Monday 17 July 2006

New poll: the worst liturgical invention

I’ve just added a new poll, which asks you to vote for the worst liturgical invention in recent history. This will be a tough competition—and there are so many other worthy candidates that could have been included.

Each church tradition has its own array of bad or silly or questionable liturgical inventions. But for this poll I simply included some of my own favourite candidates, ranging from the embarrassing (e.g. tacky banners which guard against the possibility of deep feeling) to the bizarre (e.g. liturgical dance, especially when performed by people who cannot dance) to the downright pernicious (e.g. the altar call as the third Protestant sacrament).

If I could have chosen just one more for the poll, I might have mentioned the custom of baptising with as little water as possible (just a tiny damp smear on the forehead), or perhaps the use of ludicrous clip-art in church bulletins, or the serving of undrinkable coffee after worship, or those harsh wooden pews that can turn even a sermon about heaven into a foretaste of hell.

Anyway, come and cast your vote—or, if you prefer, you might like to suggest your own “worst liturgical invention.”


guanilo said...

Brilliant poll!

I was torn for a moment, but had to choose the tiny cups of grape juice - because, imo, it's the one that most directly undermines the very sacrament it is intended to be a form of.

A couple other candidates: the sacrament of the 'Sinner's Prayer' as the drive-through replacement for catechesis and baptism, flags in the chancel/sanctuary, and (less seriously) allowing people to bring Starbucks into the service.

Laura Springer said...

I was very tempted to choose the tiny cups, but I'm Baptist and come from a long line of Baptists that are quite sure other people have cooties :-)

PowerPoint sermons win out (along with most ppt lectures, I might add). Who came up with the idea that waiting for that one word to fill in constituted listening?

Strider said...

Tough choices, but I went with the shot glasses of grape juice. Talk about a violation of the sacramental mandate!

But if it had been included, I would have voted for versus populum as the worst innovation.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking for the "All of the above" box to check.

John P. said...

I am tempted to echo Gaunilo's mentioning of the flags in a chapel (i have posted on it previously). Being from the southern region of the USA, the sinner's prayer is an especially prominent abomination.

however, in many cases the sinner's prayer is merely a component of the altar call. Therefore, I must vote for the altar call...I spent years in and out of church's that use the altar call regularly. What is most disheartening about this practice is not how it manipulates the emotions of congregants, or how it immediately exposes the patriarchal hierarchy of most churches (ie..."if you come to the left side of the altar it means you want to pray alone, if you come to the right side it means you want a leader in the church [read 'male'] to pray with you")...i think the most damaging aspect is that it completely undermines the cruciality of confession and repentence. Repentence becomes an infrequent stroll down the aisle/chat with a deacon...not a daily reorienting of the heart through consistent discipleship and honesty.

on a similar note, i would also lump the practice of asking the congregation to bow their head and raise their hands if they are, as of yet, unsaved ("You in the back, i see that hand!").

thanks for the great poll!

Anonymous said...

Growing-up a Baptist, I'm very familiar with all except liturgical dance. Banners, PowerPoint, and liturgical dance are all silly, but only the altar call and grape juice cups deal with serious issues in Christian doctrine and practice. So, my struggle is between these two, but I had to choose the grape juice (with its attendant belief that Jesus didn't really drink alcohol, cause to do such is a sin, so he must have only drank grape juice...the SBC recently re-affirmed this, or, at least, that drinking alcohol is wrong). As much as I hate the altar call and its manipulation of emotions, at least it has some grounding in the need for a public witness of one's faith. Grape juice for wine, however, is a complete break with the Bible and tradition (of course, so is the eucharistic theology of the sects that use grape juice).

Simone R. said...

I used to go to a church that had a little ritual of everyone standing up while an elder carried a big, holy-looking bible into the building. This marked the beginning of 'worship'.

But I'm torn in my vote. What's more cringe-worthy - liturgical dance or banners?

Looney said...

Praise Teams!

My aunt, a church organist, explains it as thus:

What is the difference between a Praise Team and terrorists? Answer: You can negotiate with terrorists.

Anonymous said...

The "Tiny cups of eucharistic grape juice" are (if I remember correctly) a 19th century British Free Church invention rising out of the temperance movement (it was the "non-alcoholic wine" which, for hygienic reasons, demanded the tiny cups) - so by now it more a venerable tradition than a recent innovation! Indeed there is a technical liturgical term for the little cups - "chalicules" - while the Free Churches would never refer to Holy Communion/the Lord's Supper as the "eucharist". The URC, Baptists, Methodists, et al. religiously deploy these shot-glasses of alcohol-free wine - and theologically free rationale!

I think Kevin is right that it is this practice and the abysmal altar call which are the most serious infringements of acceptable doxology.
Liturgical dance and banners can be well done - let's not get too snobbish about this.
(Scene in medieval church: "Hey, Frank, who's stupid idea was that stained glass? It looks like a bloody colouring book!")

And "Power Point Sermons"? See "My Ten Propositions on Preaching" - number 8! I once saw one done with state-of-the-art diagrams depiciting the Christian pilgrimage - with a fierce plummet off to hell as a warning at the end. Priceless!

But there is an gaping hole in this poll: modern hymnody (sic!), i.e "worship songs", with the guitar de rigeuer. The shit-eating-grin banality and mind-numbing repetitiveness of the ditties surely constitute liturgical torture, and therefore an abuse of human rights, as well as blot on Christian worship.

Huw Richardson said...

Brilliant! While I can see problems with most of them I went with the Altar Call because it creates a salvation short circuit which then gives rise to tiny cups and power point sermons.

Chris Tilling said...

I selected the dancing option. What about liturgical flag waving!

Anonymous said...

If you saw your pastor prance in a black leotard during a liturgical chance, you would all vote the way I did. He's out of the closet and the priesthood now, thank God.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen a liturgical dance, and (as Kim puts it) modern hymnody wasn't on the list, so I went for PowerPoint sermons. I find it hard to believe that the Church has existed and sermons have been preached for the best part of 2000 years without this ever-so vital aid!!

s said...

Chris Tilling wrote: What about liturgical flag waving!

You know I advocate that!

I am finding it hard to choose one. They are all awful!

Decision: Liturgical Dance

s said...

The shit-eating-grin banality and mind-numbing repetitiveness of the ditties surely constitute liturgical torture, and therefore an abuse of human rights, as well as blot on Christian worship.

*rolls around in uncontrollable laughter*

Patrik said...

This is great! My vote went to PowerPoint because that is so obviously evil. Altar Calls are really bad theologically, since it expresses us coming to God rather than Go coming to us. Banners and Liturgical dance I am unfamiliar with, but the latter I see no proble with in principle. Caould be done badly of course.

However, I am surprised that the "Tiny cups of eucharistic grape juice" option gets so many votes! I mean, regardless of how one understands alcohol one has to admit the very real problem of sober alcoholists that cannot participate in a celebration of the Eucharist if real wine is used. To demand real wine seems a bit arrogant to me.

