Evangelicals and Liturgy

Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral

Last week, whilst in Salisbury, I attended choral evensong at the cathedral. Such a service is not traditionally where I would be found; as a Bible-believing, evangelical Anglican I place great importance on the faithful teaching of the Word. Consequently, I usually attend services that would generally be described as somewhat ‘lower’, with more emphasis on funkier worship songs, and a lengthy, expository sermon.

Over the last few years, however, as I have got older, I have found myself drawn more and more to traditional, liturgy-heavy services. Whilst at the service in Salisbury, I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to sit in silence, let the music and spoken word flow over me, and reflect on the words of the liturgy. The whole experience was both refreshing and spiritually uplifting.

In the light of this, I was interested to read this post (from July 2013) on TheChristianPundit.org which suggests that, in America at least, many young Christians are leaving ‘low Protestant’ churches and moving over to Catholic or high Protestant churches. The writer suggests that this might be because the experience seems dated, perhaps associated with their parents. She also quotes Andrea Palpant Dilley who says that liturgy reminds her that she is “part of an institution much larger and older than myself.”

One paragraph is worth quoting in full:

The kids who leave evangelical Protestantism are looking for something the world can’t give them. The world can give them hotter jeans, better coffee, bands, speakers, and book clubs than a congregation can. What it can’t give them is theology; membership in a group that transcends time, place and race; a historic rootedness; something greater than themselves; ordained men who will be spiritual leaders and not merely listeners and buddies and story-tellers. What the kids leaving generic evangelicalism seem to want is something the world can never give them–a holy Father who demands reverence, a Saviour who requires careful worship, and a Spirit who must be obeyed. They are looking for true, deep, intellectually robust spirituality in their parents’ churches and not finding it.

I happened to write a piece for Crossring yesterday (published today) on Matthew 5:13, a verse during the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus states:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

In my reflection, I stated:

Jesus warns his followers of the importance of maintaining their distinctiveness. Christians must not seek to conform to the world or to limit their Christian-ness around their friends and colleagues. We must be wary of ‘making Christianity more relevant’ to the world of today.

Now, I’m not for one minute suggesting that ‘generic evangelicalism’ is in any way an example of the Church losing its saltiness – my own faith has been bolstered, and indeed continues to be bolstered – through the ministries of many evangelical churches – but I think such churches do need from time to time to reappraise their strategy. Perhaps by conforming too much to the prevalent culture of the day – singing led by big, guitar based bands, lattes after the service, and a dress down culture in which anything goes – churches might be losing some of their distinctiveness. Perhaps, by stepping away from the liturgical tradition of the Church, which stretches back hundreds of years, as well as from the sense of shared experience across the generations, the Church may in fact be taking people away from the opportunity to meet with Christ in commune with other Christians.

I’ll give the final word to my good friend, Phill, who mentioned in a comment on Facebook:

I wonder if liturgical services invite participation and reflection, whereas ‘generic evangelical’ churches tend to have a service more as performance?

Bathing in Bath

The open-air rooftop pool at Thermae Bath Spa
The open-air rooftop pool at Thermae Bath Spa

Last week Claire and I enjoyed a half-term road trip. We began in Salisbury before visiting Torquay, Bath and Portsmouth.

One of the real highlights for me was visiting Thermae Bath Spa. If you’ve never been I highly recommend this incredible place.

We began our session in the Minerva Bath, a large pool on the ground floor, relaxing in the 33.5°C natural thermal waters for which Bath is famed. Within the the pool is a whirlpool, for ultimate relaxation, and a lazy river for a slightly more energetic experience. To bath in the waters enjoyed by the Celts and the Romans was quite awe-inspiring.

I next visited the Aroma Steam Room, which contains five steam pods, each of which is infused with natural aromas. This was particularly relaxing, and I especially enjoyed the lotus flower pod. Also in the Steam Room is an exhilarating waterfall shower, great for cooling down between steam pods.

Finally I headed up to the incredible roof top pool. Being able to immerse oneself into naturally warm water on a February day, surrounded by the beauty of Bath was a really special experience. I could quite happily have stayed in the pool for the rest of the day, but before I knew it, it was sadly time to beat a hasty retreat before we were fined for overstaying our welcome!

A visit to Thermae Bath Spa is not cheap – it cost us £32 each for a two-hour session – but for an indulgent, relaxing treat whilst on holiday, I think it would be hard to beat.

So many buggies…

The Uppababy Cruz, the buggy of choice
The Uppababy Cruz, the buggy of choice

Today was spent at The Baby Show in ExCeL. Most of our time was occupied with buggies. Now, I know that with a baby coming in May I need to buy some kind of buggy, but until today I had absolutely no idea that there were so many on the market! We must have looked at literally hundreds of the things.

Having folded, unfolded, lifted and carried buggies of all shapes and sizes, and considered whether we wanted three wheels or four, an integral carry cot or separate, compatibility with a car seat or not, and if so whether we wanted an ISOFIX system, side impact protection etc, we selected the Uppababy Cruz. This seems to be the Mercedes Benz of the buggy world, with a price that reflects this. Uppababy were pretty much unique amongst buggy manufacturers in not offering a show discount, which seems rather mean spirited. Consequently we did not place an order but will hit the John Lewis website in due course.

We also bought a few other bits and pieces, including an Avent set, a changing bag, some kind of bouncing seat thing and a harness device for carrying baby.

It’s finally started to hit home that our baby will soon be here – as well as just how expensive they appear to be!