Emmanuel! (30)

Jesus whom we worship was born into a specific culture of the world. In the mystery of the incarnation are the model and the mandate for the contextualization of Christian worship. God can be and is encountered in the local cultures of our world. A given culture’s values and patterns, insofar as they are consonant with the values of the Gospel, can be used to express the meaning and purpose of Christian worship. Contextualization is a necessary task for the Church’s mission in the world, so that the Gospel can be ever more deeply rooted in diverse local cultures.

—Constance Cherry, The Worship Architect, A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services, 293

Worship & Culture 14

However much, therefore, worship and prayer may vary in linguistic and behavioural forms, as they inevitably and rightly do when they are expressed in the habits of different societies, peoples, cultures and ages, they nevertheless have embedded in them an invariant element which derives from the normative pattern of the incarnate love of God in Jesus Christ. Insofar as worship and prayer are through, with and in Christ, they are not primarily forms of man’s self-expression or self-fulfilment or self-transcendence in this or that human situation or cultural context, but primarily forms of Christ’s vicarious worship and prayer offered on behalf of all mankind in all ages. However, precisely because our worship and prayer are finally shaped and structured by the invariant pattern of Christ’s mediatorial office, they are also open to change in variant human situations and societies, cultures, languages and ages, even with respect to differing aesthetic tastes and popular appeal, if only because these variant forms of worship and prayer are relativised by the invariant form of worship and prayer in Christ which they are intended to serve. Hence when worship and prayer are objectively grounded in Christ in this way, we are free to use and adapt transient forms of language and culture in our worship of God, without being imprisoned in time-conditioned patterns, or swept along by constantly changing fashions, and without letting worship and prayer dissolve away into merely cultural and secular forms of man’s self-expression and self-fulfilment.

—T. F. Torrance, “The Mind of Christ in Worship: The Problem of Apollinarianism in the Liturgy,” in Theology in Reconciliation, 213.

Worship & Culture 12

Nevertheless, the church has been sent to all ages and nations and, therefore, is not tied exclusively and indissolubly to any race or nation, to any one particular way of life, or to any set of customs, ancient or modern. The church is faithful to its traditions and is at the same time conscious of its universal mission; it can, then, enter into communion with different forms of culture, thereby enriching both itself and the cultures themselves.

—Margaret Mary Kelleher, “Vatican II and the LWF Project: Points of Convergence,” in Worship and Culture  Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, 62-63

Worship & Culture 11

Nothing is more traditional among faithful Christians, says Anscar Chupungco, than the constant inculturation of the liturgy, including the resultant spread of the creative assimilations. Somebody started to anoint the newly baptized or clothe them with a clean white garment. Somebody began to light candles at evening prayer or light a fire at Pascha. Somebody started to use an Advent wreath or a Christmas tree. The original stories are complex, partly hidden, but they involved cultural practices. And they have spread nearly everywhere.

—Gordon Lathrop, “Every Foreign Country a Homeland, Every Homeland a Foreign Country: On Worship and Culture,” in Worship and Culture: Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, page 17

Worship & Culture 10

Scriptural imagery portrays diversity within the church as a characteristic of flourishing life in Christ: one Spirit grants a diversity of gifts, one body of Christ has diverse members.

—Benjamin M. Stewart, “What, Then, Do Theologians Mean When They Say ‘Culture’?” in Worship and Culture  Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, 46

Worship & Culture 9

On the one side is the local, the particular cultural context of a given people, a given group of congregations. How can cultural richness be reflected in worship? What are the thought patterns and linguistic styles that should shape how prayers and sermons and liturgical texts are written? What aspects of indigenous music should find their way into hymns and other music in the church? What aspects of the aesthetics, the artistic styles, the symbol systems, the architectural prototypes in a given culture should be reflected in the rooms in which worship takes place? What gestures and postures from the culture can be meaningfully incorporated into Christian worship? What are the cultural manifestations of gathering into a community, of offering hospitality, of expressing reverence? All of this can be termed localization, or contextualization, or inculturation.

—S. Anita Stauffer, “Christian Worship: Toward Localization and Globalization,” in Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, ed., Worship and Culture: Foreign Country or Homeland?, 41

Worship & Culture 8

Lathrop suggests that Lutheran liturgical hermeneutics offers two guiding principles for decisions about the relationship between worship and culture. The first is that “in worship, the center must be clear: the assembly gathers around the gift of Christ in Word and sacrament.” The second guiding principle is that the gifts of diverse cultures are to be welcomed and honored, but “these cultural patterns must not become their own new law or usurp the place of the center…They must be broken to the purpose of Christ.”

—Margaret Mary Kelleher, “Vatican II and the LWF Project: Points of Convergence,” in Worship and Culture  Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, 64

Worship & Culture 7

Churches in every generation and in every context must ask in what ways their worship practice can/should transcend their particular culture, placing them within the universal Christian tradition.

