Wednesday, April 13, 2011

German Liturgy?

Over the last couple of days I have been at a district conference on worship modeled after the synodical one in 2010.  Participants from the district offered brief talks on a variety of topics in an attempt to address, in part, the ongoing tension in Synod over the differences in worship.  One speaker, obviously supportive of contemporary worship, made observations about the historic liturgy that unfortunately perpetuate the tendency to repeat stereotypes with no basis in fact.  One of those stereotypes is the so-called the "German liturgy." Because our forefathers worshiped using the German tongue back in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it has become popular to thereby label the entire liturgy as Germanic.  Ironically, the historic liturgy does not receive a similar label in the Catholic tradition when other cultures use it, yet the same historic divine service lies at its core.  However, by thus labeling the liturgy detractors thereby enjoy the opportunity to disparage it in the eyes of others who see it as counterproductive to outreach and evangelism. 

Another related caricature used by the same presenter was the so-called "High Church Liturgy."  Left undefined the label causes the hearer to inaccurately differentiate between liturgy which includes chanting and spoken liturgy.  Here again, at the core, we find the same essence, the only difference being presentation.  Nevertheless, by adding the words "High Church" the speaker conjures up images of incense-waving deacons at a Catholic Mass, thereby prejudicing the hearer against the liturgy itself. 

I suppose I should not be surprised that debates on worship should not escape the over generalizations and misinformation so common in political rhetoric as well.  It simply disappoints me when this comes from clergy who should be sufficiently educated and informed to know the difference.

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