This is a blog post about worship. I promise. Read on.
I have watched recordings of the TV programme The New Zealand Home. There is an unquestioned, articulated doctrine that having an area of houses where all share a similar style, a similar look, is undesirable.
We see this doctrine at work in the Christchurch central-city rebuild. Architects haven’t sat down together and come to an idea of the city’s “look”. [eg. green and 21st-century gothic – lots of trees, and buildings with pointy bits…].
The passion for incessant novelty wasn’t a thing yet in the time of the Napier rebuild. Napier was rebuilt with a consistent Art Deco look: “Napier’s major tourist attraction is its architecture, which draws Art Deco and architecture enthusiasts from around the world.”
The New Zealand passion for incessant novelty is one of the reasons for our unaffordable housing. Time (and hence money) is expended in deciding where every individual switch and light fitting might go. Bathrooms, and kitchens, and toilets, etc., are all individually designed. Imagine, just as one example, the increased speed and reduced costs if prefabricated, standard walls for a house arrived at a building site with the wiring already in place! Not to mention that, currently, people only discover issues with the particular unique house design once it has been built.
Architecture is just one example. You could demonstrate the passion for incessant novelty (and its consequences) in any number of other areas. Including worship.
I have mentioned previously the emails I receive similar to: “We used ashes last Ash Wednesday, do you have suggestions for something different for next Ash Wednesday?”
The flexibility within services in our Prayer Book (the may do this, or may do that) was not enough; the different liturgies for the same service was not enough. So A Form For Ordering the Eucharist (a framework) was extended from being for “particular occasions” to any time. But that still was not enough. An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist was added [now any Eucharistic Prayer authorised anywhere in the Anglican world is allowed]. But even that was not enough. A Worship Template (come in – do something – leave) was passed. But that was still not enough. Our Constitution was changed at this year’s meeting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui to allow bishops to authorise services in places under their jurisdiction.
Calculate the time, costs, and energy that go into the incessant novelty to differentiate one service from another on the same day, and from week to week.
The model is of intentional differentiation. Rather than all ages and all stages and all personality types worshipping together around God’s table in anticipation and expressing God’s Reign, Anglicans have an often-articulated model of providing a variety of options. This parish is different to its neighbouring parish – if you don’t like their style, come to us. And within the parish we offer 8am quiet 17th Century communion for retired people – with minimal, if any, singing; 9:30am 20th-century style for young families; 11am for those who partied late into Saturday night; and in the evening with a 21st-century band for those who partied even later into Sunday morning. And might you just detect an undergirding presupposition that there is a limited amount of religious people to go around – so one parish is in competition with another parish for that limited quota? And if you are doing much the same as your neighbouring parish, why would you attract them from there?
Creativity is fine. Great. Novelty has its place. But I challenge you to reflect on our culture’s idolising of incessant, unrelenting creativity and novelty.