Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Worship style mismatch?

The General Board of Discipleship's Worship area on the web has the text of an excellent speech by Hoyt Hickman, "Making the Eucharist speak middle American".

In his speech, Rev. Hickman reminds us that John and Charles Wesley were Anglican priests to the end of their lives. At that time, Anglicans were considered the opposite of Catholics in terms of liturgical formality. Today, Anglicans are considered one of the more traditional Protestant denominations.

Rev. Hickman also mentions liturgical subcultures within the United Methodist Church, including:

  • Semi-Anglican
  • Free church
  • African-American
  • Other ethnic groups
  • International cultures

He also says that contemporary worship challenges liturgical traditions. This can be a serious obstacle for a church striving to draw new members from the surrounding community. If a church leans toward traditional but the community around them prefers a more contemporary worship experience, the going will be tough.

Often, though saying they want new members, church members may resist any change to "their" church. To complicate matters, most pastors have a preferred style of worship. They may be between a rock and a hard place if their preference doesn't match that of the community they want to serve. One way to research the demographics and preferences of people in your church area is to sign up for the free membership at Link2Lead. Then check out the Percept studies' data for ZIP codes in your church's vicinity.

In the late 60's, the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren saw a crisis in worship. Official hymnals and books of worship, which had recently been changed, were already seen as out of date. There was a widespread call for more contemporary worship, focusing on contemporary music, a less formal style, and more openness to creativity.

Are we not faced with these same challenges today? Is your church and pastor prepared for change? Accepting of change? Welcoming of and not intimidated by change?

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