US News and World Report Cover Story: A Return to Tradition

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Worshipers come to St. Mary, Mother of God in downtown Washington, D.C., for various reasons, but many say that a big draw is the Tridentine Latin mass that is said here every Sunday. Soon, St. Mary may be less well known for that distinctive liturgical offering than for the number of big-name government and media types that occupy its pews. Now that Pope Benedict XVI has loosened the restrictions on churches that want to observe the pre-Vatican II rite, more parishes are availing themselves of the option. Call it part of a larger conservative shift within the church—one that includes a renewed emphasis on such practices as personal confession and reciting the rosary as well as a resurgent interest in traditional monastic and religious orders.

But this shift extends beyond the Roman Catholic Church. In Richardson, Texas, the congregation of Trinity Fellowship Church participates in something that would have been considered almost heretical in most evangelical Protestant churches five or 10 years ago: a weekly Communion service. An independent, nondenominational church of some 600 members, Trinity Fellowship is not the only evangelical congregation that is offering a weekly Eucharist, saying the Nicene or Apostles' creeds, reading the early Church Fathers, or doing other things that seem downright Roman Catholic or at least high Episcopalian. Daniel Wallace, a professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, which trains pastors for interdenominational or nondenominational churches, says there is a growing appetite for something more than "worship that is a glorified Bible class in some ways."

Something curious is happening in the wide world of faith, something that defies easy explanation or quantification. More substantial than a trend but less organized than a movement, it has to do more with how people practice their religion than with what they believe, though people caught up in this change often find that their beliefs are influenced, if not subtly altered, by the changes in their practice.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

Posted December 28, 2007 at 6:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Jeffersonian wrote:

Everything old is new again.  I’m delighted that Benedict XVI has opened the liturgy to pre-Vatican II again.  When we were churchless, we tried a local RCC mass and were horrified how it had morphed into McLiturgy.  I found it hard to believe the faithful sat still for such a watery broth.

December 28, 9:54 pm | [comment link]
2. Nikolaus wrote:

“I think churches that can articulate what they do and what they stand for tend to grow better.” To that extent, she says, the conservative turn in the church makes sense.

Granted, Sister followed this up with some caveats, but I think the assessment above is pretty accurate and would completely exclude the General Convention Church (TEC).

December 28, 9:55 pm | [comment link]
3. BCP28 wrote:

Generally a good article, if a little too broad to be very helpful.  I have to say when I saw the cover story in the store, with the RC priest in full-blown high mass mode facing the altar as God intended (I say that only half-seriously) my heart skipped a beat.

On the other hand, my evangelical in-laws (brothers and sisters, so of my generation) were in town for Christmas Eve and found the Eucharistic service, with incense and lots of music, a little offensive.  We have a lot of work to do.


December 28, 10:07 pm | [comment link]
4. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

I can add some anecdotal evidence from my own experience.  In the last year, I’ve visited regularly two evangelical churches closely associated with the Anglican churches I attend and/or serve, and both of them fit this growing trend.  Both have communion each week and both borrow from the rich ancient heritage of the Church in other ways as well.

The first is Eternity Church in Richmond, VA, pastored by David Singh, a minister from the ecumenical Church of South India, and a sister church to Eternity Anglican, also pastored by Singh, who is now affiliated with the Anglican Church of Uganda.  The congregation is largely made up of young people in their 20s and 30s, some married, but most still single.  And that in itself is striking, since that demographic niche is so rarely seen in American churches.  Many in this growing congregation tell me that they have been longing to put down deeper spiritual roots, and looking for a form of worship that goes back more than just one or two generations.  Musically eclectic, it features “blended” worship in other ways too; it’s a blend of both evangelical and charismatic, with just a hint of catholic thrown in to spice it up.  But this has whetted the appetite of some young people enough that they also occasionally attend the Anglican service (that meets in the same building earlier on Sunday morning).

Even more striking is Hope Community Church in Newport News, VA. Hope CC is part of a partnership of six local churches that share the same complex of buildings.  One of those five other churches is the AMiA congregation I’m currently serving as an interim (Mission of Grace, Newport News).  What makes Hope CC so interesting is that it is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, and yet they use the Apostles’ Creed and share communion each Sunday.  Amazing.  Definitely not your typical SBC congregation!  Like Eternity Church in Richmond, Hope Community Church is predominately young, mostly 20 and 30 somethings, probably half single and half married.  During Advent they lit candles and offered prayers beside a large Advent wreath on stage.  And they frequently project beautiful color slides on large screens during the service.  Definitely not your typical words-only Baptist style worship. 