—Lutheran World Federation (1993), “The Cartigny Statement on Worship and Culture: Biblical and Historical Foundations,” in Worship and Culture Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, 33

Worship & Culture 6

The “cultures” that are so mixed are not simply ethnicities—though they are also that!—but they represent all the ways people specifically teach their children to order and navigate the world, all the locally specific languages and symbols and habits we use to organize human life.

—Gordon Lathrop, “Every Foreign Country a Homeland, Every Homeland a Foreign Country: On Worship and Culture,” in Worship and Culture: Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, 13

Worship & Culture 5

Gordon Lathrop has sometimes described culture as the conversation between generations about how best to live on the land.

—Benjamin M. Stewart, “What, Then, Do Theologians Mean When They Say ‘Culture’?” in Worship and Culture: Foreign Country or Homeland?, Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, ed., 47

Culture: “how we do do things around here”

—John Witvliet

Worship & Culture 4

Worship needs not only to reflect the local, but also the wider Christian community. The God whom Christians worship is transcendent and transcultural, and there is no point in substituting one form of cultural captivity for another. No one cultural form can do justice to the God of the whole cosmos. One fruit of contextualization efforts is that worship resources from one cultural setting can be shared around the world.

—S Anita Stauffer, ” Christian Worship: Toward Localization and Globalization,” in
Worship and Culture  Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, 41

Worship & Culture 3

Christian worship relates dynamically to culture in at least four ways.

First, it is transcultural, the same substance for everyone everywhere, beyond culture.
Second, it is contextual, varying according to the local situation (both nature and culture).
Third, it is counter-cultural, challenging what is contrary to the Gospel in a given culture.
Fourth, it is cross-cultural, making possible sharing between different local cultures.

Lutheran World Federation, Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture (1996)

Worship & Culture 2

The gospel ought never to be entirely at home in any culture. If gospel and culture fit together as easily as hand-in-glove, then the likelihood is that the gospel has capitulated to the values of the culture.… There must always be some tension between gospel and culture. The trick is to tune that tension just right, so that gospel and church can play a transforming role in its host culture. The gospel doesn’t carry with it a culture of its own.  It must always find its place in the culture of the time and place. Nevertheless, it always questions the local culture and holds it accountable before the cross.

—Ronald P. Byars, Christian Worship: Glorifying and Enjoying God, 110

Worship & Culture

Christian worship “swims in creation as a fish swims in water,” as Aidan Kavanaugh has put it. It is permeated with the sights and sounds and smells, the tastes and touch of our material world, and in this way it offers not a disembodied message of escape but rather an encompassing experience of a world redeemed and reconciled to God.

—John H. Erickson and Eileen W. Lindner, “Worship and Prayer in Ecumenical Formation,” Theological Education Vol. 34, Supplement (1997): 23

Freedom of Form 10: Focus

[We are] free to find place and time and dress and size and music and elements and objects that help us orient radically toward the supremacy of God in Christ. . . .

The command is a radical connection of love and trust and obedience to Jesus Christ in all of life.

—John Piper, sermon: “Our High Priest is The Son of God Perfect Forever”

Freedom of Form 9: A Missionary Mandate

The frightening freedom of worship in the New Testament is a missionary mandate. We must not lock this gospel treasure in any cultural strait-jacket. Rather let us find the place, the time, the dress, the forms, the music that kindles and carries a passion for the supremacy of God in all things. And may our communion with the living God be so real and the Spirit of God so powerfully present that the heart of what we do becomes the joy of all the peoples we are called to reach.

—John Piper, sermon: “Our High Priest is The Son of God Perfect Forever”

Freedom of Form 8: A Wider Repertoire

While we try to pare down His song down to a manageable repertoire, He is expanding it. While we are doing market research to decide whom we want to reach and, therefore, to whose aesthetic tastes we want to pander, the Singing Savior is distributing His magnificent voice across an increasingly wide spectrum of musical idioms. While we are dividing congregations along age lines, He is blending the songs of generations and nations and families and tribe and tongues to make sweet harmony, precisely through the differences, to his Father.

—Reggie Kidd, “Bach, Bubba, and the Blues Brothers: The Singing Savior’s Many Voices,” RTS Journal 1999

Freedom of Form 7: Unity in Diversity

Jesus’ voice is what counts, not ours; and His voice in “the great assembly” [Hebrews 2:12] is as rich and complex as the constitution of His people. There is a unity and diversity in the voices of His assembly which we would not be able to hold together on our own.

—Reggie Kidd, With One Voice: Discovering Christ’s Song in Our Worship, 145

Freedom of Form 6: One Voice

Let me suggest that every group brings its own voice, but no group brings the official voice. One Voice sings above them all, and this Voice sings in all their voices, excluding none. His singular voice is distributed among a plurality of people. Just because there are so many dimensions to His own being, the multiplicity of their voices amplifies His song.

—Reggie Kidd, “Bach, Bubba, and the Blues Brothers: The Singing Savior’s Many Voices,” RTS Journal 1999

Freedom of Form 5: Anglican

Article 34 – Of the Traditions of the Church

It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word. . . .

Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, ceremonies or rites of the Church, ordained only by man’s authority, so that all things be done to edifying.

—Church of England, Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, 1563