Each Christmas before opening the presents, my father would read Luke 2, no gift was to be touched until after the chapter was read. You can imagine the anxious distraction of wanting to get to the present, and the learning of patiently listening knowing that if I did a good job of sitting still and listening that I would get to see what was for me. As I got older, and learned to read, my father would assign the reading to me, and everyone sat patiently or impatiently listening to me make my way through reading the chapter aloud, and at times asking for help with a word hear and there. But once it was read, then the presents could be opened. This was a moment when I was learning something about God’s Word in application to my life.
In recent years, many churches are changing the layout of the sanctuary of the church. This is an intentional effort to do away with the traditional look of the pulpit. It has been replaced with what some hope will be more appealing to the younger members of the church, and potentially draw in those from the community who are looking for a place of worship. For a lot of congregations, there are those who have the opinion of keeping things traditional and then there are those who want something aesthetically modern that looks less like a traditional pulpit and choir stand to something more like a stage that can be used for multiple purposes.
The same as with the look of the church sanctuary, over the years, many churches have drifted away from traditional church liturgy. This is an effort to do something fresh and new, again in an effort to draw in more people, or to keep current members interested. There are a variety of ways that churches set out to be relevant to the present times, and these can vary depending on the geographic location. There are many factors of whether a church is in the North or in the South, Urban or Rural, East Coast or West Coast, and on and on, that can become a part of the vision for something that is fresh and appealing to the potential congregants. Of course, the size of the church and the budget to make changes is a factor in taking on these kinds of efforts.
In this effort to be current and relevant, many churches have moved away from traditional liturgy, as part of this finding a new way to reach people. This is done from the thought process that ‘we already know that, now let’s add something fresh’, but what happens after about a decade is that the younger church members have never heard many of the things that their parents knew by heart. This creates within a congregation a whole generation that is not familiar with many of the songs of the church and or the liturgy. There is nothing wrong with something fresh and new, but we also have to build a foundation of learning for the next generation.
Many of the campmeeting songs are are rarely sung in younger congregations today, because it has been exchanged for a larger variety of sounds that happen in church music today. And in a lot of cases, the song part of the service has become more of a performance/concert style presentation to the crowd, which is very much in contrast to the corporate singing that once dominated the church’s style of music, where the parishioners would sing together, and in some songs would sing a response to the leader of the song. When congregations completely delete hymns from worship service, and don't sing ‘Rock of Ages cleft for me’ or ‘So I’ll cherish the Old Rugged Cross’, we are also deleting a great opportunity for conversation with our children. Even though most of us don't live in a geographic location that would require hiding in the side of a rock, we all know what it is like to need refuge of some sort at some point and time. We all know what it is like to need God to grant us safety.
Once upon a time there were key parts of liturgy, such as responsive readings, creeds or affirmations, that the congregation as a community of faith read together, as a unified voice stating what it is that we believe and understand according to our faith tradition. In this way, the children are learning that what their parents believe is part of a larger community of believers. Creating a sense of belonging, not only within the family, but with the understanding that the people around us in the sanctuary are a part of our community of faith. It shows that what ‘I’ believe, is what ‘we’ believe.
The vocabulary building that takes place in the traditional liturgy is immense. To be able to explain or define words and concepts to your family can restore your own interest in the study of God’s Word. In this further study, one might also find new and exciting ways to make every family situations an opportunity to keep the values and principles a part of the family conversation. A child might ask the parent, ‘what is a cleft’? This is a teaching moment, where the child can learn a new word, and it might be the opportunity to take the family hiking or camping to show the child an actual cleft in the side of a rock, and give the word a visual that will for ever change the understanding of what it means to find a place to go in times of trouble. This can even help the parent share a testimony of a time when God protected and provided, not only give real life application, but also showing how God is important to the family's story from generations past til the present.
“And what nation is there so great that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I am setting before you today?
Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; but teach them to your sons, and your grandsons. Especially concerning the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, “Gather the people together to Me, so that I will let them hear My words so that they may learn to fear Me all the days they shall live on the earth, and so that they may teach their children.”
Modern English Version (MEV)
The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association.
Marva C. Williams, M. Div