Fr. Dan Martins in his blog, Confessions of a Caricoa, posted an entry entitled, Missional Notes. He is writing about the services of the Church and their connection with people of varying degrees of knowledge about or commitment to Christ. He is wondering about the growing population of people who are very much in American post-Christendom and what can be understood in these days to draw people into relationship with God through Jesus Christ and the Church.
One thing mentioned is that a service like High Solemn Mass (which we do at St. Paul’s during the regular season) might be over-kill to someone without a church background – the uninitiated or unconverted. Fr. Dan writes, “Solemn High Mass is solid food, and is likely to induce spiritual
indigestion in those who haven’t been carefully and gradually prepared
for it. Where’s our version of breast milk, strained carrots, and
How do we configure and do “Church” in Post-Christendom and in a culture that is becoming far more pre-Constantinian than post?
We can no longer assume that new people coming in the door of whatever service or activity the Church engages in know anything about the Christian Gospel, Jesus, or the worship of the Church beyond often trite sound-bytes. Something like a High Solemn Mass can be very intimidating, and if we actually obey our vows to uphold the Canons of this Church we cannot assume they are baptized Christians, so they may not be able to participate in the central act of such a service. (They can, of course, come up for a blessing, which is exactly what every unbaptized person to whom I have explained the requirement for communion and why has done once they know they can come forward for a blessing.) Perhaps this kind of service is for the initiated, while something else may be better suited for these post-Christian seekers. A fine, well done choral Morning Prayer or Evansong may well fit the bill.
And, how do we configure and do “Church” differently in ways that resonate with younger people and still remain faithful to who and what we are as Anglican Christians in the Episcopal Church? After all, they are looking for that kind of faithfulness. An interesting thing about the demographic research – the majority of GenY’ers would rather us say up front who and what we are and clearly delineate what we believe. They are looking for people and groups who are clear and unafraid to stand for what they believe, as long as we can deal with their honest questions, opinions, and doubts forthrightly and graciously. With many in the younger generations, it comes down to a matter of rebuilding trust before we can earn the right to speak into their lives.
These are the very questions that I envision the Imago Dei Society dealing with – a charism to research and analyze emerging generations and the emerging cultures so we can meet them in authentic ways that resonate with them without jettisoning the Tradition, both in liturgy and in belief. Then, taking the knowledge and engaging in “experimental” worshiping communities to see what sticks and what doesn’t.