbian Ursulines, who did not want the Lord’s Prayer (I know, I know Pater Noster) to be said over the PA for morning devotions. I can’t stand nuns anymore because of these feminist sensibilities. I don’t care how many great ones anyone knows. I went through Catholic school at the tail end of Vatican II and I can’t stand the HIPPIEFIED religious.

        • So, does the fact that there are liberal nuns who misread the Bible discredit the reading of the Bible?

        • In other words: not trying to kill the messenger, just pointing out the message is wrong.

  11. can anyone recommend any good resources for dealing with the pain and brokenness in families resulting from someone leaving the RCC for another denomination (or vice versa)?

    • Not a resource, but more of a comment. My family has Protestant, Catholic, and atheist members, and it is not a big issue. (At least to us–God will presumably express his opinion in due course.) I would recommend being thankful that your family members, even if they do not entirely agree with you, are reaching out to something which is basically good. Think of all the other things they might have gravitated to, such as drugs–and yet, they are following their ideals. This is something to celebrate.

  12. I am Catholic and have some of the same issues that Protestants do with some of the theological issues. I feel fortunate that in the church I attend, there is not an over-abundance of time dedicated to devotion to Mary. I think Mary is great and without her, we would not have had Jesus, but she is not to be held to the same veneration as Jesus, for sure. And in terms of her being “ever virgin” every translation I have read except for the Jerusalem Bible (even the New American Bible which is the one currently being read in the American churches, though I understand things are under review and may change) says that Mary and Joseph did not consummate their marriage UNTIL Jesus was born. That “until” says a lot to me. It indicates that they did have sexual relations after Jesus was born. And why not? They were married and the Bible often compares a loving marriage to the relationship that God has with his people. Now I am not saying that Joseph and Mary HAD to be having sexual relations, but I am saying it was not “necessary” that Mary remain “ever virgin.”

    And I know Michael has issues with purgatory, but I look at purgatory the way the Pope (can’t remember if it was JPII or B16) says about it being maybe an instant of time (as we conceive of time) where anything that is in our soul that is less than “perfect” at the moment of death is purged by the all-consuming love of God. I know that does not conform with the old way of thinking about purgatory, but if the Pope said it, then it indicates that the Church can change its understanding of theological issues as the Holy Spirit leads it into all truth.

    I like the stand the Church takes in regard to taking care of people in poverty and in other needs. I don’t always agree with the Church’s response to people who don’t align perfectly with what the Church teaches in regard to sex, marriage, Communion. I try to keep an open mind about the teachings, but sometimes, without getting into long explanations, I just don’t understand.

    The other big issue is the Pope. Well, when it comes right down to it, SOMEBODY has to be “in charge” when there are issues that need clarification. The Pope doesn’t just come up with things on his own. He has scripture, history and his Cardinals to advise him. So if they want to say that in regard to the teachings, the Pope is “infallible” that’s OK as a way to keep some kind of unity going. I am reading a book about Pope Benedict XVI and I was not aware of it, but everything that Pope John Paul II wrote about theological matters was first reviewed by Benedict (when he was a Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) before the items were published.

  13. Well, you did better than I did for Michaelmas!

    I intended to go to Mass today for the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, but unfortunately other things intervened.

    So – happy feastday, Michael! (Hey, if St. Michael the Archangel is not your patron because he’s your namesake, who is?) 🙂

  14. Fascinating thoughts! Thank you. Very interesting to read something by a knowledgeable and somewhat sympathetic outsider.

    Regarding the statuary:
    So long as there is a crucifix on the altar, there can be different types of central statues. I’ve seen Mary with Child, just Mary, a resurrected Christ, the Holy Family, the patron saint of the parish, a bare cross, no statue at all, etc… It’s largely a matter of taste and local devotion. You’re not alone in being uncomfortable with certain decisions, though. 95% of parishes have a crucifix, which, in my opinion, is best, due to the correspondence between the altar and Calvary. Ask another Catholic and you’ll probably get a different answer, though.

    • At our EO parish, the big icon behind the altar is one of the Resurrection. However, I’ve been to more parishes where this icon is the Theotokos with the Christ child. I’m not exactly sure why this is (maybe something to do with Mary symbolizing the Church?), but it seems like this more traditional Low Mass that Michael describes has a bit more in common than usual with prevailing EO customs (e.g. ad orientum), only Latin-ized.

      Dunno if I’m just connecting dots at random here…

      • But in EO, Mary is *always* shown with the Christ child.

      • Ben, the Theotokos with the Christ child is about the Incarnation, not about Mary alone.


      • L and Dana, thanks for the clarification. It seems, at least in the parish Michael speaks of, the Madonna with Child figure sounds like a similar sort of thing. Of course, they may have a different interpretation of it.

        • From a quick browse of the church’s website, with the one photo of the interior they provide, it seems like (1) it is too small to have the traditional side chapel to Our Lady (2) this image of Mary as Stella Maris, bearing the Child Jesus in her arms, is above the altar as the patroness of the church because they have no place else to put it (rather than shoving it in a corner); I see the statues of the Sacred Heart and (I think) St. Joseph at the sides of the altar (3) there does appear to be the altar crucifix on or above the altar.

          I agree, it is unusual not to have the crucifix in that place, and it possibly is in contravention of the rubrics – but on the other hand, if this is the customary form of the old church, it may have been permitted. So long as they satisfy the requirment to have a crucifix on the altar when celebrating Mass, they’re okay.

  15. I mentioned in an above post that there are some pending changes in the liturgy in the American Roman Catholic Church. At this URL,
    http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal/examples.shtml you can scroll down to see how they want to change the wording of the Nicene Creed. I do not like these pending changes and I think I am going to write to someone to tell them that. (Not that it will matter, but it will make me feel better!)

    I think “one in Being with the Father” is much better than “consubstantial with the Father.” I think “born of the Virgin Mary” is much better than “was incarnate of the Virgin Mary.” They both mean the same thing, but why complicate matters for the people?

    • I agree with you on those two items, actually, but overall the changes are desperately needed. The current translation of the Mass in English is *so bad* that it hurts, if’n one knows any Latin.

    • I disagree, even with the two examples given. We deserve accurate translations. I want to go to an English translation of the Latin Mass, not an English Mass. I want to say and hear the same words that non-English-speaking Catholics do. Please keep people like me in mind when you write your letter, JoanieD.

    • Margaret Catherine says

      Many of the changes, including those two, bring the Creed closer in language to the translation in use in the Ruthenian Rite (and possibly the other Eastern Rites?) It’s no bad thing to have a more uniform English translation, across Rites…and for my money, ‘incarnate’ is the better word choice; it applies to the entire reality of the Incarnation and not only to His birth (which ‘born of’ could be seen as limited to).

    • Eh, I’m easy on it, Joanie.

      If God spares me until the new translation is rolled out, this will be the fourth one I’ve sat through: from the Latin Mass (up till about six or so), then the first English translation, then the current one, and next the revision of the revision.

      A lot of it seems to me to be going back to the language of the early English translation, and I don’t mind a bit of chewy language in the liturgy. Maybe it will overcome the “hello trees, hello sky!” type of catechesis that is all too common, if religious education classes have to tackle things like “what does ‘consubstantial’ mean?” 🙂

      • It sounds like you and I are the same age, Martha.

        And Curtis and Margaret…if this language is more accurate, then I will rethink my objections. I think I am objecting as much to the SOUND of the new changes in the creed. The way we say it at the moment is more “poetic” in my humble opinion. But, I will take accuracy over poetic-ness, though with a bit of sadness. The new language sounds harsh and does not “roll” well.

        But ….”born of the Virgin Mary” still says what happened. If she was virgin, then obviously Jesus was incarnated. But Jesus was BORN…he was a baby, he grew up, he learned. I still want to keep “he was born.” And “one in Being” still works for me. It describes what “consubstantial” means. Ordinarily I am not one for hassling about words. I want to focus on the love of God and leave the hassling to others. But I guess I love saying the Nicene Creed more than I knew. Oh well, things change.

        • Margaret Catherine says

          Joanie – Fair enough, though historically, the Nicene(/Constantinople) Creed was born out of hassling over a word, Theotokos, and everything that it implied – similarly, the Great Schism was the result of the addition of a word to the Creed; filioque.

          That aside, and given that nothing here is nearly that drastic – I suspect that if I weren’t mostly familiar with the retranslation already, through the Ruthenian liturgy, my reaction would track with yours. 🙂 I love the Creed and I don’t love change, but for me these aren’t really changes. And because it is so close to the Ruthenian, I can’t help but “hear” it sung and not spoken; it loses whatever harshness might be there.

        • Ah yes, Margaret, I am familiar with the Schism over “filoque.” I am unfamiliar with Ruthenian matters. I will do an internet search and read up on it. Thanks for your discussion! (It’s odd how there is a Reply space under my post but not under your latest. The website must be set to stop Reply after so many posts.)