Patrik said...

Also, Looney's aunt obviosly has some prophetic charism.

Anonymous said...

My vote went to PowerPoint, but note here that Baptist sins are greater in this regard than just little cups. Worse still is the slice of processed, soggy, devoid of anything resembling water and flour and so full of additives Mother's Pride that I often have to break "in remembrance"; not to mention the little lace doilies that are so often draped over the top of it! GRrrrrrrrr.

Jon said...

I think we all need to get some perspective here.

1 - PowerPoint is good in lectures. If you've ever heard a lecturer who rambles and digresses and etc.etc.etc. then PowerPoint can do wonders for his class attendance.

2 - Leonardo Da Vinci liked the idea of lots of cups... look at the painting of the last supper...
Let's base all our theology on Leonardo's paintings... no wait... we're not Dan Brown.

3 - Dancing is annoying in church but fun in real life. I think Calvin would have danced like a maniac.


Anonymous said...

The worst liturgical mess I ever saw was at a lovely old Episcopal church in Columbus OH this past Easter Eve. Our granddaughter was being baptised but we first had to sit through Old Testament readings "performed" mostly by over-weight women with enthusiastic voices wearing odd costumes. One of these (would the word witch be fair?)was passing out noisemakers for the congregation to use at assigned moments. My husband pulled his longest face and said "no" to her proffered wooden shaker. The baptism itself was ok, but I was bothered by the 1979 BCP lingo re: social justice blah blah. We departed the church as soon as the baptism was complete and did not stay for communion. Happy Easter indeed.

Guy Davies said...

PowerPoint sermons make the Good News BAD NEWS! They rob preaching of its Power and they have no Point!

PowerPoint and the death of Preaching

Anonymous said...

My vote's for liturgical dance. I was once obliged to attend a seminar on the subject at my college, and it still rankles!

I'd like to put in a good word for those "tiny cups of eucharistic grape juice". In the ordinary way, I prefer my grape juice to have gone through a bit more processing before I have to drink it -- and the aussie stuff is about my favourite, Ben -- but for me this is about being able to offer an open table. "Hospitality" isn't a bit principle on which to base a celebration of the Lord's Supper. I don't understand why folk get so worked up about the way in which churches choose to celebrate the Communion service. Live and let live, I say

Fr Martin Fox said...

Gaunilo, in the initial post, identified something pernicious -- the bringing of coffee to worship business. Actually, what irks me is a more general casualness that seems iconoclastic against any moment, any place of sacredness and trascendence; "what do you mean, we can't chat and act the same here as anywhere else? How oppressive!" In fairness, the coffee business is surely more symptom than cause.

I wavered between "lit dance" and "tiny cups," but voted for the former, since the latter doesn't afflict the Catholic Church!

guanilo said...

Patrik: my kvetch about the Lord's Supper is actually not as much about the wine-grape juice question (although I do think that is extremely important to preserve the form the sacrament is intended to correspond to), but the 'tiny cups' bit. The NT theme of 'one cup' that constitutes the unity and communion of the church is simply not preserved in individual serving-size auto-communion portions. Further, the chalicules (thanks, Kim!) largely are used to take communion in one's pew, rather than going to the altar to take the elements. Put together, there is very little 'communion' of the body left - how exactly might taking a sip of grape juice by yourself in the pew constitute participation in the communion of saints? It's perfectly of a piece, of course, for an individualistic pietism. But it's not the Lord's table.

guanilo said...

Fr. Fox, you're right about the coffee - I picked it up as the perfect exemplar of the 'casualness' you rightly speak of.

Anonymous said...

Man, so many woeful innovations; so hard to choose . . .

Curious as to why your list was so singularly biased towards the Evangelical Protestant abuses, though . . . Not that any of these abuses is easy to defend, but I do understand where they are coming from, and however loathsome I personally might find the nominees on your list to be, I have to admit there might also be at least a grain of good to say about any of them. Let's allow as how any of them might be judged redeemable in the kingdom of heaven. The liturgical practices I find most bewildering are the ones I understand the least: (1) "Walking the labyrinth" (e.g., in the National Cathedral); (2) the umbrella (Ethiopian service), which goes together with the shaking of the "sleigh-bell" type cymbals; and (3) the Blessings of the Animals (dogs, cats, and yea, even goldfish, stuffed animals, beanie babies and trolls).
But probably none of these practices really qualifies as an "innovation", most of them belonging to venerable tradition older than any Christians in the New World.
So, for the last word in innovations, though, I would rest my vote on the "Hawaii shirt" as Priestly vestment. Thank you, Rick Warren!

One of Freedom said...

Actually I think the worst is that stupid circle on a stick thing they used in the middle ages to avoid physical contact between bishop and people. Seeing as though I can't remember what that is called my second choice has to be those little juice cups from hell! Although I am not convinced truncating the elements is a purely protestant development, this protestant contribution ranks up there with the communion wafer.

The other things you listed I am willing to live with, but I've banished the little cups from our Eucharistic celebrations.

Fred said...

Tiny cups: let's be one body but don't give me your germs (a slippery slope that led to xian acceptance of condoms?)

Now, liturgical dance doesn't get my goat so much unless it involves clowns or mimes. Eek!

LutherPunk said...

I make it a policy to walk out on liturgical dance. No questions asked.

The one that really gets me though is the change of the liturgical exchange from:

P: The Lord be with you.
C: And with thy spirit.


P: The Lord be with you.
C: And also with you.

This seems to be the liturgical equivalent of responding to the presider with the phrase, "Right back at ya."

Derek the Ænglican said...

Gotta go with the grape-shot.

As a beloved professor once said, "we're not really sure what happens to the grape juice anyway..."

Anonymous said...

In a parallel universe there is no doubt a Church that has a "common cup" of coffee, symbolising Christ, "the true Bean", and bad-tempered debates take place about whether or not it is permissible to use decaf (the equivalent of our grape juice), with sub-debates on the issues of milk (the reformed wing resisting the radical proposal of the "skinny" cup) and sugar (the "sweet Jesus" party, declared excommunicant by the Brazilian pope Espresso, now in negotiation with the Italian Capuchin, his rival to the throne of St. Arbucks).

Mike the Geek said...

Once on Maundy Thursday (I was Episcopalian) I found myself sitting through a liturgical dance where a bunch of guys built like me twirled their way up to the altar in tights. My daughter almost choked to death trying to stifle her giggles; all I could think of was the hippo ballet from Disney's Fantasia. It was so appalling you couldn't even call it sacrilege. Then they all joined hands and pranced around the altar like a bunch of Wiccans at Stonehenge. As drool fell from my slackened jaw, my daughter tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, "Which one are we going to sacrifice?" After that, your poll is really a no-brainer for me.

