Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Is expert good?

In a previous post I mentioned untrained ministers.

On the one hand, I'm all for the Pauline dispersal of ministry into the whole body of believers. But I'm not for amateur ministry -- the scriptures urge us to study (2 Tim 2:15 comes to mind) -- it does too much damage and produces too much crass silliness (I'll not bore you with details now).  It also is unreliable in fostering intellectual reflection and stifles proclamation of the gospel, as I've experienced it.

But it goes to the form of service as well; and here I veer into the uncertain land of taste.

After a couple of formative decades in non-conformist churches, where the quality of the service depended heavily on the capability of those conducting the service, with very wide variation, I found the order and language of Anglican churches where the prayer book was used well to be a welcome bounty. One of the benefits of the prayer book, particularly the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) but to a lesser extent, the AAPB (now supplanted by the Australian Prayer Book which I happen to like less), is that no matter the capability of the minister conducting the service, one has the words of great and, I think, godly minds.

The words might be fumbled, of course, and there is a huge span of quality in prayer book services, but at least there is the constant of wonderfully meaningful language.

I compare that to the painful groping for words that I've heard, and probably committed myself, when presiding over services in non-conformist settings. The pointless effort to come up with something fresh to introduce the communion is largely a waste of effort when what serves better is, in my view, a liturgy. The liturgy connects the believer to the vast tradition of Christian worship and devotion over millennia. The mumblings of Joe the baker perhaps not.

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