And now the kicker, Hope Community Church runs LivingStone Monastery, a retreat center that is indeed a former Roman Catholic convent.  When this unusual Southern Baptist church took over the facility the nuns no longer could maintain, Hope CC promised to perpetuate the practice of regular prayers in the chapel.  So three times a day now, whoever is present in the building gathers for short, liturgical prayer services (mostly drawn from the Book of Common Prayer!) at 7 am, Noon, and 9 pm.  And about ten young people in their 20s and 30s live in an intentional Christian community in this Protestant “Monastery.”  On top of that, as if it weren’t astounding enough, the guest rooms are named for various great saints, almost none of whom are Baptists.  I stayed in one named for Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Others were named for C.S. Lewis, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard (OK, he’s a Baptist, but hardly a typical one), and even such Catholic figures as St. Ignatius, St. Theresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, and Brother Lawrence.  Each guest room has a copy of one of the best known books by that particular saint placed there for guests to read, if they so choose.

Isn’t that unbelievable?  It’s hard to believe, but I swear it’s true.  A Baptist retreat center with daily rounds of liturgical prayers and rooms dedicated to the memory of Catholic saints?  I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming.  My first thought was, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”

Strange (and promising) things are afoot in the Christian world today…

David Handy+
The New Reformation goes far beyond Anglicanism!

December 28, 11:09 pm | [comment link]
5. Bob from Boone wrote:

David, thank you for this very interesting report, prompted by the article. I see many hopeful signs in the emergent church movement for rediscovering and reimagining the deep roots of the Church Catholic in its liturgy and spirituality. May all of Christianity in our part of the world benefit from these developments.

December 28, 11:59 pm | [comment link]
6. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

I belong to the Evangelical Free Church and have for years.  Before that, I was Assemblys of God.  I have been reading and using the 1928 BCP for about 14 years in my private and family devotions.  My Mom attends one of the CT Six Churches.  We celebrate advent both at Church and at home, etc.  I have much more in common with the RC’s and Conservative Anglicans than I do with say…TEC, United Methodists, Congregationalists, Evangelical Lutherans, and other liberal Churches.

December 29, 12:29 am | [comment link]
7. bluenarrative wrote:

Sick & Tired,  My experience is very similar to yours. When Scripture talks about being of “one accord,” it is talking about an authentic fellowship that occurs—or should occur—among those who are sincerely committed to following our Lord’s (often difficult and perplexing) leading. I think of myself as being VERY Protestant in lots of ways, but I can connect very deeply and immediately with the vibrant faith of orthodox Roman Catholics. I have a much harder time understanding or feeling comfortable with wishy-washy, trendy, liberal Roman Catholics who seem determined to move in a direction similar to the one 815 is now embarked upon. I am not an anabaptist, but I have MUCH more in common with a lot of Southern Baptists than I do with, say, the United Methodists.

December 29, 1:03 am | [comment link]
8. rugbyplayingpriest wrote:

thank the Lord that the disastrous modernisation begun by the 60’s generation is beginning to wane. Those who are now in the positions of power have damaged the church in my opinion by their obsession with being relevant.

Preach the faith as handed down by the apostles without apology- then try your best to live it out and stand firm when the world rails against you.

That will inspire and motivate millions- for it is the faith rooted in Christ that is not afraid to speak its name.

I lament the luke warmness of faith that is found in alomst all Churches in England today.

December 29, 7:03 am | [comment link]
9. Philip Snyder wrote:

One of the biggest differences between protestant/evangelical and catholic worship is the focus.  Protestants and Evangelicals tend to see worship as school - a time to be instructed.  Catholics tend to see worship as drama and poetry - a time to retell the story in metaphore and allegory.  In the best liturgy, you can see the “perichoresis” of the Holy Trinity.

With the consummerist and utilitartian focus of our society is it any wonder that people are looking for more poetry and beauty in their lives?

Phil Snyder

December 29, 11:31 am | [comment link]
10. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Amen, Phil!  I agree completely.

Here’s another bit of anecdotal evidence (a non-representative sample, to be sure) from my own experience.  My two children (28 and 25 years old) attend a large and thriving AMiA church in Wheaton, IL, where they (and I) went to college.  Church of the Resurrection currently boasts an ASA (i.e., “average Sunday attendace” for you lay people) of over 700 during the school year.  And that is because so many Wheaton College students (and faculty!) attend this lively, charismatic Anglican parish.  The place is positively swarming with small children (due to all the young families the age of my two kids).

