Sometimes odd coincidences occur that make one think one might be onto something. On Thursday I did a seminar asking “Does Anglican liturgy help or hinder charismatic worship?” which, if nothing else, sparked a free-flowing discussion.
One question provoked particular debate: “What would happen if someone gave a word of prophecy in the middle of choral evensong?” Clearly it would be highly disruptive of a form of service which is intended, in part, to be a polished performance. By contrast, if it happened at a charismatic church, such as Trinity Cheltenham, it would be likely to be received as something which enhances the spiritual atmosphere, enabling people to deepen their relationship with God.
Anglicans do have a love of liturgy which is often perceived to be a barrier to the deeper experience of God which charismatics seek in a worship service. A key question, then, is whether this necessarily needs to be the case. Can liturgy be used as a springboard into charismatic worship, as opposed to being an obstacle or a barrier?
Later in the evening I went to the annual Vasey lecture, given by Steve Croft, Bishop of Sheffield and former Principal here. Curiously, his talk ended up covering similar territory to my seminar – apart from being from the mainstream side. He complained about large Charismatic churches which have essentially dispensed with Anglican liturgy, so his plea was for its virtues to be appreciated. He gave five reasons for this:
- it provides a balanced diet;
- it offers a deep engagement with scripture;
- it allows expression of deep emotion;
- the liturgical year is beneficial;
- it’s the work of the people.
I agree that, on a given Sunday, a liturgy does provide a more balanced diet than a New Wine service. I also agree that it can offer a deeper engagement with scripture, although – as with any service – this depends on the preacher to expound the scripture with simplicity and clarity. However I have serious doubts about whether liturgy allows the expression of deep emotion: for that, little else can beat Spirit-anointed prayer ministry at the front of a charismatic church. I’m not convinced by his last two points but do not think they are major issues, either way.
Overall, though, I am looking forward to trying to use liturgy as a springboard into charismatic worship, largely for the first two of Croft’s five reasons…
Today I went with James Menzies up Weardale. There was much more snow on the top than we’d expected, some of it quite deep – each step you’d sink about a foot into it! But the scenery is magnificent up there. On the way down there was a birding treat… a mixed flock of lapwings and golden plovers! Then just as we were about to move on, a black grouse flew across: spectacular!
p.s. amazing football score from my home team: Burton Albion 5 Cheltenham 6 – and we came back from 4-2 down!