Sunday, December 28, 2008

The streets filling with the currents of piety...

It is the final Sunday of the calendar year and that makes it a natural time for reflection on the nature and the decline of the Sabbath. As a DRE, I have long been saddened and frustrated by the many activities, sports, etc...that now take up a Sunday morning. Commerce, of course, continues unabated on the Sabbath and Church is, at best, a competing enterprise for many people. On the other hand, I am heartened by those who try to be involved in church life in the midst of this circumstance and welcome any suggestions from those who have found creative ways to encourage that involvement.
Meanwhile, a quick discussion of "Public Worship" by James Freeman Clarke (see all posts JFC)

"Public worship has this great advantage and value, — that it recognizes a public religious sentiment. It is a perpetual denial by the Christian Church of its own doctrine of Total Depravity. It assumes that the whole community, the converted and the unconverted, the regenerate and the unregenerate, can pray, ought to pray, wish to pray. It so far counteracts the pharisaic feeling engendered by these distinctions. It is, moreover, a religious education for the whole community. Who can tell the amount of influence exerted, directly and indirectly, by the fact of Sunday worship pervading the whole land, of Sunday stillness, cessation from business, of church-bells, and the streets filling with the currents of piety which set toward the house of God ? Who can estimate the impression made by the sight of young and old, rich and poor, all classes, all orders, equalized before God in a common worship, — by the great assembly kneeling together, responding together, lifting their voices with one accord in solemn hymns and anthems, moved by a common feeling and conviction in listening to the word read or spoken ? It is a humanizing influence, purifying and elevating the community, keeping alive the sense of God's presence in the world and nearness to the human heart, keeping up a Christian standard of duty and responsibility.

But not only does public worship tend to educate the community by awakening and developing religious ideas, but it also cultivates humane feelings, brings the different classes of society near to each other, makes one common platform on which all can stand together, and so counteracts continually the tendencies to separate and isolated life. People who live all other days apart from each other, whose lives are narrowed to little rounds of domestic duty, who see only small family groups and cliques, come into church on the Lord's day, and feel themselves for an hour at one with all classes of men. This hour... does much to emancipate them from a narrow and too individual life. All professions, conditions, characters, are side by side engaged in the same serious occupation. Political opponents here forget their disputes, — rivals in fashion, competitors in business, rich and poor, are here brought into a certain sympathy ; — and this is no small gain."

No small gain indeed. Blessings and may you have a blessed Sabbath.
(note: The photo above is of the Church of the Disciples, JFC's Church in Boston)

3 comments:

David G. Markham said...

Hi BU:

There is not much of interest and value going on in most churches of Main Line Protestantism and even Catholicism.

Worship needs to be meaningful, relevant, challenging, and inspiring. It has been a long time since I have found this.

One pastor recently refused my request to post his sermon on my web site in the form of a podcast saying he was afraid that his remarks might be taken out of context and that some might find his ideas offensive.

I respected his wishes of course but wondered about his rationale. I rarely find his sermons relevant, meaningful, challening, and/or inspiring and this one I did and then he was ashamed of it or worried of offending would be listeners.

Needless to say, I have stopped going to the worship services he leads and this morning instead slept in. It sadly was a better use of my time.

If preachers and worship leaders don't have anything of value to say that are willing to stand by, then the churches will be empty. People probably are better off shopping and worshipping at the altars of Mammon.

Who are the UU leaders today who are worth going to share worship with on Sunday morning? If I find any recommended, I will surely go if I can.

As I wrote on my blog this morning, I think Unitarian Universalism has a great theology to share but it is rarely preached. Instead we get insipid psychobabble. Of course Emerson pointed this out 150 years ago.

All the best,

David Markham

boston unitarian said...

Hello David,
Many thanks for your challenging and passionate critique of the current state of Unitarian "public worship" I will toss in my two cents soon but would love to hear reactions from others. Blessings

David G. Markham said...

Hi BU:

I find that James Ford on Monkey Mind blog published a post yesterday, 12/28/08 from Chris Hedges, that says very similar things to my comment. It is worth reading.

All the best,

David Markham