Friday, August 19, 2016

On the Priority of Worship

A post over at Fr. Z’s Blog reminds me of a change in my attitude about fifteen years ago.  Up to then, congregational worship was a low priority for me.  Don’t get me wrong – I was a faithful church attender and very active in lay ministry.  But as long as the service did not annoy or bore me to death, I really did not care that much about how the church did worship.  Years before that, it was hardly a factor in considering what church to join. “Liturgy” was hardly a part of my vocabulary.  Yes, shocking I know.

But, partly through negative experiences of overamplified music, manic happy-happy standing-for-twenty-minutes singing and the like, worship slowly became more important to me.  And when I ventured into an Anglican church (Christ Church Plano) for the first time in decades, I was hooked.  I fell in love with good liturgical worship.  And now that is a high priority for me.

But back to Fr. Z’s post.  He gets quite excited that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Pittsburgh, David Zubik, said the following about the future of his diocese:

The No. 1 priority has to be, ‘We need to make our worship better.’”

Fr. Z’s response:

YES! A thousand times YES!  As I have been shouting for decades now, no undertaking or project we initiate in the Church will bear lasting fruit unless we revitalize our sacred liturgical worship of God!  The first thing we owe to God, by the virtue of religion, is worship.  If we don’t have that in order in the hierarchy of priorities, nothing else will be in order.

I told you he got excited.  And twenty years ago, I would have said he was a bit excitable.  But now, I agree.  Not only is our God worthy of the best worship we can give, we must communicate that to everyone who steps through our church doors.

The flip side is inferior worship sends the wrong message about our God and our church.  And why should those investigating joining the church have to endure sorry worship?

I think it no coincidence that Roman Catholics, along with a number of other jurisdictions, have been losing people at the same time their worship has gone downhill.  The numbers in the Diocese in Pittsburgh for example:

Since 2000, weekly Mass attendance has dropped by 40 percent — for almost 100,000 fewer regular churchgoers; K-8 Catholic school enrollment fell by 50 percent; and the number of active priests plummeted from 338 to 225.

Yes, there are other factors at play.  But willfully inferior worship repels people not to mention stinks in the nostrils of God.

You can expect further rants posts on this subject.

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