The only other practice that strikes me as competitive is the substitution of poetry or texts about the scripture for the scripture reading itself during a service. In the same church, for Lessons and Carols, they used to read (from the lectern) an African-American retelling of the story of Noah instead of the Genesis passage. Very nice as a literary presentation, but I've always had the silly notion that scripture was scripture for a reason, and literature is all very well and good, but it's not scripture!!! Sorry - breathe slowly - get pulse under control...

I am now in a little bitty Ciontinuing Anglican Church where the biggest liturgical abuse occurs when the lector mispronounces "Mephibosheth." My blood pressure has fallen 30 points.

Anonymous said...

Well, I have seen liturgical dance done more than once, and the first time I saw it I was deeply moved. I thought it tasteful, reverent and beautiful.
I have seen it done since and not been impressed, though.
My own background is decidedly low church, to the max, in fact during my childhood years. So I tend not to be offended much by most of the horrible innovations mentioned by others.

Jason said...

Wow! How can I possibly choose? They are all awful! (Although I would agree with Kim that I have seen some banners that are not as bad as others.) And so many people in the comments have made good points and additions -- the disregard of sacred time and space being one of the best, IMHO. I have seen well done powerpoint lectures (anyone who has sat in a lecture with Jeremy Begbie will have done), but powerpoint in church -- not just with sermons, but for the entire service -- seems out of order.

I think in general part of what makes some contemporary liturgy crap is the theological movement away from sacred time, space, and people. That is, in the (generally laudable) desire to amplify the sacredness of the whole creation, we mute the sacredness of worship space; to amplify the sacredness of all time, we mute the sacredness of our time of corporate worship; to amplify the sacredness of all people (or the baptised) we mute the sacredness of orders (and/or the baptised). The effect of all of this is to make worship a pale imitator of the banality of the world, with us trying to be 'relevant', playing catchup to whatever is the distraction du jour. (This may give rise to a post on holy orders at my blog, if I have time.) But this means that we then need to rely on the power of our individual personalities and cleverness rather than a corporate tradition which is distinct from the world. Sacred space, time, and people are not against the world (as the tired 'Christ against culture' type), but rather for the salvation of the world.

Well, I've banged on a bit here (sorry). Since 4.5 out of the 5 are awful, I could vote for any -- but I think the tiny individual cups, for how they directly and specifically undercut the symbol of the common cup in Eucharist.

Jason said...

Quickly -- building on Looney's helpful remark -- part of the problem with praise teams and the like (bad liturgical dance could fall under this, too), is that they think they can get together on Sunday morning, jam for 10 minutes, and go out and do whatever and it's fine. A friend of mine who is a music director at a church in the Chicago area said it best: to properly do a praise band, you must practice at least as much as any traditional, classical choir and organist, and maybe more. It boils down to the old adage that it takes quite a lot of practice to be able to improvise. I've met far too many people, ordained and lay, who are entirely content to just go out and 'wing it' with no previous thought, practice, or prayer. And I frankly think that is disrespectful, among other things.

(As for music styles, that same friend said that there are two kinds of music: music played well and music played poorly. Rock, jazz, classical, folk, samba, bossa nova, and so on: all can beautifully, worshipfully give praise to God -- or each can be a distraction which calls attention to itself and generally contributes to idolatry rather than true worship.)

Enough -- I have work to do! ;-) Thanks again, Ben, for a thought-provoking post and poll.

One of Freedom said...

Couldn't agree more Jason. I think there is a culture of mediocrity that plagues, at least in North America, the Church. Bravo for those who take this serious enough. I think all aspects of the service/liturgy are worth practicing and getting right.

I wanted to add one other invention that is soooo annoying. That of the modern evangelical sermon. I mean the one chock full of disconnected proof texts, is convinced longer is better and often resorts to emotional manipulation to try and 'prove' its point. I think we could do with a lot less of that kinda crap too.

Steve Hayes said...

Well I picked the little cup thingies -- though they haven't reached us yet, but I remember them and the furniture polish they contained from my Methodist days 50 years ago.

What has reached us, however, is microphones in tiny churches where a whisper will reach from one end of the building to another and the service isn't being broadcast.

guanilo said...

Kim: In a parallel universe there is no doubt a Church that has a "common cup" of coffee, symbolising Christ, "the true Bean", and bad-tempered debates take place about whether or not it is permissible to use decaf (the equivalent of our grape juice), with sub-debates on the issues of milk (the reformed wing resisting the radical proposal of the "skinny" cup) and sugar (the "sweet Jesus" party, declared excommunicant by the Brazilian pope Espresso, now in negotiation with the Italian Capuchin, his rival to the throne of St. Arbucks).

And so but in yet another parallel universe, universes occurring of course as all good vestigia do in groups of three, with the mere disanalogical proposition that a parallel universe precisely as signum of the perichoretic res, viz. the divine trinitarian life, structures itself such that the paradox of Being is that parallel lines do, in fact, converge in that unity beyond Being, that Being which is the negation of Being not by deficiency but by transuniversal superabundance, whereby creatio ex nihilo in fact configures the basic function of universe(s) it/themselves as participatorial caffeinations of the One True Bean beyond Bean, in yet another parallel universe, I say, the Catholic-Donatist controversy involves the excruciatingly difficult discrimination of properly referential modes of liturgic dance, viz. the signifying function of ballet as mimetic of the divine perichoretic dance over against the more puritanical impulses of the foxtrot, whilst the lasciviousness configurations of the tango, as formulated by the Vincentian Code, at least, simultaneously preserves the revealed disemasculation of the ecclesial hierarchy while at the same time (which is the same thing, after all, hierarchies being what they are bound in Les Mots et les choses) revealing itself through an appropriately ecclesial epoche to be fundamentally Pelagian. The whole thing thereby giving the archangels the screaming fantods.

You got served!

Anonymous said...

Went with the grape juice fiasco. Even calling it Eucharist is funny - and sad.

If there are any radical traditionalists of the R.C. persuasion here, how about anything since 1962.

Anonymous said...


The parallel Tillich would no doubt have something to say about the Gorund of Bean, or Bean Itself!

michael jensen said...

Why was 'singing the same song over and over and over and over' not included?

I would like to add (cheekily) the inventions of the Oxford Movement which afflict Anglicanism everywhere: weekly eucharist for example... ;-)

Anonymous said...

Goodness...I'm surprised no one mentioned "inclusive language." Hmmm...let's see how many awkward ways we can say something just so we can avoid using a (gasp!) male pronoun.

Horrid, absolutely horrid.

Argent said...

How about baptizing naked babies? And the absolute horrendous variation of skimming baby's bottom on the water's surface?

Anonymous said...

Like anything, if done incorrectly liturgical dance can be horrid. But if done properly and with the right understandings (on EVERYBODY'S part ~ yes, this does require congregational *gasp* education), it is a beautiful addition to the worship experience.

Jason said...

