Murrow’s essay is about a church offering traditional worship in his hometown of Chugiak. (For some reason, Murrow doesn’t identify the church, though I suspect it is Lutheran. He calls it St. Mark’s.) Here is his description of a typical service at the Chugiak church:
We’ve been enjoying our Sundays at St. Mark’s. The richness and rigor of the liturgy is refreshing after years of seeker-sensitive services. It’s an eight-course meal, carefully measured out for us by church fathers—confession, forgiveness, praise, instruction, communion, giving, fellowship and benediction. It’s like a spiritual multivitamin in an easy-to-swallow, hour-long pill.Once a month, however, St. Mark’s conducts a “contemporary” service. Lacking the appropriate resources, however, it does not do it well. This is what Murrow has to say about the service:
People come to church to encounter God. A good worship service is transcendent; it helps people detach from this present world to connect with the divine. But when traditional churches try to be contemporary it usually comes across as forced, stilted or artificial. This dissonance jerks people back into the mundane world. Worshippers focus on the distraction instead of the Lord.Murrow urges churches offering traditional services to continue doing traditional services well. He concludes his essay saying, “I firmly believe there’s still a market for traditional worship—even among the young—if it’s done in Spirit and in Truth.”
There is a message for St. Paul’s here. When I first came to St. Paul’s, our identity was very much tied to excellence in worship. In recent years, however, our traditional worship has deteriorated in many small ways, and we have flirted with more “hip” worship. As we try to be all things to all people, our identity becomes confused, and true excellence is worship becomes increasingly difficult to identify.
Read Murrow’s essay, and see what you think.