The term “culture wars” hasbecome common in today’s world, reflecting a period of rapid and tumultuoussocial and political change. Some usethe term “worship wars” to refer to the ways tensions within our culture findtheir way into the Christian church and its definitive function, worship.
For us Lutherans, the broadissue of worship and culture may be expressed as the Great Tradition intension with contemporary culture. We value our sense of history and the traditions which link us withChristians of former ages. But we cannotignore the world we live in, which almost daily becomes more and more complexand perplexing. In order for worship tobe authentic, those who worship must be able to participate with their wholebeings — body, mind, and spirit — and those beings are shaped by contemporaryculture in ways both obvious and subtle.
Our shrinking globe alsobrings new challenges and insights. Cultures formerly encountered (within the church) primarily bycross-cultural missionaries are now represented by our co-workers and next-doorneighbors.
In this issue we present a fewfacets of an enormously complex and layered set of issues. We hope you will be stimulated and inspiredto do your own analysis of worship and culture in your particular corner of thevineyard.
Frank Senn’salways incisive column “As I See It” tackles complicated and pressing issuesfacing church and society in thehistorical context of the rise and fall of Modernism. His essay gives an overview of the historicaland social setting in which topics addressed in the other articles occur.
Greg Singleton looks atworship through the many lenses of the meanings of “time” — historical time,liturgical time, seasonal time, clock time, internal time, time that is crammedvs. time that is spacious and leisurely. His use of the concept of liminality ishelpful to understanding worship as the crossover point between time andeternity and invites us to consider what helps or hinders that crossover. Although the focus of the article is AdventVespers at Holy Name Cathedral, the themes have broad relevance to theunderstanding of worship and culture.
Ruth VanDemarkdescribes how Wicker Park LutheranChurch experimented with analternative worship style with overtones of ancient Orthodox worship, usingworship at St. Gregory of Nyssa parish in San Francisco as a model. Perhaps surprisingly, her youthful congregation enthusiasticallyembraced the formality of the service, balanced by features expressingintentional hospitality to visitors and members alike.
In an informal interview,Bishop Paul Landahl reflects on the role of liturgyin maintaining our Lutheran tradition. In that context, he comments on the new ELCAworship resources, Renewing Worship. From his perspective as bishop, he urges congregations to re-examinetheir liturgy and music and make it the best possible for the glory of God.
Paul Nicholson’s stimulatingessay comparing the development of art and music first appeared as programnotes for a new cantata for Reformation, Aus tieferNot, whichhe was commissioned to compose. His observations about how the meanings of artand music have changed over centuries give us additional perspectives oncontemporary church music and some of the freedoms and constraints that shapeit.
Todd Johnson describes thedivisive effect that a “boutique” of liturgical styles in one congregation hashad on his family as they have sought to adapt to life in Southern Californiaafter living in Chicagofor many years. What does the marketingof a variety of styles of worship to various demographic groups say about whoGod is and what God is doing?
The Lutheran World Federationhas invested years of study to investigate worship and culture from manyperspectives. We have reproduced astatement which addresses worship and culture from a global perspective.
Eachyear, an ecumenical team from a single country prepares materials for the Weekof Prayer for Christian Unity. Thewriting team for 2006 was Irish. Inaddition to writing Bible study and liturgical resources, they reported on theecumenical situation in Ireland,reprinted here as our On the Way… column. We have not experienced the tragedy ofsectarianism as acutely as Irelandhas, but we can learn from their experience of ecumenism in a rapidlydiversifying religious context.