          • http://www.faswebdesign.com/ECPA/Byzantine/Ruthenian.html
            Margaret, do you think this webpage is a fair description of Ruthenian history and present day practice?

          • Margaret Catherine says

            I’m not familiar with Ruthenian history as a whole – it’s accurate on the American history from what I know of that. The site it links to, Byzcath.org, has all kinds of information.

          • For anyone who is interested: I did write to someone about not liking the proposed changes in the Nicene Creed and I got this nice, long reply explaining how the system works. I wasn’t able to find an email address on the webpage where I saw the proposed changes, so I looked around the internet and found an email of someone who looked they had something to do with it and he ended up being the Executive Director of the Secretariat for the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. Here is Father Andrew Wadsworth’s email to me:

            “Thank you for your observations about the Nicene Creed. In reply, I should point out that the final form of a liturgical text is not the responsibility of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, still less of its Secretariat, to which you have addressed your comments.

            This Commission collaborates with Bishops from throughout the English-speaking world and their advisors to prepare English translations of Latin liturgical texts. These are assessed and, if this is deemed appropriate, amended, by local Conferences of Bishops before being sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for recognitio. The final texts, therefore, are a result of collaboration between the Conferences of Bishops and the Congregation.

            You may, or may not, be aware of the process that each of the texts goes through in the effort to establish an English text acceptable to the Conferences and the Congregation. Each text is translated by a translator who has received a nihil obstat from the Congregation. The base translation is evaluated by a team of experts in various fields, and their comments are used to alter the text as necessary. The resulting text, with the comments of the reviewers, is provided to the Roman Missal Editorial Committee, which reworks the text for submission to the Bishops of the Commission.

            The Bishops study the translation before gathering as a group. During the meeting they read the texts aloud and discuss alternatives. When a translation of a section of the Missal is complete, the Bishops vote to include the texts in to a Green Book or Study Book that is distributed to the Conferences of Bishops—typically for a six-month review. The Bishops of the Conferences are free to seek the opinion of whomever they choose in preparing observations on the draft texts. The comments of the Conferences are then submitted to ICEL, where again the text is reviewed and altered in light of the comments. The resulting text is then voted on by the Bishops of the Commission for inclusion in the Gray Book, or text for the Canonical vote of the Conference.

            In the last few years, ICEL has issued twelve Gray Books, which contain all the material in the Latin Missale Romanum. The last of these Gray Books were sent to the Conferences in October 2008. It will, of course, take some time for the Conferences to work through all the material presented to them, and prepare any additional material or modifications that they feel are necessary for their territory. The Conferences have agreed to work together as much as possible even in these final stages of preparation of the English translation of the Missale and the Bishops of the Commission, as well as the ICEL Secretariat, stand ready to assist in any way that the Conferences or the Congregation consider appropriate.

            I offer this description of the translation process in order to show the relationships between the various people and groups who are working together to provide the Church with an English translation to meet the needs of the diverse community that it serves. We very much appreciate the time and effort that you have taken to articulate the position in your letter and hope that this explanation goes some way toward answering your concerns.

            With all good wishes.

            Father Andrew Wadsworth
            Executive Director of the Secretariat

            International Commission on English in the Liturgy
            1522 K Street NW, Suite 1000
            Washington, DC 20005
            (202) 347-0800
            (202) 347-1839 fax

        • JoanieD, I think that the change to “incarnate” is for two reasons: (1) to be closer to the Latin (2) for subtle theological reasons – “incarnate” means “to take flesh of”, which emphasises the Humanity as well as the Divinity of Christ. “To be born of” can or could just mean “totally divine being which only passed through the womb of the woman and did not take flesh of her, so has no share in sinful human nature” – the Arian heresy in one form or another, as also Manichaeism. For total confusion, see the theory of Christ in Anthroposophy, which my sister tried to explain to me when she was working in a Waldorf school but which melted my brain. Christ as a cosmic spiritual being between Lucifer and Ahriman? Two Christs – two Christ-children, one physical and one spiritual? Huh?

          It’s a small thing, but there have been so many heresies on similar small points, that this kind of language is a reinforcment of orthodoxy, no matter how clunky or archaic it sounds. And I admit, I have a fondness for archaism 🙂

  16. Excellent comments with sentiments very similar to my own. I am solidly Reformed protestant and could never become Catholic for theological reasons. However, when I want to watch something worshipful and meaningful on TV, I don’t go anywhere near the Protestant channels like TBN or Daystar; rather, I watch the daily mass on EWTN. There’s no attempt to provide entertainment, to have a “gimmick” to attract people, no glitz or razzle dazzle, no smooth talking; just worship plain and simple as it’s been done for centuries and people of all ages and races taking part.

    The wedge contemporary evangelicals are driving between young and old is incredibly short sighted and deadly. Doesn’t the Bible itself say that the older should teach the younger? We’ve turned things around so that anything new (even if unproven) and appealing to the not yet mature, still developing young is trotted out as appropriate worship and more experienced, mature Christians who should be teaching the young about and sharing with them their great Christian heritage are instead asked to “get with it” or “get out.” The evangelical church will die if all it can do is try to keep up with secular culture and make its focus offering whatever the latest fads or glitz it can to “attract” the young as if the church were somehow dependent on a Christian advertising machine rather than God to draw people to Him.

    • Profoundly put.

      In our tradition, the teenager would be teaching the 50 year old how to jump and whirl on “Marvelous Light.”

      • if by jump and whirl you mean “Wiggle and Worship”…

        Then you’re probably this guy:


      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        You spin me round
        Spin me round round Jesus round round…

      • At the SBC church where I attend, during the main service there is often some spotlight offering just before the sermon. Sometimes it’s a man from the congregation who writes pretty good songs about Jesus; sometimes it’s sort of a Christian karaoke where a song is played off a cd with just instrumentals and someone sings along. One singer in particular usually tells us that the Lord has led her to sing this particular song. I think it’s terribly out of place and can’t understand why the Lord would want us to hear karaoke on a Sunday morning.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Tom, when somebody does an intro about “how the LORD Led Me To Sing This Particular Song”, it usually means God’s a lousy songwriter and/or DJ. And/or The Inspired One has a career opportunity as “World’s Worst Singer”.

    • That’s interesting, Jeff. I am Catholic and like attending Mass, but I do not like watching Mass on television at all. I did happen to hear a black Catholic priest giving an homily during a Mass on EWTN in the past week as I was “channel surfing” and I don’t know who he was, but he was great! He may have had a South African accent. I need to see if there is a place online to tell me who he was. Or, if anyone reading this saw that show and can tell me who he was, that would be appreciated.

    • I was listening to Marty Haugn’s setting for the Mass, which is often regarded by traditionally leaning Catholics as seriously deficient, and my Protestant mom got all wistful, saying she wished they played something so worshipful in her Nazerene church.

    • “The wedge contemporary evangelicals are driving between young and old is incredibly short sighted and deadly.”

      I think this is beacuse evangelicals want to do things like ‘take back America for God’ or reach x number of people for Christi by such-and-such a year, and to do that, they must create new leaders for tomorrow to replace teh ones who’ve died or retired.

      In college alot of the works of the campus pastors were focused on convincing us to become campus pastors like them. If you were being groomed and encouraged to take that path, you felt like your were special.

      Anyway, I think the evangelical church is focused on future programs and these in tuirn rely on future leaders, therefore all the focus is on attracting young people. When push comes to shove, the young people get their way (eg, the 11:00 am service goes contemporary) and the old people get bumped (they have to come in at 8:00 for their service).

    • Well, it’s a kingdom where the children lead. Like Isaiah. It’s just an anticipation of the New Earth. /end sarcasm

  17. “The old among us are often those who manage to hang on amidst a hurricane of changes.”

    I think the young can hold on, too. Unfortunately, they don’t know where the anchor is. They need the sages of the faith to show them by example, as you so poetically and vividly point out in your observation. But equating of relevance with youth appeal has rendered older members useless and valueless – except to squeeze out of them tithe money and estate endowments.

    A youth leader with a soul patch is not a sage of the faith.

    But it is more than liturgy. Catechism is so important, if done right. Luther’s small catechism is credited by some for helping the protestant reformation survive the counter-reformation, because it was concise, easily memorized, and easily taught by fathers to their families. The generational passing of faith is what lasts, not by trying to turn it into a passing teenage fad.

    • “But equating of relevance with youth appeal has rendered older members useless and valueless – except to squeeze out of them tithe money and estate endowments.”

      Strong statement but unfortunately very true I think. I once had a pastor say on a Sunday morning when there was a terrible snowstorm and it was difficult to get out and about that the only ones who would be in church that morning were the “aged and infirm.” And the truth is, that’s who was there—the elderly who had been committed to the church for decades and came simply to be there and give devotion to God, no matter what. Meanwhile, the young who saw church as the place to see their friends and have a good time “jamming” for Christ didn’t show—too much effort to get there that day and there probably would have been some people missing so the “rush” wouldn’t have been as intense and therefore not worth it..

