Peter Carrell is an Anglican priest in New Zealand who usually has a very good grasp on what is happening within our province. He writes in an interesting post on Anglican Down Under that he cannot think of a single congregation that follows our official liturgy that is either growing, or thriving with a good mixture of ages (especially including younger people). This, of course, is a dire claim (Peter repeats it on his site Preaching and Worship). What is more, there has only been a single Kiwi disputing his claim in a comment. Whether I can think of a congregation that conflicts with Peter’s claim is not significant. What I want to do is attempt to analyse this situation and what we might be able to learn from this and move forward. I believe that this analysis and my proposals will be just as relevant beyond New Zealand – so please don’t tune out of this thread you non-Kiwis ☺
Peter’s strong assertion comes with little analysis. The conclusion that liturgy cannot sustain a thriving community within our culture he shows to be false through highlighting (in a comment) that Roman Catholics in this country would not dream of departing from liturgy in the way that Kiwi Anglican churches do, yet Roman Catholic communities are not only more than three times as committed in worship attendance, Peter highlights that Roman Catholic communities do not exhibit the problems with lack of flourishing whilst being liturgically faithful.
I contend that liturgy is integral to Anglican identity. The danger of Peter’s barely-hidden subtext is that a community can only thrive here by abandoning Anglican identity.
Peter maintains (again in a comment) that his observation has been perceptible for at least fifteen to twenty years. In that, already, I think, is a clue to analysis. In this series I will look at the way we learn and use language and from that develop a model that I believe is pertinent.
Update: part 2 is here