Now here’s the reason I bring it up.  My son recently told me the astonishing news that their church is now considered to attract more Wheaton students and faculty than any other evangelical church in the area.  For those of you unfamiliar with the status of Wheaton as a virtual Mecca or big magnet in the conservative Protestant world, let me tell you that there are LOTS of wonderful, strong, healthy evangelical churches in Wheaton.  Along with Colorado Springs and Orlando, it’s one of the major centers of evangelicalism in this country.  So when an Anglican church manages to attract more students than all the many Baptist, Presbyterian, Assembly of God, or non-denominational churches around, that speaks volumes about the powerful pull of liturgy, sacrament, and just plain beauty.  It shows the strong appeal these things have for many of those in the college age generation.

Phil, I’d add another element that drives this movement.  Not only is most evangelical Protestant worship very didactic (as you rightly noted) and thus very left-brain in orientation (whereas the liturgy, the arts etc. appeal to the imagination or right-brain part of us).  Another key factor is that so much Protestant and Pentecostal worship is so very audience centered or horizontal in its thrust.  And one of the greatest strengths of liturgical, sacramental worship is that it is God-centered or vertical in its thrust.  That is, it is truly WORSHIP.  The primary direction of the service is Godward and upward, not outward to the listening audience, with the sermon as the chief focal point of the service, as is customary in evangelical circles.  Too many Protestant worship services are just glorified large Bible lectures.  And many people, especially in the new Millenial generation, are longing for more actual worship in worship services.  And that often leads them down the Canterbury Trail.  Thanks be to God!

P.S.  Bob from Boone (#5), you’re welcome.  I’m glad to find some common ground between us.

David Handy+
A former pilgrim who stumbled on the Canterbury Trail while at Wheaton myself, under the influence of that amazing Pied Piper, Dr. Robert Webber (R.I.P.) who was my beloved mentor there.

December 29, 12:13 pm | [comment link]
11. Philip Snyder wrote:

Thank you for your comments.  I agree completely that liturgy needs both a horizontal aspect and a vertical one.  It should be cross-shaped (just as our lives should be shaped by and after the cross).

I view liturgy as the frame that is around the Truth.  Different frames will bring out different aspects of the Truth, but they do not change the Truth itself.  Just as a bad frame can distract from the picture, so bad liturgy can distract from the truth.  The problem is that there are too many different tastes to say that there is only one frame for the Truth. 

One thing I love about being a Deacon in the Diocese of Dallas is that Bishop Stanton always brings a deacon with him when he visits different congregations.  I have worshipped with very “high” anglo-catholic ceremonial.  I have worshipped in very “low” evangelical ceremonial.  I have worshipped in charismatic style and I’ve participated in almost everything in between.  In all of them, the Truth was proclaimed and celebrated. 

In the best Anglican liturgy, we combine wonderful drama with good preaching.  The peoples left and right brains are fed as are their hearts and spirits.  We are drawn upward (anaphora) as the Spirit decends on us (epiclesis).  We participate in the dance (perichoresis) of the Holy Trinity and are made more like the Body of Christ as we are fed with the Body and Blood of Christ.

Phil Snyder

December 29, 1:05 pm | [comment link]
12. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

#11, Phil,

Amen.  Ditto.

I didn’t know you were a deacon.  As in a permanent one?  I’m a strong advocate of the true diaconate as “a full and equal order” (among the many other things I’m an advocate for!).

You are truly blessed to serve under a godly, wise bishop like +Stanton.  I was likewise greatly blessed to serve under Dan Herzog when he was a parish priest in Albany, before he became the bishop.  Such men are worth their weight in gold…

Do you happen to know a young priest at Church of the Incarnation, Matt Olver?  I don’t know him personally, but he’s a very good friend of my son, Joel.  They were close friends at Wheaton and still keep in pretty close touch.

David Handy+

December 29, 2:24 pm | [comment link]
13. Philip Snyder wrote:

Yes, I am a deacon (as opposed to a “transitional deacon.”)  I agree that I am blessed to serve under a godly bishop and under a godly rector and in a godly diocese.  I have great respect for all the people in the diocese and even for those clergy and people I disagree with on things theological. 

Yes, I know Fr. Olver, albeit not well.  He and I served together on the Feast of St. Nicholas for the installation of Fr. Will Brown as the Rector of Holy Cross in Dallas.  I was the deacon and Fr. Olver served as the sub-deacon.  It was a wonderful service.  Anytime you see haze in front of the congregation due to the incense, it’s a good day! (grin).

