I would love to ask leaders of large evangelical-charismatic Anglican churches who have abandoned their Anglican liturgical heritage what exactly it is they have against liturgical worship. Indeed I was planning to do exactly that towards a doctorate, but that’s another story. I suspect that in a general sense I already know what they’d say. I have never been in any official way part of the liturgical processes of the C of E, but I am very well aware of the kind of image liturgists and liturgy have. Liturgical worship is perceived as getting in the way of mission and growth, it is seen as formal and irrelevant to the 21st century church, it is seen as mere frippery compared to the far more worthy activity of singing loads of songs which no-one knows. In other words, the common attitude to all things liturgical is ‘We know better!’
I wouldn’t want to make any hard and fast points here, and I certainly wouldn’t want to try to sort out which if any is cause and which is effect, but my observation tells me that big successful Anglican churches often have an arrogance about them which, although it tries to be kind and charitable, fundamentally believes that other churches, and often in particular liturgical ones, are just not quite the ticket. Of course were here to serve such lesser manifestations of church, and to give them any advice we can about how they could be as good as we are, but learn from them? No way! And as for the wider Anglican denomination, and its rules, regulations and funny little ways, well, that’s why the C of E is in such a mess. In any case we do use Anglican liturgy: our 8 am Communion service is straight from the book, and a few elderly people really like it.
Of course it is all much more subtle than this, and most leaders would deny hotly such attitudes, but it is easy to see from the outside. So my final liturgical rant extolling the virtues of this great commodity is about the Christian virtue of submission – being able to say to the church of which we are a part ‘We love you, with all your quirks and oddities. We believe in you; when we made those solemn promises at our licensing we really meant them. We won’t accept all you say uncritically: we do at times want to be a bit of grit in the oyster because there is always room for something beautiful and new to grow. But we will not make a habit of flaunting your rules for the sake of it; we will have the humility to realise that in spite of our apparent success we still need you, and might even have something to learn from you.
I can dream, can’t I?