Yes, I think the more I have thought about it, the issue for me with liturgical dance is just what you mention. I have seen a video of (congregational!) liturgical dance at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in SF (where else?), and it looked not only effective in worship, but fun too. It's not the kind of thing that can happen everywhere, and for it to happen anywhere it needs (as you say) 1) education and 2) practice.

I think some people buy into romantic notions about being filled with the Spirit and things happening spontaneously, so such practice and education seems beside the point. Now, the Holy Spirit might well work that way sometimes, but the Spirit works just as well in advance. I don't think it is the 'blasphemy against the Holy Spirit', but I would be loathe to say the Spirit is a slacker or a procrastinator.

Another liturgical innovation -- although little used the last few decades -- worth questioning is the non-communing mass. I say this as someone who draws great inspiration from the Oxford Movement, and catholic expressions of the faith. (Pause to allow the shiver to pass from Michael's spine! ;-) )

MadPriest said...

Definitely: Eucharistic Prayer G in the CofE's new "Common Worship" provision.

"... and all your works echo the silent music of your praise."

What on earth does that mean? And don't say it's poetic because it's not, unless you mean in a nonsense verse sort of way.

Then it says:

"... you raised up Jesus ... to be the living bread, in whom all our hungers are satisfied."

"in whom?" - I don't think so.


"Pour out your Holy Spirit as we bring before you ..."

"Pour out your Holy Spirit" where exactly - on the floor next to his throne?

This is liturgical dribble of the worst order. I don't know how it got through.

I believe it was written by the chairman of the board that chose them.

Anonymous said...

I would have chosen all of the above if it would have been a choice.

One of Freedom said...

I don't get what is so offensive about liturgical dance? I understand it can be done very poorly and fat men in tights gives me the willies too. But my experience with liturgical dance has been positive. Maybe because I like to dance, just I go to the back or indulge only in those rare mosh pit like churches that I sometimes come across. I'm a person of motion, I have a hard time being still in a church service - I want to worship with my whole being.

I am least fond of choreographed dances done as a show for the congregation, but dancers that are freed amongst the worshippers as just another aspect of the corporate worship can be a lot of fun, and can IMHO add to the experience of worship.

On a slightly different note a friend of mine made a Worship Safetly video that was hilarious. What not to do in worship, things like people getting impaled by flag wavers, driving with eyes closed while worshipping and running folks over, it was chock full of good stuff! Production value wasn't the best but funny none the less. I would love to have something like that professionally done.

T.B. Vick said...

Ok Ben, great poll!

You know those "Tiny cups of eucharistic grape juice?" When I go to a church and they use those (which most do here in the U.S.) I have this striking urge to take the little cup (which is always plastic) while its filled with the grape juice and pinch it till it snaps into pieces.

Anonymous said...

Lots of good options here, but I'm definitely going with the anorexic teens in leotards.

Joanna said...

Powerpoint sermons certainly get my vote. But re. the grape juice, I'm curious - how have those of you who see wine as essential dealt with the issue of alcoholics in the fellowship? Because much as I like a tipple, I have brothers and sisters in Christ who could never take communion again if they only had the option of wine. I'd rather share grape juice with them than drink wine by myself.

Will said...

:I have brothers and sisters in Christ who could never take communion again if they only had the option of wine. I'd rather share grape juice with them than drink wine by myself." - jobloggs

Such as me. I'm very interested in liturgical churches (I didn't grow up in one but discovered them in the past year), but I'll admit that the one complaint I have against all high-church traditions is that there's such an emphasis on wine. I'm very, very, very uncomfortable drinking real wine for any reason, even for communion. I've never actually had any alcohol, but I come from a long line of alcoholics (on both sides of my family) and I'm constantly around alcoholism, and I know myself well enough to say that the only way I know how to not become an alcoholic is to never start. The only way I will ever drink wine is if I become Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican and I have to. Plus, I'll admit that the "common cup" thing does make me uncomfortable (altho it's much more comforting if I get to dunk the bread into it rather than having to sip from it) due to the easy spread of germs. I guess my extreme low-church roots are showing. I'm sorry, I can't help it. I hate alcohol and I sincerely wish nobody drank it. It's ruined so many people's lives. I'm very sorry. Maybe if I held more sacramental theology, or if I didn't have so many negative examples when it comes to alcohol, I might have a different opinion.

I didn't vote in the poll, I'll admit, but that's because I grew up so steeped in all of these things (except for liturgical dance, which I have never seen) and I'm glad to be in practically a different world now.

One of Freedom said...

Can I speak to that alcohol issue. There is a flawed logic that is reinforced by groups such as AA and teatotalling churches which says that if you have one drink you are going to go on to get drunk. I know because I spent my formative years in those churches and before that I was a recovered alcoholic who got off booze and drugs through AA. Both put the fear of drinking into me but two things challenged my thinking on this.

First, if I am in Christ as a new creation why do I hold on to labels associated with my old identity? I really had to think through those once and alcoholic always an alcoholic myths and face what is my real issue. Alcohol is an escape from a reality you don't want to face. It is easier to drown in a bottle than face our own personal demons. AA does a great job of helping you face a lot of these demons, but it leaves you with the label and gives you another way to hide by making you a victim to alcoholism. (BTW Volf does a great job with the problems of victimism as well as Cloud & Townshend.) Once I realized that my propensity was to escape I could also see that it isn't just alcohol that is problemmatic for me and that one drink doesn't need to lead me to get drunk.

The second thing has to do with the nature of the Eucharist. Here we are in the context of a social gathering, surrounded by friends and celebrating our common bond in Christ. It is pretty hard to imagine someone grabbing the bottle in the midst of that to try and "finish the job" of getting drunk. Especially if one has examined her own heart before taking the cup and bread. I have more of an issue with my Celiac wife eating wheat bread at communion than I do about an alcoholic taking a bit of wine.

Having said that I have been freed to drink socially. I am careful not to drink to excess as I believe all Christians should be careful in that way. But I enjoy the odd beer or rye and ginger. I haven't been drunk in at least 19 years but there are times when life overwhelms me and I think about getting plastered - but you know God has always helped me recognize that those moments when I want to hide are times I really need to press into God, times where my need for God is more evident.

In AA they had a great saying about that - HALT. If you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired then in those times be extra careful. That has served me well and allowed me to enjoy the richness of wine in the Eucharist. And to boot I think I'm a much more balanced person than the guy who was always so paranoid about alcohol (and railed against it as an evil).

Ben Myers said...

This issue of alcohol and alcoholics is very significant, and I must admit that in this poll I was more lampooning the "tiny cups" than the use of grapejuice.

One of the best eucharistic celebrations I ever participated in was, strangely enough, in an independent charismatic Baptist church! The church had developed its own remarkably rich eucharistic liturgy, and they actually used two common cups, one of wine and another of non-alcoholic wine. When the minister was inviting the congregation to come forward, he offered this choice between the two cups in a very subtle and sensitive way, and I noticed that roughly half the people lined up for each cup (so that there was no visible division between the two).

