Thursday, September 16

Liturgy, tradition and identity

Reading about the upcoming American Sarum council which is taking place in New York this January as well as Haligweorc's excellent discussion about liturgy and the implications of changing same seems to dovetail nicely with a discussion I had with one of our ministers about a recent kerfluffle in our own community.

See, we have three different priests, each with their own rather different theological viewpoint. Each priest gets 'a turn at the wheel' and one of them, led by conscience, significantly changed the words that are used during Eucharist from what is written in the Sacramentary.

I pay attention to such things, so I noted the differences right then and there. To my ears, it was 'odd' but nothing terribly outside what I would argue is the big tent of our faith. A few people, on the other hand, went straight round the twist, talking about unilateral priestly privilege and emphasizing the necessity of keeping to the liturgy as written.

In a general sense, as Haligweorc points out, liturgy is an expression of theology and if there are intentional, mindful changes to liturgy, they are outgrowths of an underlying theological break from the past.

Now, public liturgy is not only a singular expression of personal belief but also a formula of ritual which is agreed upon by the entire community (whether consciously or otherwise) that expresses the intrinsic theological underpinnings of the entire church. Further, it is arguably the most tangible and concrete font of our traditions. Therefore, the comfort and regularity of liturgy, even apart from theological considerations, is not to be disturbed or altered without great forethought, discernment and consultation.


Where is the line between regularity and inertia, between comfort and lethargy? How does one find a balance between the old traditions of hundreds of years ago and altering the liturgy to fill the needs of the people here and now? How does one hold onto that enshrining of liturgy if your faith community holds Primacy of Conscience as one of their key values? All of this is amplified if your faith community is a schismatic group which is in the formational stages of creating it's own identity.

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