I’ve experienced it all in my time. I’ve been censed as the preacher in an anglo-catholic service and enjoyed a variety of high church services. I’ve been Rector of a largely middle of the way church which had a weekly Sung Eucharist. I’ve experienced various types of evangelical Anglican churches – conservative and solemn, open and relaxed. I’ve also experienced “Fresh Expressions” such as a Cafe Church.
I believe all those types of worship have their place, because different people (even in a single town or village) have different tastes, different subcultures. I don’t fondly imagine that everyone living in a particullar place would enjoy all of the services in the local church. There needs to be a variety of worship. This can include formal, traditional services, our more informal services, All Age Services and special services.
A parish church is a church for the whole parish, not just the catholics, middle of the way, evangelical or happy clappy residents.
A few years ago I deliberately chose become the Rector of a parish which was not evangelical, although I remain a convinced evangelical. The worship centred around the beautiful Sung Eucharist which I thoroughly enjoyed. Although we developed a new more informal morning service in our other church, suitable for newcomers, we made no changes to the Sung Eucharist. That way we catered for people with widely differing tastes.
Sometimes Christians speak disparagingly of “happy clappy” churches. However, whereas there are some superficial and unhelpful examples, nevertheless there are many lively churches which are growing rapidly and drawing in young people (and children). Before we criticise, we ought to ask how well we are doing in terms of church growth and find out why they are growing.
People’s tastes in worship should be respected. No-one should be pressed into expressions of worship with which they are not happy. Whatever their taste they should be loved and accepted. There is a place for more traditional worship alongside more radical expressions of worship (on separate occasions or in separate venues).
The best form of worship should be that which best helps us to worship God in spirit and in truth.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction