What happened to high church?

My nephew was married in a traditional Catholic wedding this weekend. It was exquisite! I was struck by the formal tone of the ceremony but most decidedly, I was touched by the celebratory traditional charge given by their priest. I felt tears prick the corners of my eyes as he lovingly spoke to the young couple and advised them to love each other with abandon, to unselfishly give up themselves for the other. He ended this ceremony with a prayer of blessing over them and asked God to give them children as a reward of His faithfulness. There were no country music love songs. No one wrote cheesy vows that included promising
“to pick up your laundry” or “make me smile everyday”. Instead, these couples vowed not to each other but to the Father, to cherish, honor and love each other.

Why so serious? Maybe because half of all marriages end in divorce. Maybe because these two come from a long line of men and women that stuck it out on the days that they would have rather packed it up and moved on. Maybe because in a casual society it’s nice to witness a life altering moment like this with the air of formality it deserves.

What happened to high church? In a world that caters to the twenty something crowd, where no pastor worth listening to is over forty, skinny jeans and a goatee are basic requirements what happened to our tenants of the faith or our call to worship? Does anyone sing the doxology anymore? Have we all traded in our organs for Fender bass guitars? In our rush to be relevant have we sold out on the traditions of the past and in doing so have we lost the deep reverence that comes with knowing and reciting the Westminster catechism?

Before you brand me an outdated, old-fashioned relic of the 80’s Southern Baptist crowd, let me say that I love contemporary worship. I listened to “Sons and Daughters” on Pandora this morning on the way to work. I read my Scripture reading off my iphone. I am actively involved in missional living in which I attempt to use my gifts of service in everyday life to bring about changes in the lives of people I meet everyday. I understand that the church is not a place but a group of people who are obligated by the Holy Spirit to go and make disciples. Heck, I can down a cup of coffee while raising one hand in worship on a Saturday night worship set as well as you can.

I’m just asking, “whatever happened to high church?” Has the casual approach to God of low church brought back the millennials who left in droves a decade ago? Probably not. At least the millennials I know. They can see through the strategic hipness of churches named “The River” just like they balked at the legalistic rules of high church. Mark Driscoll, my favorite preacher, predicts that the next generation will return to high church with it’s formalities and traditions.

And while style of worship is not as important as the message, nothing replaces the beauty of responsive reading in a quiet sanctuary. Is there no longer a place for formality in the church? Is Scripture exegesis a lost art?

I hope not.

As for my beloved nephew and his beautiful wife, thanks for honoring the traditions of your family and your faith. I for one, was struck with the enormity of the vows you took and I echo the blessing of your priest, I am praying for lots and lots of babies!

 
wedding

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “What happened to high church?

  1. Nikki Smith

    In a society that is catering to the crowds, a holy fear and reverence for God is lost. Blessings to you and yours, Steph!

  2. Nikki,
    I’ve been thinking of some of the traditions I have tossed aside so easily and I wonder what I have lost in relinquishing them. So glad we have connected again! Grace and Peace!

  3. jfclayton

    Excellently written. I, too, believe in our attempt to reach the sheep, we end up smelling like goats (though you said it more ‘sweetly’).

  4. Jim

    I agree with everything you said.

    As a 40 something pastor wrestling with many of these questions, I appreciate your bold call for us to do more then cater to the younger generations.

    As someone who performs many weddings each year let me encourage you with the truth that the message I preach (and most conservative bible believing pastors preach) to couples is very similar to what you described here. This happens with or without a formal ceremony and I perform weddings that choose both high and low ceremonial traditions. The gospel of Jesus doesn’t need to be tied to more or less liturgical preferences. I would encourage you to think not just in terms of high-end low liturgy but high or low views of Jesus. There are still many cultures around the world that have divorce rates as high as we do in America that are very high in ceremonial pageantry. Almost every Catholic wedding would be high church. Their divorce rates are no better than the societal average.

    Low liturgy does nothing to advance the Gospel. High church does nothing to advance the Gospel.

    I honestly agree with your warning. But traditions (high or low) are incapable of changing people.

    • Jim,
      Thanks for your thoughts and insights. I respect and appreciate your position as a pastor. As a Baptist pastor’s daughter let me tell you I understand your passion to proclaim God’s Word.

      Your reply was not the first warning I received as a result of my post.

      Praise God that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not tied to either low or high church. This is profoundly true in my own experience in which I have worshipped and heard the way to salvation in both settings.

      It certainly was not my intent to imply that high church is an exclusive path to God. My post was meant as a personal reflection of my own journey away from high church several years ago and in that walk away from traditional
      church, I cast aside some very precious traditions that in retrospect proved to be meaningful.

      In no way do I believe styles or tradition provide a path to salvation. That is only found in the sacrifice of the Son of God.

      Thanks for sharing your views and I certainly welcome your continued reading and commenting on this blog!

      Grace and peace!
      Stephanie

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