on Saturday, 1 April 2023 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Stanley Monkhouse Rambling Rector Retired Bashing on
Jayne Ozanne ViaMedia.News Hot Cross Bunnies & Religious Freedom
Philip Jones Ecclesiastical Law Electing the Parochial Church Council: Smith v Bishop of Barchester
I’ve never understood why Churches which lack music, beauty and mystery even exist. It was Marshall McLuhan who said “the medium is the message”. I share Prof Monkhouse’s view that liturgy conveys our quest for the numinous without which religion is somewhat pointless. Being moved by beautiful liturgy makes one wish that the story being conveyed were actually true. Being a Christian as an accident of birth is also true to experience, along with nationality, sexuality and fondness for roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding. Today’s CofE has largely abolished the numinous and “beauty of holiness ” in favour of arguments… Read more »
FrDavid says ‘’I’ve never understood why Churches which lack music, beauty and mystery even exist.’ FrDavid, I suspect when you speak about ‘lacking music’, you mean ‘lacking traditional choral music.’ We’re very familiar with what you think of contemporary worship music. But surely the truth is that we’re all different. Some of us aren’t moved by beautiful liturgy (which doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate solid liturgy), but we are moved by the words of Jesus and a desire to live them out in our daily lives, or by the sense of love and joy we get when we meet with… Read more »
I think Tim is on to something. We pray “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table”, but if we are sat in church thinking “That’s a beautiful anthem by the choir” doesn’t that detract from recognition of our unworthiness? It is good we make things as beautiful as we can but it’s very easy for beautiful music, fine liturgy or inspiring architecture to become idols. I think it’s a very difficult balance. And yes, I recognise that there is a certain amount of puritanism in my thinking. Where I am different is… Read more »
Thank God that different people are moved by different things that can all lead to the Lord. Thank God for variety. Two things: (1) we are animals, and from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same animals are driven by ritual. I’ve been moved by many forms of worship, but they are all ritualistic in some way. And (2) my concept of beauty is broad and has little to do with “taste” but rather intent. I like what Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si: “By learning to see and appreciate beauty, we learn to reject… Read more »
Kate, the quest for purity and puritanism is a form of idolatry! Or perhaps masochism. I wouldn’t know myself, for it was “beauty” that opened my teenage eyes to the Divine. Eyes that see shall never grow old. Unfortunately “those that look out of the windows be darkened” since only one of mine works and the other sees very poorly. Nevertheless I am still about six years old in my head – certainly not old enough to play golf.
Fr David said “music, beauty and mystery.” I did not interpret that to mean we should focus on “the anthem sung by the choir.” The Orthodox make a point of excluding instrumental music performance to avoid entertainment during the liturgy. If we make music and architecture an offering of our best efforts to glorify God, I don’t think there’s a danger of those things becoming idols. I recall Peter Jensen when he was Archbishop of Sydney writing an article pointing out that not all contemporary Christian music is appropriate for worship just because it’s in the Top 10 Christian music… Read more »
‘I don’t think a loud drum beat enhances the beauty of holiness’
The indigenous people of Canada have taught us that the drum echoes the heartbeat of Mother Earth. To them, it is very effective in moving them in prayer to the Creator.
That’s not the drum I was thinking of. Re-read what I wrote, and you’ll be reminded that I referred to “a noisy rock band.” That sound, to me anyway, is not the heartbeat of Mother Earth.
So what makes the drum beat of indigenous spirituality more acceptable than the drum beat of a Christian worship band? After all, both of them are taking something that’s intrinsic to their culture and using it in worship.
Furthermore… ‘Standing and bouncing in place to a catchy tune by a noisy rock band might drive you to go buy the band’s latest CD…’ There are rather a lot of CDs available of choir anthems, too, from some rather famous choirs. Why don’t you mention the possibility that their ‘performance’ could also lead to sales? ‘…I don’t think a loud drum beat enhances the beauty of holiness.’ How would we know? Surely the only accurate way would be to observe the lives of the worshippers during the week and see if they are living as faithful followers of Jesus.… Read more »
I don’t often agree with former archbishop Jensen, but I agree with him that not all contemporary Christian music is suitable for a church service.