      • Nothing strong about it. Happened to my folks. They no longer attend church. And they are sages of the faith. I keep wondering if the same fate awaits me when I reach their age. That day gets closer and closer everyday.

    • Considering the rate at which American culture is becoming increasingly obsessed with and geared toward youth — a state of affairs in which anything or anyone old or traditional is coming to be regarded as irrelevant, and everything is being souped up and dumbed down to target ever-shortening attention spans — I’m not too sure that either the traditional or the new-fangled ways of doing things are going to suffice in passing substantative faith on to future generations. I think that if the older “sages of the faith” want to pass on what they have acquired in the Lord over the years, then they’re going to have to pick out specific young people, establish one-on-one relationships with these young people, and then invest the time, love, and extreme frustration it will take to disciple them.

  18. thomas tucker says

    Joanie: read 2 Samuel 6:23.
    Saying that something didn’t happen up until a certain point does not mean that it happened after that point.
    Furthermore, isn’t it strange that Mary expressed surprise when the angel told her that she would become pregnant and have a son, given that she was betrothed and in the usual course of events would have children, UNLESS there was some reason that she was expected to remain a virgin?

  19. I remember visiting my grandparents in Massachusetts as a child. I had always been taken to the English/Latin Mass in those days, and my memere (grandmother) took me to the French Canadian/Latin Mass of her parish.
    I could follow it from the Latin. I was comfortable and felt at home. I even recognized some of the French words (the language of my father’s people).
    There is a transcendence that should not be broken in Christian worship.
    What is ‘new’ and ‘glitzy’ will soon become old and boring. But what is transcendent remains.
    Here’s hoping that evangelicals find a liturgy that is full of meaning for them, and that is also something that will bring them together and bring them peace. Here’s hoping that they go way back into ancient Christian traditions and find some of the liturgical heritage that was thrown out needlessly. If it still has meaning for evangelicals today, then it is their heritage, too.

  20. For the past 16 years I have been attending an evangelical church (Evangelical Free denomination)with my family. And five years ago I started attending weekday services in a conservative Anglican church, one that separated from the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego (along with eight other churches) and uses the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. I appreciate both churches, but there are certain aspects of worship I receive in a liturgical service that our evangelical church just doesn’t offer.

    First of all, I love all of the Scripture readings between the Morning Office and the Holy Eucharist liturgies — one OT, one NT, a passel of Psalms (according to the Psalter, not the lectionary, so we read the entire book of Psalms each month), plus the Epistle and Gospel readings. My evangelical friends often ask me if the Anglican Church is a “Bible-believing church,” and I answer that they are a “Bible-reading church”; between the readings and the prayers which are often taken straight from Scripture, I feel bathed in God’s Word by the time the service finishes. I just love the emphasis on the reading of God’s Word in the liturgical churches.

    I also appreciate the focus on prayer in the liturgical services. In our evangelical church, the pastors may lead us in a prayer between two of the worship songs (which are often so loud that my teenaged daughter and husband have to step outside because it hurts their ears), at the the beginning and close of the sermon, and for the offering. These are short prayers with no way of praying ourselves. During weekly Communion (for which I am SO grateful!), everyone is singing praise song while people get up to “grab the elements” (pastor’s words) before we take them together, so with the music playing it’s difficult to pray silently. We are occasionally given the opportunity to pray in “silence,” but then the pastor is usually telling us what to pray for so much that we hardly get started before he’s closing the prayer. But in the liturgical services, we pray together: in confession, with the Lord’s Prayer, before and after Communion in unison, plus we have prayers for our country’s leaders, our pastors and congregations, those who are ill or in adversity, for the universal church “to have the spirit of truth, unity, and concord,” plus all the silent prayer time while the church files up to receive Communion with soft music in the background. I leave the Anglican services feeling as though I’ve truly met God there — I’ve had time to soak in His Word, pray His Word, pray for the worldwide church and many global, local, and personal needs, meditate on His Presence in Communion, and sing hymns that are much more about God than they are about me. KWIM?

    I also appreciate that while sermon quality is important, the sermon is not the focus of the liturgical service; Communion is. So the quality of the music and sermon are secondary to God’s Real Presence. I appreciate a good sermon as I’m sure most people do, but God and not the pastor is the focus of liturgical services, and somehow church feels more like worship than a Sunday School lesson to me — merely an appeal to intellect — “right thinking” rather than “right worship.”

    I also like that in liturgical churches, the kids aren’t separated from the family in order to attend “Sunday Funday” or some other watered-down version of church. In our evangelical church, the kids 6th grade and up are allowed in for the whole service, but younger kids are provided with other activities when it’s sermon-time. I understand partly, since the sermon is frequently 45 minutes in length, but I really love the idea of worshipping together as a family. In the Anglican church we attend on Friday mornings, the priest involved our kids in the service right away: he trained the boys to be acolytes and gave them all bells to ring at the proper times (marking a prayer book for them), plus he had them light and snuff the candles and asked my daughter (the eldest) to read the OT passage in Morning Prayer or the Epistle reading in the Communion liturgy. The kids liked taking part in the service; I think they felt important and not as if they were being shuffled off during the sermon as had been the case at the evanglical church. Now, to be fair, we don’t HAVE TO send our children to Sunday Funday during the sermon, but with a sermon that long, we almost have to. My junior high boys are eager to “help out” with the younger kids’ activities just so they don’t have to sit through the 45 minutes of sermonizing. I like the idea of the whole church worshiping together, no matter the ages, races, etc. — after all, it’s what Heaven will be, right? 😉

    Sorry for writing a book here, and sorry if this is a little convoluted — I homeschool four kids and keeping my thoughts focused isn’t the easiest task. But I can see the appeal Michael feels about a liturgical model rather than our “seeker-friendly” evangelical churches. There is a profound difference, and I only hope that the evangelical and the liturgical models will grow more alike as time passes. I know; I know….

    • The nice thing about much of liturgy is that the Word speaks for itself. There is a power in the Gospels that reaches us in a special way, when we hear it read aloud. It is different from just reading it. I really can’t explain this, but I know it’s true.

      There are ‘sermons’ in the Scriptures themselves. Just as they are.

    • Jenny Bluett says

      My evangelical friends often ask me if the Anglican Church is a “Bible-believing church,” and I answer that they are a “Bible-reading church”;

      Mind if I use that one? Just great!

  21. I have noted multiple comments here by Protestants on how they still feel a one-ness through the Mass. There were a few speculations about the nature of that one-ness when there seems to be so much division (in theology, practice and tradition). “Are they really one?” someone asked.

    Well…it strikes me that Paul said there is “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all who is above all and through and and in you all. ” The one faith is in Jesus. The Baptism is into Jesus. The One God is Jesus. Jesus and the Father are one. This oneness then, does not seem to be dependent on our thoughts, beliefs or actions. This oneness is a fait accompli, done by Jesus for us, and given through the Holy Spirit.

    The reason the Mass seems right is that it is about Jesus. He is our unity. All the rest is decoration. Perhaps the reason other worship events do not seem right is that they have lots of decoration, but somehow, in spite of the use of his name over and over again, they nevertheless fail to make Jesus central in some very real way. I don’t think I can put my finger on exactly how that can be, but it seems like it might be at least partly right. I’m just musing here.

    • I appreciate that, and validate the sentiment, but it’s the distractions from Jesus that also have to be noted. We’re a long way from Protestants being able to look at that statue of Mary over the altar, see priests kneeling in front of it saying the Hail Mary and being able to say “That’s about Jesus.” I know that’s how you guys see it, but for us, it’s like you’re saying “when you can look at anything in the catalog and only see one thing, then you’re readdy to buy the3 RCC. Your position toward us is that our focus onb Jesus doesn’t focus on Jesus because it doesn’t include Mary, etc.

      Personally,, I think this could be worked out, but it seems to me it remains an issue of “buy our view of authority, then you have room to maneuver.”



      • Oh Michael, evangelicals wonder how we can feel the way we do about Mary.
        But did you never have a manger scene?
        Did you never see a picture of her standing at the foot of the Cross?
        There are times when Protestants remember her, too.

      • Noting the distractions presumes them to be distractions. There might be a statue of Mary over the altar, but it is Christ, and Christ alone, who is offered on the altar. Of more concern, I should think, is that if Catholics are wrong about the Eucharist, we are worshiping bread as the living God. That’s a much bigger difference than the religious artwork and side devotions.

        • Sam, they don’t attack our view of Eucharist easily: there are all of those Scriptures and the words of Christ Himself to be overcome. I don’t think they want to ‘go there’. Poor Mary is much more defenseless to those who are looking for something to remark on.
          I suppose if someone ‘disagrees’ with Catholic doctrine, the usual topics are indulgences, the Blessed Mother, and what they call “works’.
          There is much too much Scriptural clarity for attackers to completely slam our belief in the Eucharist: at least, they can see where someone could possibly believe in the Real Presence, if the Scriptures were taken literally. Battles are ‘chosen’. But a devotion to Mary appears to be ‘fair game’ for comment.