Anyway, I found all this quite impressive, and I thought that this was a genuinely hospitable and pastorally sensitive liturgy, which nevertheless remained faithful to tradition both in the use of "wine" and in the sharing of a common cup. (They also shared a proper loaf of bread, which was a definite improvement on those rather unappetising wafers!)

Strider said...

With regards to the wine and grape juice discussion, may I suggest that the Church does not have the authority to use grape juice (or any other liquid) in the supper. The Church has always understood the use of wine to belong to the dominical mandate.

Alcoholics therefore must simply abstain from the cup, just as those who are allergic to wheat must abstain from eating the consecrated bread. That this involves a suffering of sorts for those so deprived does not authorize the Church to alter the mandate.

Folks may find of interest this article I wrote in 2004 addressing the wheaten bread issue.

Anonymous said...

Liturgy well-done (high, low, or middle) _is_ dance.

I ran screeching out of the RC church, after being raised with mediocre, banal guitar music, banners, dance, etc. I couldn't sing to guitar music, and thought I was just a bad singer--until I got exposed to good organ (and piano) playing and UN-amplified choirs.

Anonymous said...

Powerpoint is for lectures with images. Since I teach and must use a great deal of powerpoint (since my teaching involves images), I enjoy Just Listening.

I guess I place the wine vs. alcoholics and wheat bread vs. celiac disease patients in the "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" category. Wine and wheat bread preferable if not medically contraindicated, but it seems sensible (as in, Jesus broke Sabbath rules to heal) to provide a reasonable substitute of grape juice or rice cracker/cake.

Altar calls aren't part of my upbringing and hence I see them as "performances". When God knocks on our thick skulls , it is as likely to be at 2AM at home as at an official worship service.


Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts on alcohol and participation in the Eucharist. I've wondered about this, too.

From a theological angle, many churches teach that "to receive one element is to receive both"... i.e. the Body and Blood of Christ is sacramentally present in each element.

Another option is to "intinct"... dip the wafer into the common cup; the wafer absorbs a drop of wine, at most. But you have received both elements that way. All the recovering alcoholics I know in my Episcopal parish do this.

I appreciate the principle of "absolute avoidance" many recovering alcoholics subscribe to. But I'm curious, how do they cope with "incidental" alcohol, and maybe more importantly, how does it differ from spiritous beverages? I'm thinking of everything from cough syrup to vanilla extract to mouthwash... heck, a really ripe peach has a few milliliters of alcohol just from the beginnings of sugar fermentation.

Anonymous said...

One of Freedom said...

Actually I think the worst is that stupid circle on a stick thing they used in the middle ages to avoid physical contact between bishop and people.

That's a shepherd's crook, aka "crozier". Shepherds use it to guide the sheep into the fold, to help separate out a sheep from the flock (for care or shearing or whatever). The actual shepherd's version was the same size as the bishop's version, or a little shorter, and wooden. The bishop's version was decorated with some silver or gold most of the time. Look in medieval manuscripts of "the Hours" prayerbooks for pix of shepherds using the thing.

Anonymous said...

As stated the question is a no-brainer, actually. These notions can be easily put in order from worst to best.

First, exactly one of the listed inventions invalidates the whole business: it is the worst.

One of them effectively denies or at least weakens the penitiential aspect of the Sacrament: it is next worst.

One of them introduces an art into the liturgy which has ancient roots and meanings that don't belong there: it is next worst.

One of them introduces a technique into the liturgy which being very modern is almost bound to be out of place; but it could be well used: it cannot be condemned.

Lastly, although folk and naive art is not the most exalted offering to God, one is perfectly traditional and not bad at all.

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion.

I chose the little cups of grape juice as worst. It's wrong. Little cups defeats the symbolism. Juice instead of wine? No, because that's not what Christ instituted. Alcoholics can still receive the bread.

I have never seen liturgical dance, though all my instincts cry out against it.

Banners are ugly and tacky. They are not giving our best to the Lord. Let's have beauty instead.

Altar calls are manipulative.

PowerPoint reminds me of the workplace, and I hate it in the workplace too.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

As an Orthodox Christian my opinion on the worst innovations are putting pews in Church with the use of organs in some (thankfully few) Greek parishes being a close second. As a former Catholic I would say the turning around of the altars was the absolute worst move. But the removal of the altar rails and the end of kneeling for communion gets an honorable mention.

Anonymous said...

I had to go with power-point sermons, although all of the above might have gotten my vote. I would also have to nominate the practice of having people come forward for Birthday or Anniversary or travel blessings is pretty bad too, and gaining popularity, at least in my part of the country.

Anonymous said...

I had to google "altar call" because I wasn't familiar with it within my Episcopalian experience.

I think I'm voting for the tiny cups though. I don't even particularly care for the "here, dip your wafer in the cup" thing -- and the tiny cups somehow, to me, seem to go against "After supper, he took the cup, and gave it to them, and said Drink ye all, of this..." The cup, not "a bunch of cups."

Anonymous said...

My nominee for the worst innovation personally experienced would be when our missalette supplier set a bunch of hymns to "Hymn to Joy".

The next worst innovation would be hymns the congregation to hold the same note for more than six beats.

Anonymous said...

I voted for the Altar Call...I remember in my distant past living in the South and as a child attending all the Vacation Bible Schools available. I was a Methodist at the time, and we had one Altar Call on the last day of VBS....ah but the Baptists had one _every day_. Didn't want to miss a chance to save someone's soul, dontcha know. My favorite part was when the preacher would say "Every head bowed and every eye closed..come forward. Only the Lord and I know who is coming"...yeah right. There was at least one eye open of every two in the room! :-)

Rev. Daniel McLain Hixon said...

I think the ever popular (among methodist clergy) "rainbow" vestments should have made the list. As well as the "children's sermon."

Now I am a big fan of actually having one cup and one loaf of bread (not small cups or small crackers) since that's how Jesus did it; but have you guys ever seen the pre-packaged little cups with the little cracker-pouch built into it? You peel off the top to get your cracker and then peel another layer to get access to the grape juice, so they are totally self-contained (non-perishable!) individual elements that fit in the palm of your hand. It's disgusting.

Anonymous said...

LutherPunk said...
"The one that really gets me though is the change of the liturgical
P: The Lord be with you.
C: And also with you."

Ha! I have an English friend who told me about the NewAge version
P: May the Lord light up your life!
C: And also up yours.

And Daniel McLain Hixon,
ixnay on the ackages pay. I can just see the method of getting them into the congregation. Just pitch them into the crowd. They could fight each other over who would catch the first one!

Dr Moose said...

At the risk of showing my theolgical roots (now carefully dyed so that they rarely show!)I'd say that all five have their place (not in the dustbin) when applied in moderation.

I'd rather vote for the worst liturgical retention (in the same tongue-in-cheek vien) - liturgy which as the 29 Articles (Art. XXIV) puts it, is not in "a tongue understanded of the people" (sic)!

Anonymous said...

As a recovering alcoholic who is also a priest...
1) Reception of the bread only is an adequate reception of the Body and Blood of Christ;
2) To decline the wine, after receiving the bread simply cross your arms over your chest -- an alertChalice bearer will still pause before you and say the words, "The Blood of Christ, the Cup of salvation" (or whatever words your tradition uses) (a *real* gripe of mine is Chalice bearers who simply ignore the person who is still at the rail but declining the wine! RUDE!
3) RE: 2b above, I know recovering alcoholics (or people allergic to wine) who still want to reverence the Cup with a slight bow, a touch, a kiss...
4) As server and receiver of the wine, for me the essence of the element has changed -- i.e., it's not wine to imbibe in copious amounts, it is the Blood of Christ, to be taken in a small sip and shared in communion with my brothers and sisters.

Just my $.02 worth.

Keith said...

I'm confused about why banners are bad. What shall I hang on the bare white walls of the room where my overly Protestant congregation meets? How else can I get some Christian symbolism in our sanctuary? (Our stained glass windows are just abstract designs. We have a cross on the communion table. That's it.)

Maybe I could put the symbols in the PowerPoint presentation . . .

(For the record, I voted for liturgical dance.)

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised no one mentioned "holding hands at the 'Our Father.'" That one is certainly pernicious, and really makes no liturgical sense.

Some of the more conservatives might list "the kiss of peace," but they are confusing the abuse with the proper use.

I found it interesting that anyone thought of an altar call as a liturgical action.

I think the all time worst has to be "The Creator, the Redeemer, the Sanctifier" instead of "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." This one amounts to outright and explicit heresy (see Modalism) and must be condemned.

Anonymous said...

1. Intinction -- the Judas cup.
2. Pseudo-Trinitarian language.
3. Communicating the unbaptized in a church which rightly builds its entire Prayer Book and Life around baptism.
4. Eliminating pews -- works fine in a small church with 50 people -- not so much when 500 attend at once. Is there something wrong with sharing a common and humble bench? No.
5. Terribly boring sermons.

Anonymous said...

This year at the Newman Center at my university, they did not read the Passion play on Palm Sunday. The priest told us that for a change we should "listen with our eyes," and they proceeded to perform a pantomime, with a girl as Jesus! This left me speechless. How could anyone think that this does justice to the sacred liturgy?

Anonymous said...

Keith --

- Commission an artist/sculptor to do the stations of the Cross for your bare walls.

- Let your congregation know that they can purchase new stained glass windows, perhaps in memory of a loved one.

- Altar linens in the liturgical colours.

- A large fixed cross or crucifix in the sanctuary.

- The altar and baptismal font can also be works of art with Christian symbolism on them.

In other words, get some real art instead of tacky felt banners. ;)

Anonymous said...

Here is another one (now almost de rigueur in the UK): Concluding a meeting, or indeed worship, the leader says, "Let us say the Grace together" -

as your neck revolves around like a Howdy Doody puppet - and with the puppet's idiotic plastic smile - and your eyes dart from one equally embarrassed-looking Grace-sayer to another, always (thank heavens!)just managing to glance off meaningful contact.

One of Freedom said...

Love this thread Ben. I am collecting the best liturgical inventions on my blog to do a similar poll.

Keith said...

Anonymous, I take your suggestions to heart. Thank you.

My problem is that I don't really know what "real art" is. I'm a pastor. I'm a musician. I'm not a visual artist. And I don't have any professional artists in my congregation. The banners we have are made each year for certain seasons by the children and youth of the congregation. Hanging the banners seemed like an act of worship on the young "artists." I have no way of knowing if it's "real art." Can something "tacky" (another word with an unclear definition), offered sincerely, still qualify as an act of worship?

One of Freedom said...

Hey Keith. I have seen some wonderful banners in my day. They are nice seasonal pieces and a viable option for churches without a permanent and dedicated liturgical space. I've also seen a lot of tacky "art" installments in churches. I'm all for good art, but is it not the community that decides what is good. Take folk art for instance, some would say it is sub-art, but in reality it can be highly sought after and hold even more senitmental value for the owners. When a community creates art and adds it to their worship space then there is ownership for worship which is never a bad thing.

One of Freedom said...

I have one to add. Those &#$^#% church signs that seem to spawn endless streams of inane sayings! I think that the devil has a special demon assigned to writing up the sayings for these and sending them out to the churches in my area.

Anonymous said...

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

Continuing Home said...

Can't I vote for all of them, and more besides?

Well, okay, I can understand for some churches the need for the grape juice and the desire for the altar call, and I think I remember when "banners on the wall" were new (and exciting?) back in the 60s or so... but you missed some of my pet peeves: guitars (electric or not -- and it's not the instrument, it's the music that seems to go with it), and drums (unless accompanied by bagpipes on Pentecost).

And having now (long since) rediscovered the 1928 BCP, clunky modern English. I understand Cranmerian English isn't everyone's cuppa tea, my own father included, but did the '79 really have to be so nasty on all but the most tin-eared?

Oh. Add "The Peace" -- the pre-coffee-hour coffee-hour, where everyone visits and chats ("How are you? how are the children?...) until some poor designated soul sounds out the designated signal that it's over, it's time to worship again.

Somebody mentioned "Intinction." Sorry -- I am sometimes of uncertain health. And if I do have some bug I DO NOT want to pass it on to the older members of our congregation. (The alcohol in wine does nothing to viruses as opposed to bacteria, as I understand it.)

One of Freedom said...

Continuing on said:
"Somebody mentioned "Intinction." Sorry -- I am sometimes of uncertain health. And if I do have some bug I DO NOT want to pass it on to the older members of our congregation."

Unfortunately intinction is less hygenic than common cup. We completely bypass this by blessing multiple cups and everyone gets their own. My group isn't quite ready for common cup yet, but I'd love to be there.

And what is wrong with the music that comes with guitars? I love intimate guitar driven music. I dislike boppy praise or alien (to me) hymns that don't let me express my heart in the presence of God. I also dislike emotionally manipulative stuff, but not all modern worship is about manipulating the congregation, but rather giving space in the liturgy for a more emotive response to God. So when I sing I don't want teaching, I want experience. It is what balances the service.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering whether all who abhor tiny cups also abhor sprinkling instead of immersion? For the same reason really: the sacramental imagery is lost...

Anonymous said...

Like many others I voted for PowerPoint sermons - too easy to present twaddle in a way that looks impressive and/or too many people showing off that they've discovered word art or animation but not how to use them properly. That's not to say I don't use PPT in worship, it's great for hymn/song/prayer words and for images; just not for preaching.