Did I write something that was against sales of a CD?
“Standing and bouncing in place to a catchy tune by a noisy rock band might drive you to go buy the band’s latest CD, but I don’t think a loud drum beat enhances the beauty of holiness.”
“If that beautiful anthem by the choir helps us focus on the divine, it is the divine that is given worthiness (worth-ship).”
Exactly, but not if we focus against on the choir itself – or the architecture or beautiful liturgy. They need to be catalysts, not the main event.
Once you’ve stripped away the liturgy – the music, singing, words, actions, beautiful building – what is the “main event”? You seem to suggest it would be better not to attend.
I haven’t stripped them away. I have said that we need to be careful how we think about them.
We need to be careful what we think about in worship? That is rather obvious, I would have thought.
Why are choirs a particular distraction? I’ve heard this argument used a lot as invective against traditional choral music but it seems like a really weak argument when you only apply it to one particular type of music. I’ve heard almost the same words said by an new incumbent at a parish when dismantling a well regarded parish choir only to replace said choir with amplified guitar-based worship songs accompanied by PowerPoint projections. As such, I feel it is just a convenient excuse to bash choral music because you don’t like it rather than any serious spiritual argument. Of course… Read more »
“We pray ‘We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table’, but if we are sat in church thinking ‘That’s a beautiful anthem by the choir’ doesn’t that detract from recognition of our unworthiness?” By God, I sure hope so (regarding that particular sentiment in the Eucharistic service)! I had the unfortunate opportunity to be in a TEC cathedral choir when a visiting priest used the 1928 PECUSA rite for the Sunday Eucharist. I’ve had occasional bouts of deep depression and I praise God I was able to grit my teeth and listen without… Read more »
Amen. ‘We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table’ is a serious distortion of the gospel. Jesus said even the dogs are worthy to gather up the crumbs; the children sit at the table and eat. The Prayer of Humble Access has done an awful lot of damage.
I quite agree Janet. CW is little better. We come in, have a good sing and then grovel, so ruining the joyous atmosphere. A real problem for those of us prone to despair. “Lord, I am not worthy …” just before communion is similarly dangerous. Fortunately, people rarely think about what they’re saying. The poor Catholics have it worse: just imagine the infirm 85 year old saying “I have greatly sinned … through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault”. I ask you.
That’s the flip-side. We associate being unworthy with grovelling when it shouldn’t be needed.
Without disputing that it has been misused, the Prayer itself balances our ‘unworthiness’ with the fact that we don’t need to be worthy – but to give thanks for God’s mercy which means it is not by our means that we come to know God’s love. I have always found it a prayer that releases me, and enables me to understand that it is not by my efforts alone that I will encounter the love of God.
However, I can see how, but leaving out the balancing clauses, a very different meaning can be imputed.
Jesus thought we were worth suffering for and saving.
These sentiments of course undergird the 20th Century’s various liturgy reform movements, which did raise valid points: love Cranmer’s flinty poetry as I do, I believe that it can withstand the challenge, but it’s good that it’s made.
A few years ago when my wife and I were visiting the UK we went to church on Sunday with some friends, at a famous cathedral. The architecture was stunning—so stunning, in fact, that it was almost impossible for me to focus on paying attention to the presence of God. The building was shouting so loud (even though ‘its voice was not heard’) that I couldn’t hear the still, small voice. We are all different. The Natural Church Development people have an extremely helpful book called ‘The 3 Colours of Your Spirituality’. It identifies nine ‘styles’: sensory, rational, doctrinal, Scripture-driven,… Read more »
Thank you for understanding the point I am making.
I am at a loss to understand how anyone can be “a Christian as an accident of birth”.
In the same way as someone born in Saudi Arabia is probably a Muslim by an accident of birth.