Phil Snyder

December 29, 3:35 pm | [comment link]
14. physician without health wrote:

The current issue of Modern Reformation has a discussion about worship with pastors from a number of denominations.  The Lutheran pastor (LCMS) made a comment which I really like, namely that worship is not smething that we do, it is a setting in which God bestows His gifts (Word and Sacrament) upon us.  This is a very nice, wholly evangelical and wholly vertical perspective.

December 29, 4:20 pm | [comment link]
15. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

#13, Phil,

I’m thinking that your last line about how smoking up a church well with incense makes for a good day was intended in a humorous way to provoke a strong reaction (hence the grin).  And it just might from some of the other readers who notice it.  But I’m with you.  I’m crazy about incense myself, and used it often when I was back in good old Anglo-Catholic Albany.

But since I’ve been down here in low-church Virginia, I’ve rarely had the privilege to use it.  In fact I think it’s been about five years since I was in the kind of church that would even tolerate it, much less welcome such a holy “haze.” 

Here’s an interesting historical fact that you may not know, but might help you justify the use of “holy smoke” when questioned about it.  I recently learned that the great “Caroline Divine” Lancelot Andrewes, one of the translators of the KJV and a leading opponent of the Puritans, used incense in his own private chapel, although he seldom did so in public.  For all you non seminary-educated readers (and all the rest of us who’ve forgotten most of the church history we ever learned), this devout bishop (of Salisbury/Sarum I think) was one of the key leaders in recovering the whole catholic side or dimension of our Anglican heritage (from the 1620s on). 

And if that isn’t enough to win a respectful hearing, you can remind them that God COMMANDED the use of incense as a daily offering under the Old Covenant (see Exod. 30), and that the book of Revelation portrays its use in heaven.  I guess that none of our new resurrected bodies will be subject to any allergies to it!  In fact, speaking of a holy haze making for a good day, note how Rev. 8:3 even describes an agnel coming before God’s throne with “a great quantity of incense to offer…”  Hmmm.  Sounds like quite a thick haze to me.

Alas, I may just have lost some potential members of the NRA Fan Club.  Oh well, it’s a matter of adiaphora (indifference).

David Handy+

December 29, 5:23 pm | [comment link]
16. Philip Snyder wrote:

I know that some people don’t like incense.  I don’t know too many who have a theological objection to it.  Worship should include the whole person - ears, eyes, touch, taste, and smell and well as head and heart. 

One thing we must guard against is the knee jerk reaction of being against something because those with whom we disagree are for it.  This is the way of party spirit and not of discerning Christianity.
Many of those who support the changes to the Faith that the reappraisers have given us worship in the anglo-catholic style.  They are not “high church” nor are they “anglo-catholic.”  They are “high ceremonial.”  There are some who now equate high ceremonial with high-church and anglo-catholic.  They forget that a “high churchman” would never tell the Church, catholic, to stuff it.  I love anglo-catholic worship and anglo-catholic theology.  I also love evangelical worship and evangelical theology.  I have also been known to raise my hands in charismatic praise and singing and I strongly support the people of God using their gifts of the Holy Spirit for ministry.

So, what is more important?  The anglo-catholic worship & theology or the evangelical worship and theology or the charistmatic worship and theology?  Which is most true?  I am an Anglican!  They are all true and all equally important!  They are all valid and valuable frames around the Truth of what God has done in history with His Chosen People and specifically what God has done for the world, the Church, and for me in Jesus Christ.

Phil Snyder

December 29, 5:37 pm | [comment link]
17. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

#16, Phil,

The Elves may swoop in at any moment and declare that the two of us have just hijacked this thread and taken it way off-topic.  But in the meantime, thanks for the personal sharing of your passions about both worship and truth.  I agree with you in so many ways.  In fact, I think you should consider applying to become a member of the NRAFC (NRA Fan Club).  One of the things we discuss is what I call “3-D Christianity,” i.e., a synthesis of the evangelical, catholic, and charismatic dimensions of the full biblical faith.  We’d love to have you join in the fun (mostly over at SF).

David Handy+

December 29, 7:44 pm | [comment link]
18. small "c" catholic wrote:

#17—This kind of friendly “hijacking” of a thread is fun even for lurkers—nice to get a sense of the actual people behind the screen names. (Did any of you at Church of the Resurrection happen to know Guy Condon (RIP)?)
And just to add my two cents’ worth to the discussion—Christ Church (“fully catholic, fully evangelical and fully charismatic) draws large numbers of faculty, staff and students from nearby Gordon College and Gordon Conwell Seminary.

December 29, 10:31 pm | [comment link]
19. small "c" catholic wrote:

Should have added—both “Gordons” are evangelical institutions.

December 29, 10:43 pm | [comment link]
20. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

#17, small “c” catholic,

I was never part of Church of the “Rez” myself, just my two kids are, so I’m sorry to say that I didn’t know Guy Gordon.  I did know various other people.  And although I didn’t know them personally very well, many T19 readers will recognize the names of two great leaders and pioneers in ministry to people struggling with same sex attractions: Leanne Payne and Fr. Mario Bergner.  They both attended Rez for years, though neither of them attends there now.  In fact, perhaps you know more about this than I do, but Mario+ has moved to the Boston area, and set up his Redeemed Lives ministry there.

Small “c” catholic, it sounds like you must be part of famous Christ Church, in Hamilton, Mass.  Yes, I imagine that it must be very similar to Church of the Resurrection in many ways, especially in appealing to so many young evangelicals.  Two comments:

First, I heard that Gordon Conwell Seminary has started an Anglican track for students intending to enter parish ministry in the Anglican tradition.  Do you know anything about how that is going?  Fuller Seminary in CA has supposedly done it too.  I see that as a very promising sign of hope for the future of orthodox Anglicanism in North America.  “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few…”

Second, I’m so glad to hear how you put it, in describing the “3-D” character of Chist Church:  i.e., FULLY evangelical, fully catholic, and fully charismatic.  This prompts me to get up on my “3-D” soapbox and extoll the virtues of rethinking Anglicanism as mujch more than a mere “via media” between Rome and Geneva, or Protestantism and Catholicism. 

For one thing, if there are three elements to combine instead of just two, then the whole “middle way” image no longer works.  Hence I like to speak of three DIMENSIONS.  Not just “three streams” (the common AMiA phrase), but three dimensions that operate on different planes and hence don’t directly clash.

But secondly, the whole idea of seeking the moderate middle path between two extremes is also completely different than the kind of synthesis I have in mind.  That is, instead of seeking to balance a moderately Protestant/evangelical emphasis with a moderately catholic/sacramental one in the usual fashion, what I seek is not to moderate excessive tendencies in any one direction, but to counterbalance rival extremes in their full force.  That is, I aspire to be, as you have said, fully and authentically evangelical, fully and authentically catholic, and fully and authentically charismatic. 

I don’t mind being labeled an extremist and fanatic.  I just want to be a balanced, healthy extremist and fanatic!  In other words, to counterbalance all out evangelicalism with all out catholicism and all out pentecostalism in such a way that truly dangerous extremism is ruled out.  After all, Jesus wasn’t moderately human and moderately divine as some sort of a sensible via media creature in the middle (an archangel perhaps), but rather he was and is fully human and fully divine in that wondrous mystery that defies all comprehension.  Hmmm.  Sounds like Christ Church, Hamilton is my kind of place.  God bless you richly!

David Handy+
Advocate of 3-D Anglicanism, as well as the New Reformation

December 29, 11:14 pm | [comment link]
21. small "c" catholic wrote:

Thanks for your comments about “3-D” Anglicanism. I do, indeed, attend CCHW, and will be forever grateful for the channel of grace it has been for me and my family. And yes, Mario Bergner is associate rector there—as you know he’s a wonderful teacher and pastor. The Anglican studies track at GC is going well, I hear, though the seminary overall is predominantly Reformed. Over the years CCHW has attracted a number of seminarians who have gone on to seek holy orders, both in TEC and through the Network—most of them not from liturgical-church backgrounds. Their faithfulness and vision even in the midst of all the uncertainty in Anglican Communion is a real encouragment.

December 30, 6:23 pm | [comment link]
22. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

#21, small “c” catholic,

I can’t resist the temptation to ask about one of the former rectors of Christ Church, Hamilton, i.e., Bishop Mark Dyer.  Were you there during his time as rector?  If so, can you explain what in the world has happened to him?  How can he have changed sides and changed so much?  It puzzles me.  When he was the Bp. of Bethlehem, he seemed much more moderate than he does now, since he came down to Virginia Seminary.

“How are the mighty fallen!”  Very sad.

And secondly, if you don’t mind, is Elizabeth Elliott still alive?  I heard that she was still in your parish, but in very bad health.  True?

Thanks in advance.

David Handy+

December 30, 9:26 pm | [comment link]
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