        • Jenny Bluett says

          Amen Sam! Like I mentioned also previously, when the host is elevated at conscecration, HE is the focal point of the universe, even if the BVM hovers perched on the altar.

        • Margaret Catherine says

          Amen to that, Jenny. I’m having an ongoing (not particularly hard-fought) struggle finding a “place” for Mary in my spiritual life – most progress I’ve made on that one was during Adoration. Had the sudden realization that were Mary right there, she would be doing exactly what I was doing: kneeling in adoration before her Son.

      • Jenny Bluett says

        I’m glad though you probably have a problem with statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or the Resurrected Christ or a Crucifix.

        This morning when my husband was reading from a devotional written by an Evangelical he greatly respects, in order to support obedience to the second commandment, the author shares a story with a mother instructing her young son siting a passage stating “God is spirit” and goes on “God doesn’t have a body, that is why we don’t worship statues”

        Ah , what? Honey, the Incarnation?! When you abandon the decisions of councils through the ages, things certainly get squishy.

        G.n.o.s.t.i.c.i.s.m. 101

  22. “I see evangelicals doing less and less that will hold anyone in the faith into their 80s. If I were 80, I wouldn’t go near 99% of evangelical churches. The traditionalists somewhere would have me as a customer.”

    I am seeing this attitude with my 89 year old step father who was a deacon for 60 years, SS superintendent and treasurer in Baptist churches.He has pretty much had it. He thinks it is because evangelical churches have become more of a business enterprise than a Body of Christ.

    • In which case they ought to cultivate the 80-year-olds, because most of their money probably comes from bequests–not the buck or five people drop in the basket.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        That’s what preaching about TITHING! TITHING! TITHING! every Sunday (with big attached guilt trips) is for.

  23. thomas tucker says

    Same with my mother- she refuses to go to a Baptist church where they project song lyrics onto the wall, sing Praise music, or where the pastor wears jeans. That means that she doesn’t go any more.

  24. I love this blog and your insights, Michael. I am 20 yrs old, so I thought I’d give a younger perspective on the issue of contemporary vs. liturgy. Many younger post-evangelicals don’t love the current contemporary service, nor we do we see the liturgy/”higher” traditions as the answer. Many of us are aware of church history and we don’t want more of the same. Obviously there are elements of Christianity that extend through the yrs that we hold to; however, a worship tradition that is associated with the past is not extremely appealing. Why? Because church history is filled with evils that are equal or worse than those currently associated with Christianity.

    Another important consideration is that we (younger post-evangelicals) don’t consider the style of the worship service to be our main issue with evangelicalism.

  25. I was a cradle Lutheran, baptized & confirmed, attended an LCMS college. But the liturgy holds little meaning for me, whether in Lutheran, Anglican, EO or RCC guise. To me, it’s just empty ritual, vain repetition. Don’t misunderstand – I do love the Word, and love hymns as one expression of worship.
    I appreciate that for others, liturgical worship is deeply meaningful. But not for me.

    I’m completely content in my non-denominational, charismatic church, with our worship band kicking off the service, multimedia, drama and dance, and consistent preaching of the Word of God. Many regular attenders are older than me, several in their 80s. There are many younger as well, couples with lots of babies and kids, single adults. Worship band members range from teens to folks in their 60s. Our church is a community that cares deeply for one another, not just on Sundays. We share meals at each others’ homes, have impromptu prayer and praise gatherings, live life together. Is everything perfect? Of course not – but we’re striving to be like Jesus.

    I guess my point is this: Not every evangelical is dissatisfied with what they receive at church. Not every local church is consumed with power and politics or flash and dazzle. Different individuals respond to different stimuli, and God loves to work within our culture to reach us. I don’t think everyone should join my church, or even find one like it. I think we must pursue God, seek Him with all our heart, and find a way to express that devotion to Him that is genuine for us – then live it.

    Sorry if this isn’t really on topic, but it’s the honest response this post raised in me. If this isn’t where you want to go, Michael, just delete it.

  26. “The evangelical church will die if all it can do is try to keep up with secular culture and make its focus offering whatever the latest fads or glitz it can to “attract” the young as if the church were somehow dependent on a Christian advertising machine rather than God to draw people to Him”

    This comment from Jeff has angered me.

    How long did we hound the evangelical church over its traditions? How long did we constantly tell the church to stop being so “old” and “fashioned,” to listen to the youth, and do so to survive? We finally got the church to listen to Petra, to read other translations, and to let go of the sin / damnation / salvation rhetoric so that we could reach people in our changing culture.

    And now that the church has done exactly what we hounded it to do, we’re now hounding the church to go back to “old fashioned” traditions, and to do so to survive. We do all this while trying to downplay doctrines and confessions so that we’re more ecumenical.

    It’s rediculous.

    • No it’s not. Modernizing is NOT the same as throwing everything over the rail. And throwing everything over the rail to get the youth is what many (most?) SBC churches have done.

      No women in slacks and no music not in the hymnal since 1908 is where we were. A Baptist preacher said on NPR in 1982 that if music made you tap your toe it was sinful which was why Amy Grant’s music was sinful. These things needed to be changed. But worship went out the door with our 1930s style when many churches did change.

      When I left my SBC church of 15 years I discovered that we weren’t really worshiping so much as having a very large Sunday school class with a musical performance for a warm up. After leaving I attended an AMIA church for a while and discovered what worship could be. And it was a much deeper experience than anything I could imagine at an SBC service with the folks on the stage (let’s get real and call it what it is) wearing robes and sitting on their thrones. At the AMIA service the pastor work nice clothes but not a suit or robes. The musical instruments were off to the side and you could hear the congregation singing over them. A nice liturgy that conveyed meaning over style. And communion every week with meaning.

      The largest clump of the group who left my old SBC church at the same time wound up at a 4000+ attending seeker church. I tried but came to the conclusion that it was a mini-rock concert (hand held video cameras, lights, production values, etc…) with a good message afterwords. It just wasn’t worship for me. But they are the trend in many evangelical churches.

      I now trying to settle into a non denominational church which is very close to the AMIA church in style. But mainly I agree with the theology and feel like I’m at a WORSHIP service. NOT a performance.

      • I understand the idea of modernization and I agree that modernization is fine.

        My gripe is that the church was constantly advised that if it did not adapt to popular cutlure, it would fade into irrelevance and the youth would see the church as archaic. The church finally embraced the popular culture and then got caught up in it and we are now pancking over the evangelical demise and seeking to backtrack. Ping-pong.

        Now I do agree that the church is too much of an informercial for a “Christian” idea and that needs to be let go. It just seems to me that the church has been horribly unstable in dealing with the cultural changes. We seems we’re either relevant or a relic, with no other option.

      • I sympathize with your sentiments. Especially the part about hearing the congregation. The most basic philosophy of worship that has any biblical roots will encourage participation over spectatorship, and turning the amps up until it hurts will never accomplish that. I would even be ok with the hard rock style worship (I do this from time to time) if we could just turn the volume down to the point where it doesn’t inflict pain on octogenarians. Has empathy become a virtue too good to waste on the elderly?
        I can’t stand the arguing over style when it’s form and content that comprises the real issue. How can we help people connect to God is a much better question than what kind of music they would like best. Less is more. Us musicians should be there to point people to Christ while becoming as invisible as possible. I like the idea of putting us off to the side like in the amia church. I think i might try that!

        • The church I’m currently attending does have the musicians (and choir when they have it) up front. But there’s no colored lights and the electrical bill is very modest. And the production values would make you think they didn’t even rehearse except they are too polished to have not done so.

          My point is that you can have the music up front and still feel like it’s not a spectator sport. But the AMIA off to the side makes it much more so. The design of the space has a lot to do with this feel.

          What I like most about both churches is you can tell it’s congregational signing with some decent leadership. It gives creates a totally different experience than the usual performance with the congregation mostly mouthing along.

          And to be honest as long as it’s not rap or hillbilly or opera I can take most any other music STYLE as long as the words aren’t stupid theology. Which many CCM songs are.

          And don’t beat me up about the hillbilly remark. I grew up less than 2 hours from IM at the same time. I just never liked the style. I have no idea if he does or not. 🙂

    • MW Peak:

      You are going to have to expand on the “we” a bit here. Esp on saying “we” are trying to downplay doctrine to be ecumenical. Ecumenism is based on owning what you believe and respecting what the other guy believes. In what was is an evangelical – like myself- seeking ecumenical appreciation of other traditions a sellout?

      • The only problem I have with ecumenical ideas is that there is such a fine line between inclusiveness with watered-down doctrine (relevance) and simply opening the doors of fellowship to all who profess Christ, regardless of tradition.

        It seems to me that a lot of churches, especially the evangelical movement, sold out to commerical interests for the sake of reaching a changing culture, doing so under pressure by voices claiming that not doing so would render the church impotent. So, for the sake of being ecumenical and inclusive, at least in terms of popular culture, I feel the church went from being traditional to being relevant and compromised.