Read the article by Stanley Monkhouse that these comments refer to. Fr David is not originating that.
That, surely, depends on your definition of what it means to be a Christian? Do you mean ‘nominal’, committed, or whatever? I’ve known educated people in the social services, educational world etc who thought that those born in Britain were ‘Christian’ by default, but that is certainly not how an evangelical Christian would see it.
Many devout Quakers would argue with you about the need for liturgy and music.
No one “needs” beautiful music, grand architecture or glorious art. We could survive a much-impoverished life without them.
And of course New Testament churches, often meeting in houses or hired halls, had none of those things to enhance their worship. Nor do many churches in the “developing world” today which may well meet in primitive shacks and sing without musical accompaniment. Yet (and I speak from experience) God’s presence in such places can be very tangible.
How we approach God in worship is surely as personal an issue as how we first come to faith in him to start with; it lies at the very heart of our relationship with him and, not surprisingly, there are going to be as many possible approaches as there are believers – all of them equally valid, although obviously they will tend to form groups of like-minded worshipers in practice.Some will like one, some another. A few years ago I was able to attend a youth service one night in the cathedral at Regensberg on the banks of the Danube,… Read more »
I am sure many Quakers appreciate art, architecture and music, even deriving some spiritual enrichment from it. The absence of music from Quaker meetings for worship does not infer the absence of a Quaker’s edification by beauty elsewhere.
I was speaking only of the Quakers’ use of music and liturgy in worship, of course.
Fr David H I have recently started to worship via YouTube at Newport Cathedral. I am someone who has always felt uncomfortable with hymns. Newport Cathedral has won me over to the idea for two reasons. Firstly the choice of lyrics and music is crucial. I want something simple, direct and passionate and too often in the past I felt myself entangled by Victorian complexity and irrelevance. Secondly delivery. The Welsh sing with a passion and it is impossible not to be caught up in that. So yes I’m all for beauty and ritual but it has to feel relevant,… Read more »
I only live a few miles from Newport but I’ve never been to the Cathedral. Now, having glanced at two or three of their service videos, I see what you are saying: good but unpretentious worship in honest accessible language, a real sense of community and much to like.
Marvellous to be in a situation where the number of candidates nominated for the PCC exceeded the number of places available. Following the second APCM when an election was held, would not a tidier solution have been, if the incumbent and elected members of the new PCC were in agreement, to co-opt onto the PCC those members who wished to serve but who were deprived of membership following the election? Excellent article by Stanley Monkhouse. This Easter I think I’ll continue to worship the Risen Lord rather than the Easter Bunny. On the other side of the Pennines my own… Read more »
I was pretty sure the date of publication of the PCC article was significant…. I enjoyed it!
If so, poisson d’avril moi. Perhaps the biggest April Fool was in thinking that there were so many candidates desperate to serve on the PCC that an election had to be held. I recall in the days of my youth hard fought PCC elections were held at the APCM at St. John’s, Seaham every year. A certain gentleman stood year after year and was never elected until one year he was successful but soon thereafter he moved away from the parish. Such grit and determination seemed to me to be most admirable.
Thanks to Stanley Monkhouse for ‘Bashing On”. One of the things Stanley appears to be alluding to is a tension between prophetic religion and mystical religion; a problem easily solvable theoretically (see below) but an ongoing existential challenge–at least I find it so. Will You Come and Follow Me, is located in our hymnal in the ‘call and vocation’ section, hence the Lenten applicability. Obviously the theme is about discipleship but not so much about the contemplative life. I wrestle with the ongoing dialectic between the two. Can you have one without the other? Theoretically, it seems unlikely. Lent begins… Read more »
Not sure how best to get the news to his online communities, but dad died on August 11th.
Ed, thank you very much for writing.
We have noted this sad news, and there are relevant comments in a couple of threads, for example https://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/opinion-19-august-2023/#comments
and also here https://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/opinion-5-august-2023/