Faux Smells and Bells

“It’s the same sermon, same worship songs in many cases, just done in a more liturgical style,” Fitzgerald says. “I don’t mind changing the packaging for people. It freshens it up for them and for me.” The new “Liturgical Service,” as they call it, has become the most popular service even among young people. After the “standard” evangelical service at 9:30 a.m., workers decorate the platform with candles, non-specific iconography and other religious-looking items. Fitzgerald wears generic vestments and adopts a more somber manner. He reads from a liturgical book and the congregation responds by reading words on the screens. “I like the reverence and the mood,” says one girl, 16. “It feels more spiritual.” “I like the candles,” her friend chimes in. — Lark News

When I left the Presbyterian church I was a member of, I went to talk to one of the elders. These people were my friends and I thought I should let them know what was going on. They asked why I was going. “I want to have communion every Sunday.” “Yeah, we won’t be doing that.” No big theological issues, no insurmountable doctrine. Just the sacrament. A while later, I found another Presbyterian church that celebrated communion every Sunday. But even there, it depended on the current pastor. When he left, so did the sacrament. And there was something different, though I’m at a loss these years later, to say exactly what it was. Before I finally committed to the Orthodox church, I tried to be Roman Catholic (which would have made my mother-in-law extremely happy). In the end, though, Orthodoxy became my spiritual home. As time has past, I’ve found that the attraction of sacramental living (e.g. “communion every Sunday”) is more than just doing the same thing with different artifacts. Sacrament is interaction with God. And sacramental living extends beyond the Eucharist, beyond the church building. There are far more than just seven sacraments. Sacrament is everywhere. As my friend Jim once wrote: All of Life is Blessed. At the same time, this is exactly why adding smells and bells to an Evangelical church service is just so much dross. Liturgy is imbued with meaning. As the Orthodox say, during the Liturgy we enter Heaven and stand around the Throne with the saints and angels. Not just figuratively. We are there! Putting on a robe, like “Pastor Brian Fitzgerald” in Lark’s satirical piece, is just marketing, repackaging what you already have. Orthodox worship, on the other hand is completely different because everything in the liturgy — every word, every action, even form of the priest’s garments — is imbued with meaning.

2 thoughts on “Faux Smells and Bells”

  1. Ritual

    Rituals can be profoundly good. Ever read ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’?

Comments are closed.