Well maybe really but not quite.
What some of them are doing is beginning to accept the liturgical year.
Step into a worship service at Epiphany Church in Lower Greenville on a Sunday morning and you’ll smell incense, see candles and hear ancient prayers read in unison. Sermons align with the Revised Common Lectionary, and church activities are planned around the liturgical year.
All of these are trappings of a liturgical church, but Epiphany is not Catholic, Anglican or Eastern Orthodox. Epiphany is a start-up planted by an evangelical megachurch and its pastor, Kurtley Knight, a graduate of George Fox Evangelical Seminary. Epiphany is a new kind of hybrid: an evangelical church that orders its services around liturgical practices.
Liturgical practice is a growing trend among evangelical churches. Last month, one of the largest evangelical megachurches in Texas, The Village Church where more than 10,000 people attend every week, announced it would order worship around the church calendar, observing Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost.
Pastors and professors see the trend as a response to other trends, both inside and outside church, and as an opportunity to overcome barriers that have divided Christians for centuries.
Well I’ll be darned. Just when the Catholic Churches are doing their very best to imitate big Protestant churches, the Protestants decide to fire up the incense, light the candles and celebrate Advent and Lent.
I’m dubious. I’ll really only believe it when Pastor Kurtley trades his skinny jeans, roll neck and his latte for a fiddle back chasuble, biretta and a gin and tonic.
Seriously. I have heard of this before. Here in Greenville I met a guy who said proudly, “We go to a liturgical Baptist Church”,
When I asked what that meant he said they have an Advent Carol Service and use a lectionary. Uh huh.
I also came across a very sweet Presbyterian lady who was proud to tell me about how their church had a “Requiem for the Living.”
This, apparently, was a musical performance that nicked elements from a Requiem Mass but because they don’t have prayers for the dead said them for the living.
To my mind this is rather like having a wine and cheese party with Pepsi and chips, but there we are.
I guess mega churches doing liturgy is a start, but do the Evangelicals have any idea what the role of liturgy really is, because it is more than a calendar, a candle and a solemn expression.
But who knows, Protestantism is such an ever changing, pluriform and adaptable phenomenon–they might just take over from the Anglicans and soon be telling us how they are “more Catholic than the Catholics.”
I don’t want to be a party pooper, but the problem with the Evangelicals becoming “liturgical” is that they will, like the Anglicans, mistake form for content.
Even when I was an Anglican myself I have to admit that I often felt like I was have a vacation at a dude ranch, and just they like to say about a phony cowboy–“He was all hat and no cattle” I often felt the Anglo Catholics were “All chasubles and no sacraments.”
There is clearly much more to be said about this trend and I think perhaps tomorrow I will ask Mantilla the Nun to comment on it.
But let us put the snickering aside and hope that Evangelicals becoming liturgical may bring some of them further along and give them the courage to swim the Tiber.
Lord knows we need them, and I for one will be there on the other side happy to throw them a rope.