Yesterday the founder of Facebook’s Praying People Page posted Rev. Mark Brown indicated that he was interested that 71% of the over 5,500 members are female. This is made even more interesting because this almost 3 to 1 imbalance is not the case on my Facebook Liturgy Page where the ratio is 54% male, 46% female. I have asked Mark for the further breakdown of his statistics and await his reply. In the Liturgy Page the genders are essentially evenly balanced except in the 35 to 44 year age-band where 13% are males in this age-band and 7% are female.
I also await Mark’s reflection on what he finds interesting and what he draws from this interest. I was fascinated by the analysis in the over fifty comments on Mark’s page. It is typified by the comment “Guys just hide their emotions, and most think it’s a sign of weakness to pray.” Not only was there an identification of emotions with females (this was questioned), but there appears an identification of praying with emotions (which was not questioned!)
What the comments highlight for me is that there are Christian communities whose worship identifies prayer and emotions and that this is more attractive to women – tending to a 3:1 ratio. And that Facebook’s Praying People Page mirrors such an approach.
Liturgy, on the other hand, good liturgy, should not encourage such dichotomies. Good liturgy is not about either-or, it is always both-and. Everyone should be able to find their place in good liturgy which should seamlessly bring together rational and emotional, fixed and spontaneous, young and old, male and female. There should be space in the liturgy for those who arrive rejoicing as well as those who arrive distressed. Both-and. I am encouraged that the statistics for the Facebook Liturgy Page supports this positive vision.
My reflections are reinforced by discussion following my post on tweeting prayers to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. There, again, I notice some comments from people holding a dichotomy in their understanding between saying prayers written by others (including Psalms and the Lord’s Prayer) and praying prayers spontaneously from where a person is at that moment. The liturgical tradition does not divide it into this either-or, but supports both-and. Matthew 6:9 presents the Lord’s Prayer as a model for prayer, while Luke 11:2 enjoins us to pray the Lord’s Prayer as given. Both are valid. Both are important. Praying the prayer as Jesus gives it to us and using it as a model for personal and community prayer.
I suspect that even those in the either-or camp happily sing songs that others have written – probably even including pieces of psalms and other biblical material (and occasionally some material that I might find personally questionable and would much rather be singing something from scripture). A lot will sing anything projected up on the screen. What the either-or camp may not be aware of (and others also) is that until relatively recently we did not sing at the liturgy – the liturgy was sung. Speaking rather than singing/chanting words at the liturgy would have surprised Christians most of our history. So those who are happy to sing anything placed before them, but balk at the idea of praying any fixed prayers from the liturgical tradition would have happily participated in a service where most was sung 🙂
Does my vision for inclusive worship – in which young and old, men and women, happy and sad, all participate equally, nourishing mind and heart – does this resonate with your own hopes? Does anything from what I have written above echo in your own experience?