20 January 2008

So you call yourself an traditionalist?

Well, for various reasons mostly surrounding the children's program, we decided that the Anglican church we've been attending probably isn't the place for us. We haven't ruled it out down the road, but feel it's probably best to look at some other places.

Today, one of my girls was sick with a cold so my wife told me I could go to church and she would stay home with the kids. I could even visit somewhere and do some "recon" on it. So I did. There was another Anglican parish in town so I decided to go visit it today. From what I could see on their website, it appeared to be more traditional than the one we had been going to. But I was intrigued and headed out in the 20-degree weather to check the place out.

It's funny. All this time as I've been blogging about coming to love liturgy and hymns and tradition, I was beginning to feel like a Renaissance Man of sorts. I thought I had really come to appreciate and get more out of a traditional, liturgical service. I felt more engaged in worship than I had at my contemporary evangelical church. Well, I've learned there's tradition, and then there is TRADITION.

First, the parish is quite small. The evangelical non-denominational church I'd attended before we moved had about 3000 people (including children) there on a Sunday morning for one of the three services. The contemporary Methodist church we'd been going to before starting on this new church hunt has about 6000 in total attendance for all the services they have on a Sunday morning. The Anglican church we've been attending the past couple of months probably has about 450 or so. I walked in today to a church of about 20. Now it could have been lower because of the bitter cold, but it couldn't be much bigger as the size of nave probably would hold 120 max.

Second, these Anglicans aren't satisfied with the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and any of the rites therein. Nor is the 1982 Hymnal suitable. They use the 1928 BCP and the 1940 Hymnal. The language is more "archaic" (think King James Version). The priest (they refer to him as "Father") spends much of the time facing the altar with his back to the congregation. There seems to be even more formality and ritual involved such as people genuflecting toward the altar before entering the pew, many made the sign of the cross at various times similar to Catholics. At some point, the priest even rang a bell or chime during one of the prayers or readings he was doing. It also appears he preaches based on the lectionary.

Now, I don't want to sound as if I'm saying there's anything wrong with these things. But it's definitely another leap back in time compared to anything I've experienced. The Methodist church of my upbringing was fairly "high church" (for Methodists anyway) on Sunday mornings and I even recognized some of the readings as strikingly similar today to those back then. And the other Anglican church was another big step in that direction. But this is just far beyond anything I'm used to. It made me realize that while compared to my parents and in-laws and most of my friends I may seem traditional, I'm in the minor leagues.

All of this said, in the end, it's not the reason that I won't be bringing my family there for a follow up visit. The preaching was rather uninspiring despite a good text to base it on from the lectionary. And aside from a couple of teenagers and a handful of young kids, I was by far the youngest person there. They don't have any children's program to speak of. They seem like sweet folks though and were all too eager to welcome me and even openly state that they really want and need more young couples. Barring some big time change of heart from God, I just wasn't feeling drawn to the place.

So the search continues. And any visions I had of myself as some big time traditionalist have been been thoroughly put to rest.


Qatfish said...

I like the '28 BCP. After the '79 came out, the church where I grew up continued doing the '28 liturgy on Wednesdays. Some ECUSA dioceses stopped using it altogether, though. I learned that when I was surprised that I couldn't find a '28 liturgy when I went away to college.

I have to kind of chuckle when people think the older BCPs and Tridentine Mass are really old, though. Go to a Byzantine Catholic Church sometime, and dig how old St. John Chrysostom's liturgy is! ;)

Ragamuffin said...

I didn't dislike it per se, but it did make me realize that the word "traditional" definitely has degrees of meaning.

I'll be honest. There were parts I liked. And I'm always interested in experiencing new things like that. But overall, I prefer the Holy Eucharist Rite II that we did at the other Anglican church. I find it very beautiful. It also seemed that the priest talked a lot more compared to the congregation compared to Rite II, and one of the things I liked about Rite II was the level of participation from the people. And it seemed like, at least at the last Anglican church, there were more sung parts of the liturgy. We sang the Sanctus. There was a litany that was beautiful. But it was still steeped in tradition for me, minus the King James vernacular.

Red Cardigan said...

Ragamuffin, I've tagged you for a book meme if you want to participate.

Ragamuffin said...

Forgive my ignorance, but I don't know what a book meme is. :^)

Red Cardigan said...

This book meme is pretty simple (unlike memes that want you to list your favorites in several categories): you just pick up the book closest to where you are, turn to page 123, count down five sentences, and post the next three sentences.

My example is here:


You don't have to do it if you don't want to--I just tagged you because I'm guessing you have some pretty interesting books nearby! :)

Ragamuffin said...

Ok. I'll try to do that tonight. I do have a few interesting ones on my desk.

Red Cardigan said...

Oh, good! I'm looking forward to seeing what you post! :)

Ragamuffin said...

Well, the deed is done!

eulogos said...

I probably would love the parish you describe, except for the uninspiring sermon, and maybe he does better other days. But of course, I am Catholic now, so it couldn't be my parish. The Anglican rite in the Catholic Church is a lot like this though, and I attend that whenever I get the chance. I began my Christian life as an Episcopalian with the 1928 prayer book, and I prefer its language to that of any other rite in English. The Anglican use has the Roman canon in Elizabethan language instead of Cranmer's canon for theological reasons, but I would personally prefer it if they had just amended Cranmer a bit.

I now attend a Byzantine Catholic church and also love that, but my husband won't go with me. Oddly, he will go to the Tridentine mass with me because he likes the priests wandering but strongly morally exhortative sermons.

I think the Tridentine Mass, which is really much older than Trent and is the rite of St. Gregory , compares in antiquity to the rite of St. John Chrysostum, by the way.

Yes, Ragamuffin, there is a whole spectrum of Christian worship you have just barely touched. And it is the Christian worship of the ages and of the vast majority of Christians in all ages and times. But it will be there for you when you and your family are ready for it.

Meanwhile, is your family now attending the Anglican church that you liked? Or are you still at the Methodist one?
Susan Peterson

Ragamuffin said...

Unfortunately, no. But the liturgy isn't the issue, it's the children's programs and the feeling that the kids area isn't as secure (read: off limits to anyone that doesn't have badge or something to show they belong back there and can pick kids up) as my wife would like for it to be. They are moving into their own place in the next year and we plan to visit again then. So right now we're at the Methodist church.

As far as the 1928 Prayer Book Anglican church I visited, it would probably be too traditional for my wife, but I'd be fine with it. But it is so tiny and the sermon...meh.