When people intensely debate fine details of worship, of liturgy, of common prayer, I sense that those who disdain liturgy, and are looking on, are having their bemusement reinforced. Sadly, that would be a prejudice-based mistake.
Let’s use another example. For over two decades now, a try in Rugby Football has been worth 5 points. Imagine the debate two decades ago to change the scoring from the 4, that it had been for the 20 years previously, to 5. Imagine the debate when it changed from 3 to 4. It had been 3 points for 80 years.
If something is important to you, be it rugby or community worship, intense debate about details is not disagreement about what is held in deep agreement and with much affection, quite the opposite.
Those who appreciate and debate about liturgy (or rugby) are in agreement about 98.7% of the time. The debating is about the 1.3%.
There is strong agreement about the value of common worship. There is strong agreement that lay people in the congregation have rights, and not everything should just be at the whim of the priest. There is value in sharing a reading schedule in common so that people can plan ahead, pray in preparation, share resources between communities, denominations, and on the internet. There is value in planning a sequence, so that people who worship week by week are enriched steadily, and that those who are travelling are still able to continue their inner pilgrimage alongside their external one as they celebrate now with one community, now with another. There is value in reading great readings at the time that they have been read historically throughout history – deepening our experience not only of being part of the church throughout the world, but part of the church back through history to Jesus and through him into our Jewish heritage. There is value in celebrating the great feasts, again sharing these around the planet, and echoing back to Jesus, and on into the feasts celebrated back centuries before him.
And there is value in some local flexibility, so that a local experience or context may be acknowledged, celebrated, and prayed about.
The connection between these three posts is the challenge to General Synod Te Hinota Whanui to review the confused and confusing rules that have grown up like topsy, to put a moratorium on producing new ones until that is done, to simplify the rules and language so that all is consistent, simple, and clear to follow for everyone – reflecting the sort of agreement expressed in this post.
What we need is quality formation, thorough training, rigorous study – and then legislation that embodies and encourages common sense.
In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas – in essentials unity, in inessentials freedom, in all things charity.