Monday, April 25, 2011

Advantages of a church calendar

I'm not exactly what you would call an apologist for the prayer book, the lectionary or any of that stuff. But - this Easter I have been reminded of what a great heritage some sort of order of church worship gives us.

This Easter weekend I was in the south of Chile, teaching a MOCLAM subject in intensive mode. We had 12 hours of class a day for 3 days - and the students will be doing their exam later this week. It was a pretty full on few days!

Each morning and evening session began with a devotional, and given that the days included Good Friday and Easter Day, I kindof assumed that we would be thinking about the death and resurrection of Jesus.

But we didn't. In fact, during the whole weekend, not one word was mentioned about Easter.

I wondered whether that might be a Chilean thing, so I asked around a bit. No - for most people, Easter is a big thing and many of the churches were having special events, public celebrations etc. But not this group. It made me wonder why? Why was it that we could spend a weekend together as a group of Christians, and not mark the most important date in our calendar?

My theory is something like this - and I haven't asked whether there is any truth to my theory, because I didn't want to come across as accusing or superior.

Everyone on the group was from a freechurch, or independent church background - contexts where they prided themselves on their flexibility and informality of churchmanship. In many cases they are reacting against the cold, repetition of prayers and utterances which they have seen bore countless generation - they want to be new and fresh and engaging. And so they have done away with the old forms.

Now I'm all for new and engaging (as long as the Bible is still there) and have no particular love of old things because they are old, but it raises an interesting question. If you are going to get rid of something, it is worthwhile thinking about what you are going to replace it with. In some cases I think with these folks, lots of thought has gone into the 'getting rid of' part of the process, but not so much into the 'replacement' part.

It is possible that one of byproducts of this 'out with the old' feeling, is that some of the observance and remembrance aspects which are so clear in the prayer book and fixed liturgies have been lost - including in this case, a careful observance of Easter.

Thats a shame I think - because I wonder if we lost a great opportunity to reflect together and encourage each other on what is a joyful and important time in our Christian life.

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