Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Baptismal Liturgy

The Church of England is trialling new liturgy for Baptism services. You can take a look at the experimental liturgy here. and their rationale here. They are looking to provide materials that are "in culturally appropriate and accessible language."

Coverage from the media has been interesting; Radio 5 jumped in quickly, focusing on the "dropping of the devil" with a phone-in on "Is the devil real?" using the stat that 22% of people believe in the devil. The Daily Mail announced that this new liturgy signalled the end of civilization as we know it (not quite, but typically sensational);

The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley had their own take on these responses, full post here;

Brother Ivo's Blog - Social commentary as if religion really matters, states .... ”If you can’t reach, you can’t teach” and this is a useful contribution to this debate. Brother Ivo argues that whilst the wording is important, the opportunity for visiting, discussing, befriending and explaining all things baptism is where the most fruitful work is done, as we "work with the grain of humanity".

Andrew Brown, writing for the Guardian, believes that the recent experimental changes will add up to nothing, but states; "I can quite understand we need something which does what infant baptism is supposed to do". Full post

However, some of the most thoughtful reflections have come from Francis Spufford, "So the purpose of the experiment as I understand it - and it is only an experiment, a trial in a limited number of parishes which will not be automatically extended - is to see whether a liturgy that has been simplified in some ways serves better at delivering, to people not practised at ‘speaking Christian’, the same unchanging sacrament." Full text here

Other reactions include; waste of time, missed opportunity, dumbing down, compromise, worst of all worlds, a step forward, a step backward, an attempt at becoming more relevant, not perfect but a great improvement, more accessible, worth a try ....... and .... who really cares what the CofE are up to as long as they are not hurting anyone.

In the C of E one in six children are brought for baptism by their parents. There remains a desire for the best, including the spiritual, with many families, who may well struggle in understanding the framework we place around what is precious to us. Sure, we know what it says, we know what it means, or at least we think we do, but what about those well-meaning, hopeful, questioning, enquiring people who would like to know more, and want more for their children, but find it all beyond their understanding?

So how do we take the precious things of God and relate them to a world that is looking for more?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A Tale of three Churches

Recent news & views have featured different expressions of church and how these relate to their communities. The Guardian carried an article comparing two churches separated by a few hundred metres. The state of the church in modern Britain - 

The carol service at Ely Cathedral.
"Five hundred metres from the 12th-century Ely cathedral stands what may be the ugliest place of worship in Britain. But while the Lighthouse church is housed in a converted garage with grey speckled industrial carpeting on the floor, it might also be the future of Christianity in the country."
And in Indiana there's a church which focuses less on Sunday mornings and more on being a good neighbour to their community
"Englewood Christian Church once attracted 1,100 people but now only has about 200; however, that doesn't bother anyone in this circle of friends. According to members, Sunday service is still held, but it is the event that is most not a part of what the church is now. "I believe the church is Jesus in the flesh in the neighborhood," Benjamin said. "We are the hands and feet and the voice of Jesus… in the neighborhood. That's our mission."
What links these expressions of faith is their desire to link with their community in ways that are relevant to them. God only speaks local dialects. We must recognise who we are, what we are and why we are, treading the delicate line between authenticity and relevance, so that we serve God's best interests in our communities. So where do we go from here?