I’m currently taking a class on the Theology of Worship as part of my MA from Indiana Wesleyan University. Without getting into the conversation about the reductionistic tendency to reduce worship to “music”, I’m really enjoying the class. Over the years, I’ve attended services in the following environments:
Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, Charismatic, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Lutheran (Missouri Synod), Christian Reformed, Reformed Church (US), Christian (Restoration Movement), Catholic, St Vlad’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, and a Muslim Mosque.
Truth be told, each one of these environments has had influence, has shaped part(s) of my mindset on worship. My current class is no different. The book I’m reading now is called Six Views on Exploring the Worship Spectrum. Thus far, I’ve read the first 2 chapters, the first on Formal-Liturgical Worship and the second on Traditional Hymnal-Based Worship. My Lutheran, Catholic and Orthodox experience were (obviously) Formal-Liturgical and Presbyterian/Reformed/C&MA experiences were Hymnal-Based.
Preferentially, I would find myself in the Contemporary and even the Emerging camps. But, there is something about the Liturgical and Hymnal-Based worship styles that beckon; as Zahl writes in his “Liturgical Worship Response” to Best’s chapter on hymnody, “The old standbys (think Amazing Grace, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, etc) are deeply anchored in our individual and cultural unconscious” (77). We ought not jettison them simply because they are old, yet, so often, that’s exactly what churches have done. I really appreciated Sally Morgenthaler’s response (Emerging Worship) when she wrote, “First, I greatly appreciate Best’s distinction between a service that merely inserts hymns and a service that uses hymns textually and theologically or, as he puts it, liturgically (emphasis mine)” (89).
I often wonder just how much we do effort to think liturgically as we create our services. Therein, perhaps, lays the rub. Is it “our” service, or His? This is a clear case of the separation between lex credendi lex orandi (what we believe determines what we pray) and lex orandi lex credendi (what we pray determines what we believe). The latter is essentially “practice trumps truth” which ought to be rejected.
So, there you go. Break out the hymnal and organ. Let’s party like it’s 1699.