        Appreciation of other traditions is not only NOT selling out, but very humbling and I encourage others I experience other traditions, especially encouraging my evangelical brethren to visit liturgical churches. That is not the same, though, as compromising Jesus for the sake of mass appeal.

        I do understand that being ecumenical is not neccesarily compromising the gospel, but compromise has been done in the name being ecumenical, I believe.

      • “there is such a fine line between inclusiveness with watered-down doctrine (relevance) and simply opening the doors of fellowship to all who profess Christ”

        Some of this has to do with the way we conceptualize the worship experience. Among EPs, the teaching aspect is huge, so when we say church has been “watered down,” we usually mean the Pastor isn’t saying “his piece” fully for whatever reason (e.g. offending others). And so we get into that whole debate about the “nature of the Gospel message,” etc.

        One of my most memorable experiences in recent memory was to visit the community at Taize. 100+ monks in white habits, meeting for prayer 3x a day in French wine country – and they get 5,000 visitors per week – mostly in their 20’s – in the summer. They simply “do their thing,” which is undoubtedly super-foreign to anything European kids are used to, but. they. come. From what I could tell, they REALLY welcome everyone there – without that weird look in one’s eye that says “I don’t approve of what you do, but I’ll humor you” that gets passed off as love so often here.

        I’ll tell you what, there isn’t a whole lot of teaching that goes on in Taize (rarely are there sermons at all), but I learned more in one week about love there than in the one year of sermons I heard at church up until then.

        And isn’t that what ecumenism is really about?

        • “Among EPs, the teaching aspect is huge,”

          Too huge, i think. Am I the only one who thinks its possible to over–teach? I really believe that I’ve already heard every sermon that can possibly be heard.

      • Mike, I thought about what you stated ecumenical meant and I believe we may be operating on two separate definitions here, “Ecumenism is based on owning what you believe and respecting what the other guy believes.”

        I believe that when you use the term ecumenical, you are referring to traditions within Christianity whereas I was taught that ecumenical meant the inclusion of all faith traditions. In that case, ecumencial would mean the church would embrace the doctrines of other faiths, such as Islam, Buddhism, Wicca, etc. It is essentially an idea that reduces Jesus to a mere Jewish rabbi, a symbol of love and wisdom, like Muhammed or Buddha and that all spiritual people are part of the same God, the same church.

        Such ecumenism would entail setting aside the core doctrines of Christianity, such as the death, burial and ressurection, in order to be inclusive and all encompassing, to be, as I have been guided, to show the common love of Jesus to all. One does not need to know Jesus exclusively to be with God, as we all worship the same God. Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans and people from other faith traditions are all considered the church family under an “ecumenical” umbrella. Attempting to state that Christianity is the only way is not part of being ecumenical, according to this understanding.

    • MW, sounds like what happened in evangelicanism is like what happened post Vatican II.

      A lot of ossified traditions were simplified, in an attempt to return to the Biblical and authentic roots, and nobody can seriously question that there were genuine grounds for reform.

      However, being the times that were in it, a lot of people ran with the notion and tossed the baby out with the bathwater. Some of them were well-meaning but mistaken; some had their own agenda; some really did confuse expressions of the radicalism and idealism of the time with lasting change, and think that contemporary trends were going to last, rather than becoming dated in their own way as time passed.

      So we’ve swung to the opposite pendulum where so much was tossed out or neglected – and a lot of the problem was when the structure of the institutions was removed, as for instance where parents were assumed to be teaching their children and developing their own spiritual lives, there resulted a vacuum where the old-fashioned formal teaching of the questions-and-answers of the Catechism no longed happened in religious education classes but the slack was not being taken up at home and so a generation with a shallow or no understanding of the meaning, as opposed to the cultural practices, of the faith grew up.

      Now the seed which fell in shallow ground has withered for lack of roots, and the return to some of the tradition is called for. Discernment is necessary; what is old is not necessarily valuable simply because it’s old, and what is new is not necessarily wrong because it’s different.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Uh, Martha? Make sure you decribe what you mean by “Discernment”.

        These days, the definition of “Discernment” is more along the lines of seeing DEMONS (TM) under every bed (including the “Demon of Burned Out Light Bulbs”) and/or denouncing anybody who differs with you in any way as “Discerning the Spirit of Error/Jezebel/Antichrist”.

        • I think she means it in the classic Ignatian sense of prayerfully considering your options.

        • Headless, that is why you should recite the St. Michael prayer at every opportunity. And sprinkle holy water and blessed salt everywhere. And wear the brown scapular, the green scapular, the Miraculous Medal, and the St. Benedict medal.

          And spread the message of the latest seeress, prophet or mystic who has twenty volumes of conversation between him/her and Our Lady/Jesus/Padre Pio about the imminent end of the world and the degeneracy of the times unless we follow this particular plan of action.

          And of course, denounce at every opportunity the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Pius XII as not properly fulfilling the request of the Fatima apparitions, to say nothing of the *real* Third Secret.

          Now all I have to do is find out who is the Patron Saint of Lightbulbs 🙂

          • Wow, can I just sing Kumbaya, my Lord and call it even? 😀

          • MW, be serious!

            When the Demon of Burned-Out Lightbulbs is lurking under *your* bed on a cold, wet November night and you’re stubbing your toes on the bedroom furniture as you stumble out to the bathroom in the early hours, you’ll be sorry you didn’t follow this simple advice 😉

          • Martha, I’m laughing so hard I just disturbed my toddler!

  27. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    The evangelical church will die if all it can do is try to keep up with secular culture and make its focus offering whatever the latest fads or glitz it can to “attract” the young…

    Anybody watched Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In lately?
    Rowan & Martin WAS as Young and Hip as you get!

  28. I’m ELCA Lutheran (for now) and a 45-year-old fuddy duddy. I like liturgy, I like tradition. In our church there is also a generational divide, with older folks (and me) liking the traditional stuff, and younger ones yearning for a more “contemporary” service. What blows me away is the scorched earth policy that at one stroke erases everything older than about 30 years. Why not “blended worship”? After all, those same crusaders for modernity still sing “Silent Night” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, don’t they? Why can’t we have a mix?

    • I agree with the sentiment that balance would be great. In a church I attended for awhile, an honest attempt by a “traditional” musician to join in with the “contemporary” service by playing “O Lord, Our Lord, How Majestic Is Your Name” (a 1970s era song which seems to have stood the test of time and appears in some form in many hymnals now) was curtly rebuffed with a statement that only music from the last 5-10 years was acceptable. Furthermore, that musician and any others associated with the “traditional” service at the church were specifically excluded from participation in worship during the summer months when the traditional and contemporary services merged into what was billed as “blended” worship. Only the praise band from the contemporary service was allowed to participate in the summer and other than having words from, say, a verse or two of a hymn projected on screen, there was no attempt to “blend” and essentially the traditional crowd was told to accept it or go elsewhere. Many traditionalists would have been happy if just once a month, the organ played or there were full hymns sung without the drums. But, as you said, there seems to be a “scorched earth policy” in which, in the name of variety or blending, traditionalists are simply excluded 100%.

      • “But, as you said, there seems to be a “scorched earth policy” in which, in the name of variety or blending, traditionalists are simply excluded 100%.”

        This is what happened at my mom’s church. The church had always had organ, piano, choirs, handbells, hymns, etc. then overnight it went ot electric gutiars. they threw the older people a bone by letting them come at 8:00 am for the trad service. This also coincided with the election of board members and a new pastor who wanted to run the church like a corporation.

    • Amen. This is so true. I always wondered why they had to start from scratch and couldn’t just slip a Hillsong United song right into the liturgy where a hymn might have normally been. That would be a decent compromise. Depending on the song, of course.

  29. I could be wrong, but I think the writers of the NT would be somewhat baffled by our present day obsession and division over liturgical styles and differences. Reading their letters and instructions to various churches, I get the impression that it was a non-issue as far as they were concerned — or, at least, not very high up on their list of priorities. Primarily, they seemed concerned with how people in the church treated and related to each other, how they behaved morally, that they lived lives in tune with the Holy Spirit, and that they understood who Christ is and what that means in regards to how they should live their lives, both individually and collectively as church bodies. The closest thing I’ve found to liturgical instruction is in I Corinthians 14, where Paul instructs them to be orderly and polite while they take turns sharing and building each other up with divine communications from the Holy Spirit. I suspect that those early Christians would be disheartened to learn that the word with which they identified themselves as people joined together in love under Christ has been redefined to mean either a religous spectacle conducted at regular weekly intervals or a building in which such spectacles are conducted.
    I’m not trying to make people mad here, but I truly and stongly believe that the church has made a grave mistake in centering its life and identity around these one-to-three-hour formalized religious spectacles we call church services. The church needs a deeper identity than that — and the world desperately needs to see a Jesus who goes deeper than that.