Can I add the delightful local practice of passing around the offering plate so that regulars smugly shake their heads (Standing Order/Direct Debits obviating the need) while visitors panic and fumble for large notes (cos you can't hide a 2p coin on a plate), then as the 'offering stewards' bring forward the half empty plates for blessing the congregation shuffles to their feet because 'we always do that'... why?!

That and Sean's 'grr' inducing doilies and squished Wonderloaf squares. I also activiely dislike the practice in some churches of cutting half way through a proper loaf denying me the opportunity to make lots of crumbs as I ripthe thing in two - but they may echo my ordinance view of communion as crumbs have no adverse theological significance...

Great poll

One of Freedom said...


I love the crumbs. Once when I was presiding at our Eucharist we had a number of Roman Catholics in our group (shhh don't tell their priests). As we have all been served I looked around the room and saw the RCs carefully cupping their bread so as not to lose any of it, then to the table to see how I'd sloshed a bit of wine here and made crumbs all over the place when I broke the bread during the words of Institution. This panic crept over me as I became scandalized and then this still small voice whispered, "but what of the scandle of the cross." I was incredibly moved in that service. For me crumbs always bring me back to that moment.

Michael, I am less concerned with sprinkling. Obviously like most churches (including VatII RCs) immersion is the preference, but this symbol is less frequently drawn on in the life of the body, annually for most of us. Immersion does have much deeper imagery though.

Anonymous said...

I voted for the altar call. Growing up in a church that had altar calls in every service, I was given the clear impression that only exhibitionists can be "saved".

Anonymous said...

My favourite hideous innovation (thought not liturgical, I guess) is the Christmas Tree, with Santa or fairy on top, in the Church.

Linda is so right about inclusive language - it's pernicious and entirely unnecessary. It's also not on the list, however, so I voted for the little cups. The symbolism of having individual glasses is all wrong. Plus the only church at which I have ever had the non-alcoholic concoction which passes for the blood of Christ (you know who you are) serves a sort of chemically mixture that gave me an unfailing headache every Sunday!

Banners, like any other form of art or decoration, can be good or bad. Kim is right to defend them - I've seen the ones in his church and they're just gorgeous.

Mata H said...

Thimbles of grape juice get my vote. Ditto Powerpoint. And unless you have a bunch of professional dancers, liturgical dance is usually just embarassing. I would also add those occasions where "sharing the peace of the Lord" turns into an extended social session.

Anonymous said...

I voted for liturgical dance only as the most odious example of abuses. Unlike Jason, I had to be escorted out of St. Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco, because I was laughing uncontrollably. Also at Ms. Marx Cathedral in Minneapolis many years ago some young dancer pranced around a portable stage during sermon time with his fly down. Nonetheless the worst abuse of which I've heard came from somewhere in the Diocese of Southern Ohio (not known for liturgical sanity anyway). On Holy or Maundy Thursday, the appropriate rites were performed and the Blessed Sacrament was properly reposed. On Good Friday, there was no public service scheduled but people were encouraged simply to "drop by" and meditate. Then they were instructed to self-communicate themselves if so moved. Although Anglicanism does far better than all the other traditions, these three examples (along with the infamous Trinity Wall St. Clown Eucharist) verify that one is safe nowhere. Now where's my Canterbury cap?

Anonymous said...

hi, got pointed here by Father Jake (

I may be the only one to say this, but I have nothing against the little cups, and I think they are theologically sound. In the church I went to that used the little cups, the whole congregation got the little cups, and then ALL DRANK TOGETHER. Same with the bread--it was passed around, and NO ONE ATE until *everyone* was served, right down to the last pew. None of this "gobble and go" mentality at the altar rail.

That, to me, is a great way to incorporate community into the Eucharist--in a sense, it's almost MORE communal than everyone getting served one at a time from a cup, and half the congregation gossiping about stuff back in the pews, 'cause they're done while the others are still being served.

So I have no beef with the tiny individual cups, grape juice or wine.

But liturgical dance--I've seen dozens of those over the years, and only one would I say actually added to the worship service rather than detracting from it (and he was a professional dancer).

But I would *pay* to see a Powerpoint sermon. Some of us learn visually, and having some clergy walk around and talk just doesn't give you info that stays with you.

byron smith said...

I'm curious (and no disrespect intended): why are Roman Catholics so concerned about getting wine correct (alcoholic), but then content with wafers for bread? Fewer crumbs may be a benefit for those for whom they might cause offense, but doesn't the same argument about lack of liberty to change the symbols apply?

A further thought in a similar vein: in cultures lacking bread as a staple, is it ever appropriate to substitute another staple as a form of translation? Changing the 'word' but keeping the message?

Anonymous said...

Byron, wafers are appropriate because the Last Supper was a Passover meal therefore Jesus would have used unleavened bread.

I don't think it is acceptable to substitute another staple. The Incarnation means that Jesus was born into a particular culture at a particular moment in history. If he was born in China, he would have used rice. But he wasn't, and so we don't, and we remember Christ, the Son of God, who was born a Jew in first-century Palestine, and celebrated the Jewish holiday of Passover with wine and unleavened bread.

Anonymous said...

(And I don't say this as a Roman Catholic.)

Anonymous said...

Guided here by Rev Sam Norton (Google it). Good poll. Can't vote - don't have enough information, but can anyone tell me why almost everyone thinks they can adeptly play a tambourine as soon as they get into a church?

Fred said...

what about Communion tokens?

Kathleen Pluth said...

I voted for banners but Keith has a point. Better to have some color and images than none at all, I think.

Just no butterflies, okay?

I've never seen a powerpoint sermon, but the idea at least suggests that some thought has gone into the message, which is refreshing. Some pastors don't prepare much--usually winds up being either a pet-peeve homily or what I call a tinker-toy homily, because of one priest I know who just combines any 20 of the same 30 thoughts in different orders and combinations for each homily.

Byron, substance is different from the other attributes of a thing. Wine is substantially different from grape juice, but small pieces of bread are only qualitatively and quantitatively different from one big piece of bread. Catholics are pretty big on substance--can't transubstantiate without it.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a non-denominational Evangelical church and thus experienced little cups of grape juice and altar calls from infancy while not being exposed to banners, liturgical dance until I started going to the Anglican church in my 20s. Powerpoint I also didn't grow up with - but more because it hadn't been invented yet (I think they use it now in my old church.)

I was happy to get to a church where we shared a common cup of wine, but I agree that if you DO have grape juice you do need the little cups for hygeinic purposes. And, as someone pointed out, at least it's all eaten simultaneously.

Oddly, in my "church of origin" we used the little cups of grape juice - but were so true to the original substance on the bread we actually used broken bits of matzo.
(My Dad, one of the few non-teetotalists and a member of the Board of Elders, always threatened to go the whole way and introduce Passover wine as well).

Altar calls are not necessarily manipulative, and do not necessarily involve having to leave your seat. And there is a sense in which, although God has indeed come to us, we have to come to Him as well.

