Thursday, October 20, 2011

On Liturgy and Honesty

We went to church on Sunday for the first time in a very very long time; to an Anglican church with a socially-relevant and historically-grounded sermon and worship that as a mix of Coldplay and the Common Book of Prayers. I have never been a big fan of liturgy – I find that the words can easily be rattled off without sincerity or thought, and that when I do stop to think about what I am mumbling with the rest of the congregation, I am often unable to actually proclaim the words with the heart-felt conviction that I feel like a communal profession deserves.

But, while I still stayed silent for parts of the recitation of the Creed on Sunday, I had a realization: there may be space for people like me (that’d be people who call themselves Christian, but don’t profess many of the tenets that other Christians deem “fundamental”) in the liturgical practices of a Church like the Anglican Church. You see, when a more evangelical church says the Apostle’s Creed, or includes it in their sources of doctrine, I generally assume that they are interpreting it literally – that this is the starting point for their theological framework. And, in this context, standing up and saying it along with the group when I don’t believe everything it says “we believe” feels false and uncomfortable.

But in a church that is based on liturgy, it feels like the intention of the community in saying those words changes: the Creed becomes a placemarker in the tradition that the church comes from. Saying it is as much about situating the congregation in a historical and global community, rather than as a literal affirmation of everything it says. And I feel like there might be some room for me to be there, honestly; that I can read it as metaphor and history and poetry, and it’s ok if I don’t read it as fact. I don’t think I’ll ever escape from the feeling of impersonality that comes from a heavily liturgical service; and maybe I am reading into this completely wrong, and the Anglicans read the Creed because they each individually are professing the belief it espouses, but I think that in some ways, a more “traditional” service structure may actually open up more freedom to participate honestly while staying true to what I believe.

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