    • Ron, where can people go to find the ‘real Jesus’ when so many down-grade His Words and His Actions in Scripture? People have trouble with saying the Lord’s Prayer, with taking the Beatitudes at face-value, at accepting Matthew 25:31-46 as Christ really meaning what He said.
      I’m afraid that, for many, Jesus has become a Name to be Announced To The World,
      not a Savior to obey and follow as disciples. Jesus is ‘kept in His place’ and people go on with their lives. Can you imagine what would happen if they really took Him seriously.

    • Ron,

      But “Church” means assembly. It’s in the assembly, where we together offer prayers to Christ, and receive the Spirit from Him that we are the Church–the assembly. Our other activities should flow from there.

      I’d be careful about deriving too much from the lack of liturgical instruction–it may have just not been a problem–and liturgy just means “the way we pray together” and I for one don’t know if I could possibly put too much emphasis on prayer, and praying well.

      • I guess I view church more as God’s people assembled together (whenever or wherever that might happen to be} than as a formal assembly or event which God’s people attend and take part in. It’s kind of like the difference between defining a City Council as an elected group of individuals with shared governing duties and responsibilities and defining it as a governing entity which only has official, legal existence between the call to order and the vote to adjourn. Is the church a “they” or an “it” — or maybe both at the same time?

        • I’m not sure the city council analogy is quite accurate. Maybe “season ticket holders” would be closer. Yes, whenever a group of, say Steelers season ticket holders gets together, they get together as fans. But the meaning of these little gatherings come from their large “gathering” at the games every Sunday. But even this is a little of a silly analogy–this would be more true if there weren’t TV, and maybe the analogy would be better then. Also, I don’t mean intellectual rich season ticket holders, I mean Dukies, or the Dog Pound, or the members of “The Black Hole” etc.

          Similarly, I don’t think church should be a “event people take part in” or anything like that any more than you do. Rather I think Church is the people of God comming together in common corporate prayer to Christ and together receiving Christ from the Father, and thereby becoming together as a people, the Bride and Body of Christ.

          I don’t think Church is “they” or “it” She is “she”.

    • So where is the example of the Christian movement prodiucing generations of faithful Christians?

      House churches?

      Non denoms?



      Who do you have in mind?

      I’m a little troubled that this post has turned into a “denounce liturgy” discussion. How did that happen?

      • I’m not trying to denounce liturgy. Anything that points to and glorifies Christ is cool with me. And I think it’s cool that there is such a wide variety of Christian tradition out there, as well as a lot of new stuff popping up. I like variety, and, from looking at creation, I think God does too. I was just questioning the level of emphasis that has been placed on the particulars of how we do things on Sunday morning (or whenever we might assemble ourselves) and pointing out that the NT writers seem to place a much higher premium on content than they do on form — which, by the way, I think is a darn good idea. I was also suggesting that there should be much more to the life and identity of a church than what happens between nine and noon on Sunday morning.
        I guess what inspired my little rant was reading your post and Jeff’s comments and feeling both sad and angry that preferences of liturgy and worship style are creating a generational divide within some churches and denominations. My apologies if I came across like I wanted or expected churches to abandon their liturgical traditions.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I’m a little troubled that this post has turned into a “denounce liturgy” discussion. How did that happen?

        When all you have is a hammer…

  30. Advice please! I am a 30 y/o that attends a church that is almost entirely made up of college aged students, with a smattering of grad school and singles in mid-20s. It’s a solid, Bible teaching church, but it bothers me that there aren’t generations represented. But, it’s got great community and solid Bible teaching. Should I try to find a more traditional church? Or is it okay to go to a church where I (at 30) am one of the oldest members?

    • Sunday by Sunday, it probably isn’t that big a deal. But how long are you going to be there? Is it what you want when you’re married and with children? Overall, how do you feel about a church that is generationally catering you your preferences?

      I wouldn’t feel guilty about being there, but I might not want to make plans to stay there.

    • Unsual that it is that lopsided but perhaps you are there to be one of the “older members”. Go or stay as God leads but if you you stay, you may want to reach out to a few in the faith who are further down the road in years whom you can sit under and share your journey in Christ. Or, maybe this church can turn the tables on the modern day mantras and reach out to a few gray hairs to join the party. The want ads can pitch to the disenfranchised over 50 group who are being told in other churches they can no longer have any original ideas or be relevant to the church. That we want to see Christ embodied in older people who have been following Jesus for many years, because, that’s where we’re all headin! I know, we hate reminders that we are not going to live forever. Sorry to be off post.

    • Having kids is a defining event for most people. If you attend a church like you describe it’s going to be hard for any couples with kids to stay around. Who do they get mentoring from?

      This is a concept that the culture tossed out in the 50s and 60s with somewhat disastrous effects. The concept that you need to learn from the previous generations.

  31. Michael,

    Not at all saying you should be Orthodox, but have you been to a Divine Liturgy? Do you have thoughts on it? It would probably appeal to you.

    • There are no orthodox within two hours. Sorry. And I can’t stand up for that long 🙂

      • They do tend to provide seats around the back for those who need them. It’s worth a more-than-two-hour drive to experience at some point in your life.

      • Next time you’re in Lousiville you should check out St. Michael’s. They have pews.

      • If you ever decide to attend an Orthodox liturgy and find yourself in the Knoxville/Oak Ridge area, you could go to Fr. Stephen Freeman’s church, St. Anne’s (OCA, Russian tradition). I hope you have time to read his blog now and then, wwwdotfatherstephendotwordpressdotcom.

        There should be seating of some sort, even if it’s a “standing church”; standing certainly isn’t required if you can’t. In the northeast and in most Greek churches, there are actually pews.


      • St. Athanasius is an OCA parish (hurray English services!) in Nicholasville that’s probably about an hour out for you. No word yet on the presence of seats though.

    • I’ve been to a few. Truly mesmerizing if not transcendent. I was surprised at how “otherly” it felt , more so than an RCC Mass.

      • Depends on the Catholic Mass. The East has maintained a stronger grip on liturgical tradition as a whole, but we Westerners aren’t out of steam yet,

      • Margaret Catherine says

        I’m Roman – always have been/always will be, but attending an Eastern Catholic parish was what taught me to love liturgical worship. Divine Liturgy is thoroughly “otherly” – timeless, and incarnational to a degree the Roman Mass of today just isn’t. Bells, icons, incense, the back-and-forth sung prayer that is the liturgy…it catches you, all of you, up in the worship – doesn’t matter if you’re 8 or 80, it still has that power. It is what it is and its for you to conform yourself to it, not the other way around.

        Contrast that to a Catholic parish I used to live across the street from. They need copies of Michael’s book on the evangelical collapse badly, because they have done everything they can to become the first Catholic Evangelical parish. Sermon – I mean, “message” – series’ that are based on Rick Warren and have no relation to the readings. When the pastor is not saying the Mass, his sermon is recorded and played after the Gospel – the priest actually there does not give a homily. A Christmas sermon that was passed around to a committee for approval, that I saw a copy of – Oprah was mentioned on page one, Christ not until page 11. Pauses for expected laughs were noted in the text. The main church has a screen projector for the music lyrics and for the video message/PSA after Communion – when the screen’s not otherwise in use, there’s a projected image of a crucifix since the actual crucifix is covered by the screen. No statuary. The tabernacle is in the side chapel, right beneath a wall-mounted flat screen TV. Youth band, I hesitate to say choir, that plays the latest CCM and rock songs – ‘Hanging by a Moment’ was the entrance song one of the few times I attended. Coffee bar that has Mass piped in over loudspeakers (sipping at my coffee while the Consecration was going on cured me of getting breakfast there!). Overall, a huge emphasis on what to do to be modern and attract young people. Very little attention paid to what and Who the church is there to attract them *to*. To be sure, it’s very popular, but it’s put being relevant in the place of being Christian.

        • Gah! Me, I’d be running screaming to the bishop.

          Margaret Catherine, you’re a brave woman 🙂

          • Margaret Catherine says

            Oh, the bishop knows. How could he not, when every priest in town does? But this parish is a juggernaut that got started under the previous bishop, who let it go on for whatever reason – and pulling the plug is going to lose a lot of those parishioners who love the “worship style” there. The diocese might feel it best to wait for the pastor to retire, then calm things down there…at any rate nothing’s been done yet, but I can’t imagine our bishop actually approving of the goings-on.

          • Yeah the Bishops are a lot more touchy, feely than what I would like them to be now a days.

            I wish they would bring back public excommunications and use that God given power but I guess those days are long gone at least for now.

    • When I was in the process of converting from Evangelicalism to catholic Christianity, I spent time attending both Masses and Divine Liturgies. Since I was coming from a radically non-liturgical background, I figured it was a non-issue that I was a Westerner.

      The main difference between the RC Mass and the EO Divine Liturgy is the length. DL seems interminable at times, and I’m always glad when its over, but the Mass never seems long enough to accomplish what it needs to,. I don;t know if that makes any sense. I’ve never been to a Western Rite Orthodox liturgy, nor have I been to an Eastern Catholic liturgy, to see what the goods are like there.

