WHY LITURGY? December 3, 2012

I have been struck in recent years by how many evangelicals have sought to reconnect with liturgical practice. Often, they follow the Ancient Future movement, under the influence of the late Robert Webber and his copious publications. In State College, PA, for instance, one of the most flourishing Baptist churches offers a liturgy-focused service. Some thoughtful Waco Baptists of my acquaintance wryly describe themselves as possessing a Bapto-Catholic slant.

Recently, the Chicago Tribune reviewed Chris Haw’s new book From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart: Rekindling My Love for Catholicism. The title is self-explanatory: he records his defection from the famous megachurch to a Catholic parish. The story noted that “Willow Creek has been experimenting with liturgical elements, including communal readings from Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer. ‘An increased reverence for God — His holiness and beauty — among all Christians often comes from engaging with God with all the senses,’ says Susan Delay, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek. ‘Engaging with all the senses is something present in the Catholic Church’.”

I’m not pretending this is an overwhelming national tide, but something is happening out there.

In light of this, I thought it might be useful to circulate a piece I wrote for my own Episcopal church, which seeks to answer such questions as “what is a liturgy, and why do we have it? Why is it so central to the church’s life? Why, in short, is knowing something about the liturgy so central to understanding the church itself?”

I hope it might be of interest, and who knows, maybe even useful as we enter the Advent season. Take a look.

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