Sunday, May 26, 2013


I found myself intrigued by the discussion of post-modern liturgical experience in the last portion of this article.  Searle writes, “Indeed it may be that anthropological studies could better help us understand how our liturgy used to work than how it works today” (15). I agree with the author that liturgy still fulfills functionalist and symbolic purposes, but that it still bears further examination.   For example, the rituals demarcating various transitions in life (marriage, funerals, etc) serve important functions in our social environment and the ritual actions contained in these reenactments serve to mark the passing of time from one thing to another (11).  However, a need for group solidarity (11) might be less important when the church is no longer the primary social center for a group.  Granted, this is impacted by such demographics as age, social strata, and geographic location as well. 
I believe that a popular thing to argue is that ritual is outdated and in order to “meet people where they are” we must never impose ritual, in particular such things as confession and forgiveness, passing the offering plate, and so on, for fear of alienating them from the church.  This probably stems from bad experiences in churches who idolize ritual itself.  This attitude has lead to an epidemic of blasé pseudo-emergent congregations that attempt to stand for everything and be all things to all people, and in the process, actually stand for nothing.  Neither extreme is helpful. Humans need ritual more than ever in a time of absolute anomie. 
            So by way of a statement worth making: Is there a way to balance the human need for ritual in a time of anomie with the damage done by congregations making an idol out of ritual itself?  What is the role of ritual in the post-modern church?  

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