      • I would guess the Western Rite Orthodox would be very much like the Tridentine Mass and that the Eastern Catholic a lot like the Orthodox Divine Liturgy with a few exceptions.

        Father Ernesto would know better I believe.

  32. Agree with so many points you made in this post. Catholicism [Mod edit], but there is something very appealing, and comforting about the traditionalism. In many ways I think that is one of the draws. I think deep down in humans there is something that desires the rituals and traditions. Perhaps the Catholics have gone too far to one extreme, but many Protestants and Evangelicals have gone equally too far to the other…Thanks for the post.

    • [MOD EDIT]

      If you study Patristics, you’ll find that the elements of worship described by the early Church fathers are very close, if not identical, to elements of the present-day Mass. Maybe the appeal and comfort you’ve found there are because these practices link us to our earliest brothers and sisters in Christ.

      • Most evangelical Protestants don’t know a thing about the Patristic Fathers and their writings from what I have been able to gather on other blogs. There is some familiarity with St. Augustine. A few others are mentioned from time to time, mostly by pastors who have gone to divinity school. So it is difficult to reference Patristic writings to those who aren’t familiar with them.
        You would think that they, too, would want to know the thoughts of early Christian scholars, particularly in the development of doctrines like original sin, the Trinity, and the canon of Scripture. But since they do not examine Patristics for what IS respected by themselves, it would be hard to reference Patristics to them for something like the ‘real Presence’ in the Eucharist, which evangelicals don’t buy into at this time.

    • Well there are Traditions and then there are traditions.

      One is a must and other is simply proper to do. The current Mass is rich on the Traditions but lacks on the traditions of course that is by design which is another reason why most Trads do not like the Novus Ordo.

      Yet at the same time the NO is prob as close as we can come to the very, very early Christian Church style of worship. It is nice to look at as somebody may look at a Model T. However I would not want to own one or depend on one now a days to get to work. Putting the mighty Oak tree back in to the seed seems kind of odd. That is the main reason I am not big on the Novus Ordo it just seems odd, it always has even when I did not know there was anything before it.

  33. this is a very interesting discussion.

    i personally prefer a more upbeat, progressive worship service. but, often, during the week, after a hard day at work, i go to the nearest roman catholic church. it’s probably the ambience and all the trappings. there’s some comfort i find in knowing you can go to a certain place and just sit still and know that He is God. evangelicalism i think, in tryin to be relevant or too much intellectual theologizing (is that a word?) has neglected the value of a sacramental way of doin church. i mean, how much john piper insights can you really take in? sometimes, i think, the Lord allows us to just breathe and sit and relax in His presence. and that is not so much a matter of doctrine or denomination. and i appreciate the RCC and its commitment in building these sanctuaries and the effort of the community that contributed to it. this is where evangelicalism has fallen short, i think.

  34. Jeff: “More experienced, mature Christians who should be teaching the young about and sharing with them their great Christian heritage are instead asked to ‘get with it’ or ‘get out.'”

    Imonk: “I’m watching a father bring his 5 year old (?) to mass, take his hand and dip it in the water, make the cross for him, then take him to his seat and show him how to genuflect. … I am especially impressed with how a small child and an 80 year old man are functioning within the same world of thought, ritual and understanding. … I see evangelicals doing less and less that will hold anyone in the faith into their 80s. If I were 80, I wouldn’t go near 99% of evangelical churches.”

    I’ve noticed that much of the discussion along these lines in this thread has tended towards the “yes, it is tragic, without older people in the congregation we are losing the wisdom of the sages of the faith” line of thought. And I would agree that is certainly true. But I wonder if it is only half the tragedy of the the picture that contains very few elderly (and even somewhat younger than outright elderly).

    I wonder if the other half of that picture is that the grandpa whose brain’s speech center has been ravaged by stroke can still teach his 5 year old grandson to make the sign of the cross and genuflect. (I’m having trouble coming up with anything non-verbal in my own protestant tradition.) The grandma suffering from Alzheimer’s still has the light go on when the hymn she learned as a child is sung. The aging man crotchety from arthritis pain or the aging woman fragile with osteoporosis or the person being consumed with cancer – who really aren’t able or suitable to pal around with the youth, or teach the kid’s classes, or even help stack the chairs or take up the offering anymore – can be in the midst of the congregation, seen and heard singing the Doxology in a way that can only come out of intense struggle with the meaning of the same words over and over in the midst of long term pain and hardship.

    Of course, all of the above is a form of the older teaching the younger, too. But I doubt it is the first image of “teaching the younger” that comes to mind even to those younger folk sympathetic to the idea of older folk having a role in a congregation. And, in the current situation that iMonk describes for the elderly within evangelicalism, I also suspect that the loss is not just the younger missing out on the wisdom of the older. There is also the effect on the elderly who feel rejected for uselessness or who lose contact with younger people.

    With my mostly non-liturgical protestant background, I struggled to come up with the examples I gave above. Is it easier for those of you with long-term liturgical formation to come up with examples of continued meaningful participation by the elderly that you have seen in real life? Or am I just seeing greener grass on the other side of the fence in hoping there could possibly be contributing place for me in the midst of some congregation somewhere if (when?) I end up a non-sagely, non-productive, frail, and/or mentally diminished elderly (or even not so elderly) person at some point in life? From my middle-aged vantage point, I’m not seeing a happy path forward at the present time.

    • Becky’s comment deserves, in my opinion, to be right up there in the [Update] along with Jeff’s.

      Is the “sanctity of life from conception until natural death” believed if not modeled in the life of our congregation or parish?

    • Margaret Catherine says

      A good friend’s mother recently had a stroke. She has a form of aphasia where she cannot speak what’s in her mind to say, but she can follow along with a favorite song or a familiar prayer. She’s still in rehab so may recover her speech – but even if not, or not fully, she will still be able to participate at Mass.

    • The thing is, there’s plenty of Biblical examples of uppity youngsters getting the best of the old folks.

      -David besting Saul and boasting: “I have understood more than the elders, for I have sought thy commandments”

      -The Young Jesus teaching the scribes in the Temple, and the adult Jesus lambasting the -Pharisees and teachers of the Law (who, I would imagine, had more than a few grey hairs between them)

      -St.Timothy who was advised “Let no one despise you on account of your youth”. (which the Message translates “Don’t let anyone tell you your guitars are too loud”)

      These things just need to be read through the lens of our youth-obsessed culture where Life happens between 15 and 25.

      • Being the contrairian, there are some counter scriptures. I know that Paul also recommended not putting a new Christian in places of authority, too soon.

        If you want to talk about spiritual maturity, I have no problem with a complete disconnect between that and physical age.

        • I know – I’m just saying there are examples if one wishes to find them. I agree with you. I was being a bit facetious.

  35. Okay, thanks to the Shrine of the Holy Whapping, I think I’ve found the perfect motto for this conversation we’re having:

    “What obscure traditions can we resurrect to astonish the English tourists?”
    –attributed to Pius IX (and too good to fact-check)


    • Margaret Catherine says

      Martha – Sacred monkeys. 😉

      • That bit’s from “Brideshead Revisited”, isn’t it, where Cordelia (like any normal teenager) is teasing Ralph by telling him solemnly all manner of stuff and nonsense that he’s going to have to abide by once he converts:

        “The trouble with modern education is you never know how ignorant people are. With anyone over fifty you can be fairly confident what’s been taught and what’s been left out. But these young people have such an intelligent, knowledgeable surface, and then the crust suddenly breaks and you look down into depths of confusion you didn’t know existed. Take yesterday. He seemed to be doing very well. He’d learned large bits of the catechism by heart, and the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary. Then I asked him as usual if there was anything troubling him, and he looked at me in a crafty way and said, “Look, Father, I don’t think you’re being straight with me. I want to join your Church and I’m going to join your Church, but you’re holding too much back.” I asked what he meant, and he said: “I’ve had a long talk with a Catholic — a very pious, well-educated one, and I’ve learned a thing or two. For instance, that you have to sleep with your feet pointing East because that’s the direction of heaven, and if you die in the night you can walk there. Now I’ll sleep with my feet pointing any way that suits Julia, but d’you expect a grown man to believe about walking to heaven? And what about the Pope who made one of his horses a cardinal? And what about the box you keep in the church porch, and if you put in a pound note with someone’s name on it, they get sent to hell. I don’t say there mayn’t be a good reason for all this,” he said, “but you ought to tell me about it and not let me find out for myself.”

        “What can the poor man have meant?” said Lady Marchmain.

        “You see he’s a long way from the Church yet,” said Father Mowbray.

        “But who can he have been talking to? Did he dream it all? Cordelia, what’s the matter?”

        “What a chump! Oh, Mummy, what a glorious chump!”

        “Cordelia, it was you.”

        “Oh, Mummy, who could have dreamed he’d swallow it? I told him such a lot of things. About the sacred monkeys in the Vatican – all kinds of things.”

        It almost seems a shame it’s not true. We really should have had sacred monkeys, shouldn’t we?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          That bit’s from “Brideshead Revisited”, isn’t it, where Cordelia (like any normal teenager) is teasing Ralph by telling him solemnly all manner of stuff and nonsense that he’s going to have to abide by once he converts:

          And later discovered Ralph believed every word of it as Gospel Truth?


          “But Zonk, you’re on the cover of Time! You’re nationally known!”

          “Yeah! A Nationally Known Pervert!!

          Doonesbury circa early 1970s, when Zonker had BSed a gullible reporter about “What REALLY Goes On Here AT Walden Puddle” and all his can-you-top-this BS wound up as the cover article of Time. Zonk has his head facepalmed on the desk throughout this scene.

          • Argh. It should be Rex, not Ralph. Rex Mottram, who wants to marry Julia (the eldest daughter of the house) and in order to do that will have to convert to Catholicism.

            Which he is perfectly willing to do as a matter of form, but hasn’t a straw of interest in religion one way or another. Cordelia, Julia’s sister, is the one feeding him the line of “this is what Catholics believe and you’ll have to believe it too, Rex” just to see how much he’ll swallow.

            Oh, it’s funny, but it also has an “ouch!” side, since it is scary what people will believe ‘really’ goes on with the Catholic Church. Well, come on, since Dan Brown became a best-selling novelist and had the film success with “The DaVinci Code”, even though the film-makers couldn’t be bothered to go as far with factual accuracy as that the real, genuine, yes they do exist Opus Dei doesn’t have monks (albino assassins or otherwise) but is, on the contrary, a movement for the laity – and since concerned Canadians are arranging showings of the DVD and handing out copies of the book to protest a proposed Opus Dei centre – what can you say?

            There’s one born every minute? Any stick will do to beat a dog? It’s the same as Chesterton’s essay “What do they think?” in the collection “The Thing”:

            The Catholic Church remains in the best sense a mystery even to believers. It would be foolish of them to complain if it is a riddle to unbelievers. But in a more practical sense we may well ask a question. What do they think it really is? What do they think we think it really is? What do they think it is all about, or even supposed to be all about? That problem becomes darker and darker for me, the more I stare at it. It becomes black as midnight, for instance, when I stare at such a sentence as I saw recently in TRUTH, a singularly intelligent and often a highly valuable paper. It stated that Rome tolerates, in her relation with the Russian Uniats, “strange heresies and even bearded and wedded clergy.”

            …Does the reader realise the despair that falls upon the hapless Catholic journalist at such moments; or how wild a prayer he may well send up for the intercession of St. Francis of Sales? What is he to say; or at what end of that sentence is he to begin? What is the good of his laboriously beginning to explain that a married clergy is a matter of discipline and not doctrine, that it can therefore be allowed locally without heresy–when all the time the man thinks a beard as important as a wife and more important than a false religion? What is the sense of explaining to him the peculiar historical circumstances that have led to preserving some local habits in Kiev or Warsaw, when the man at any moment may receive a mortal shock by seeing a bearded Franciscan walking through Wimbledon or Walham Green? What we want to get at is the mind of the man who can think so absurdly about us as to suppose we could have a horror of heresy, and then a weakness for heresy, and then a greater horror of hair. To what does he attribute all the inconsistent nonsense and inconsequent bathos that he associates with us? Does he think we are all joking; or all dreaming; or all out of our minds; or what does he think? Until we have got at that, we have really got very little further.

  36. During Lent we had a Catholic student taking a religious course at some college in town come to our church on assignment (Lutheran, liturgical). She was kind enough to send the church a copy of her report afterwards. What was striking was thatshe found us more liturgical than her Catholic congregation – for instance, during Lent we chanted the Psalms: She had never heard anything like that. And, pertaining to the subject of elderly people, she was quite appreciative of an elderly lady who, when realising she was a stranger, invited her to sit next to her, and quitely guiding her through the liturgy, and explaining where necessary. The lady also insisted that she join the congregation for coffee and cake afterwards (it was the pastor’s birthday). Her reports spoke with much warmth of the friendliness of the congregation, but particularly, of the lady who took the time to help the stranger through the liturgy.

    • I’ve recently been attending a church which is a part of a verrrry Anglo-Catholic conservative Anglican group. I’ve come to understand that part of why they haven’t collectively swum the Tiber is that they don’t want the Novus Ordo mass. I found it surprising and somewhat amusing during my first visit, when I realized they were liturgically more traditional than my local RC church.

      • In my city, there is a ‘mother church’ which has one mass a week that is tridentine.
        It is always packed. Strangely, not just by old people.

    • It is sad to realize the things we have lost since the VII Council. The funny thing is that many of the changes were done so as to not have “stumbling blocks” for Protestants.

      Shouldn’t surprise anyone the popularity of the Tridentine Mass as it is for the most a youth movement. It is the orders within the Church that are attached to the traditional liturgy that have grown the most both in Religious orders and clerical.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        And also, when all you’ve known is “Low Church” vernacular Masses (I’m not even gonna go to the weirder one-offs like Clown Furneral Masses & Liturgical Dancers), Tridentine High Mass (as “High Church” as you can get) is going to be DIFFERENT and EXOTIC.

  37. Actually, here’s what intrigued me: “There’s a sign at the entrance to the church saying the parish can’t register any more members from outside their boundaries.”

    These rules over “parish boundaries” haven’t existing for over 20 years. There must be some huge turf war going on in the neighborhood–or someone’s trying to start one.

    • That depends on what diocese you are talking about. Ours has no boundaries. The one to our east doesn’t either, but the one to our west does. Not only do they have border enforcement, they require anybody getting married to be members of the parish and be showing up for the sacraments.

      There is some griping and fallaway by people looking for an excuse to leave, but their more reverent churches are fuller, their schools more populated. They have twice the vocation rate than we do. Lay movements flourishing all over the place. Their bishop is a pistol and that’s got a huge amount to do with it. Well-led parishes/churches grow and bear a lot of fruit.

  38. Yes, I understand the comment – and before I got here that was indeed the attitude of a lot of folks involved in the 25 year long worship-war of attrition.

    Here’s the problem, by the time I got here a good portion of the “power-brokers” of the congregation didn’t actually understand the Tradition they were supposed to be passing on. Instead we had their preferences butting up against the “younger” people’s preferences – and the only reason to fight was, “I don’t like THAT.”

    When preference was declared “off-limits” for complaints about worship practices, we were able to go back to talking about the worship in terms of Theology…. which has helped.

  39. Remember…the reason there is “evangelicals and protestants and reformers” is because Christians realized that the “church” was not in line with the Bible. Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy had become corrupted. Both the RCC and the EO became massive church/state structures wielding politcal power. Both began to claim that the Scriptures were secondary to “the church’ (meaning the pope, priests, bishops, cardinals, metropolitans, etc…). God raised many men to warn the church of this error; Athanasius, Jon Hus, John Wyclif, Martin Luther, and many others. This discussion is nothing new. It is the ongoing struggle of the Christian on his walk of sanctification. I thank God he left me with a light to stay on the true path. “They Word is is a Lamp unto my feet and a Light unto my Path.” The church is not the light. The church is the assembly of many carrying the Light of God’s Word into a dark world. If a denomination does not hold God’s Word up as their light then they are in darkness and will stumble.

    I am not impressed that an 80 year old man and a 5 year old boy “do religion” together. So what? I see pictures of small chidren and old men on prayer rugs in muslim mosques. Little children are baptized for the dead by old men every weekend in mormon temples. Wow. Displays of religion do not impress me. It’s the truth that matters. As evangelical churches embrace the emergent message that Scripture is not the final authority and join with the RCC, EO, and many mainline Protestant denominations in the rejection of Sola Scriptora it just makes the task of proclaiming the Truth more demanding upon the remnant that trusts God and His Word.

  40. Must be nice to be in the remnant, Galatian Man, anyone else in that room with you?

  41. The RCC mass is a divine service, as is the Lutheran liturgy. It’s not a term just used for Orthodox liturgy.

  42. Late comment, but I just saw this Christianity Today article regarding liturgy called “A Deeper Relevance”:


    Two significant quotes related to this post:

    “Few churches that consciously seek relevance want to clear the way to church for the poor, the homeless, welfare moms, drug-addicted men, or those trapped in nursing homes and convalescent hospitals. These ‘target audiences’ are not very relevant to many “casual, contemporary” churches.”

    “This is one reason I thank God for the liturgy. The liturgy does not target any age or cultural subgroup. It does not even target this century. (It does not imagine, as we moderns and postmoderns are tempted to do, that this is the best of all possible ages, the most significant era of history.) Instead, the liturgy draws us into worship that transcends our time and place. Its earliest forms took shape in ancient Israel, and its subsequent development occurred in a variety of cultures and subcultures—Greco-Roman, North African, German, Frankish, Anglo-Saxon, and so on. It has been prayed meaningfully by bakers, housewives, tailors, teachers, philosophers, priests, monks, kings, and slaves. As such, it has not been shaped to meet a particular group’s needs. It seeks only to enable people—people in general—to see God.”