I have seen good and bad (although more bad) liturgical dance, banners and powerpoint sermons, so I'm not sure I would condemn any of them out of hand.

Labyrinth-walking and modalistic politically-correct-sounding euphemisms for the Trinity are much more problematic than any of the choices in the poll.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow! What a great post! Priceless comments! But hey - is it the non-alcoholic wine or the tiny cups? There's no "must" that says if we have non-alcoholic wine, we have to have tiny cups! There may be health reasons for doing so, but none that can actually prevent a communal cup (chalice) in order to express our unity in Christ! It's the cups - not the wine-free wine that bugs me!

PowerPoint sermons? Hmmm. I've used them and seen them used to great effect. Put a film clip in, and even introduced the congregation to Bob Dylan via it, so I reckon it can be a seriously helpful way of building the kingdom ... just depends on the content. And if the content is crap and boring - at least there's something to look at. Beats adding up the hymn numbers.

Altar calls? I don't sit through these every week (geddit? sit through these ... Okay, I'm sorry!) so anything to do with movement and response sounds an interesting variation on numb bums and valiant attempts to look (a) awake and (b) remotely interested.

Let me qualify that: "anything to do with movement" does not include liturgical dance! Save me from people waving diaphronous scarves and looking precious! HOWEVER, Celtic circle dancing gets the "thumbs up" for me. Again, it's the "content" question.

My all-time, cringe-worthy, sick-making liturgical abuse was the particular form of the liturgical greeting at a church I attended (for a very short time: the minister would greet the congregation in the name of Jesus, and then say, "Now please turn to the people on either side of you, shake hands and say, 'Brother/sister, I love you with the love of the Lord!'" Do you know, I'm still in recovery from that ... chunderworthy or WHAT?

Anonymous said...

What I really think it's awful in the services is the band of church goers who find so many things horrible, but do not help to change it, only sit there and criticize; do not participate, only watch; people who find everything bad, but you can't count on them to do anything. This makes me sick.

Ben Myers said...

Hi Christian -- thanks for your comment.

I should point out that a very large proportion of these (tongue-in-cheek) comments are by ministers and student-ministers -- so we can safely assume that these folks really are trying to make a positive difference!

Anonymous said...

I don't know which is worse....Communion cups filled with grape juice from Walmart or Praise Teams. Both are equally tacky but i think my vote goes to Praise Teams with their rock n roll hymns.

Siobhan said...

Hilarious responses!

Not sure if this was already nominated, if so I apologize for the redundancy:
Guitar masses
"Praise" bands
Penal Substitution

I would nominate "liturgical modern dance" but someone beat me to it....
Best wishes!

Anonymous said...

The last supper was not a buffet. I find the use of a queue to drink from a cup far more offensive than serving little cups of grape juice within the pews. The passing of the little cups involves serving each other-a theme of the last supper-and this style gives the communicant time to examine himself or herself as we are commanded to do before participating in communion. Lining up to drink from a cup and eat the bread on the buffet, while the praise team rocks away, is about the worst thing that has been done to Christ since the crucifixion.

Is the objection to the little cups actually an expression of slavery to litugical convention?

Mykel G. Larson said...

I'm going to go with passing out grape juice in pygmy plastic cups; you know, the kind you can get your thumb stuck in. And, to add insult to injury, even though it may be a sincere desire for the Holy Spirit to bless the high-fructose grape shot, it's just 100 times worse when they get passed around on a metallic frisbee, each large enough to hold 100 of these things.

Lord, forgive my elitist nature...;)

Anonymous said...

How about the Unity Candle? Talk about dumbing down a liturgy . . .

Anonymous said...

-Near universal failure in the West to practice paedocommunion

-Less than weekly adminsitration of the Lord's Supper

-Failure in many evangelical denominations to practice paedobaptism

-Grape juice and, nearly as bad, the lame excuses given for why it is okay or necessary to use grape juice instead of wine

Many other infractions are to be lamented, but not as much as the perversion of the sacraments

-hymns redacted to remove maculine pronouns, especially when the pronouns refer to the fully human (and fully God) Jesus Christ (yes, we have reason to believe Jesus had a penis)

-altar calls

-music leaders singing congregational hymns into the microphone

-offering envelopes

-preachers who won't stay behind the lectern

-"Stewardship Sunday"

-contemporary "praise songs"

-drum kits


-sanctuaries built in the style of auditoriums (versus a rented auditorium, for which I am likely to have more patience)

-TV cameras

-dismissing children 1/3 of the way through the service

Anonymous said...

Heh, great rants! I agree with most responses in substance and spirit. But I'll add:

* Lousy developmentally inappropriate 10 minute "children's sermons"

* Forced corporate handholding

* The waving of the arms by "song leaders"

* Peripatetic preachers.

Anonymous said...

Microphones in particular and sound systems in general.

They turn celebtants into performers at best and the liturgy into polulist rallies at worst

Clearly most of the Church now assumes that valid worship was impossible before their invention.

desertflower said...

mind numbing hymn sandwiches with very little usable meat

I prefer the simply adorable parable lesson which catches your attention and teaches you how to love and love. A sermon young and old alike can grasp ahold of and get on many levels.

Anonymous said...

The worst liturgical innovation was in an Episcopal Church in Sarasota, Florida. They had a Eucharist in honor of the whales. During the prayer of consecration, they had Orca and other whale’s sounds playing over the PA system. Only in the Episcopal Church……

Anonymous said...

The worst liturgical innovation was in an Episcopal Church in Sarasota, Florida. They had a Eucharist in honor of the whales. During the prayer of consecration, they had Orca and other whale’s sounds playing over the PA system. Only in the Episcopal Church……

Anonymous said...

the practice of readers wishing the congregation 'good morning' before commencing...makes me squirm

Anonymous said...

Communion by intinction, apparently inspired by a misreading of scripture...

"...he took bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying 'Take and dip...'"

Ted Michael Morgan said...

I stole notions from most of you and I have not even completed reading the thread. The following is my initial response. The "good morning"is annoying as if intinction.

Awful liturgical innovations sometimes trouble me. There are too many to name, but some of the worst deserve attention and suppression. To me the worst is hiding the baptistery. In my congregation, you would hardly know we had a baptistery. We hide it behind a poor and graceless substitute for a rood screen.

Altar calls have always troubled me. They reveal bad theology because they demonstrate our coming to God rather than God coming to us. We act as if partakers in worship are supposed to make the pastor happy with his sales pitch sermons. We make these altar calls some kind of unbiblical sacrament. This is almost as irritating as the cheap coffee served between services. The sinner’s prayer is no substitute for catechesis and baptism. In fact, it is an utter abomination.

The tiny cups of grape juice undermines the entire notion of sacrament or ordinance as we Disciples call our sacraments. Grape juice is not wine even if the Greek indicates it is. Using grape juice is a complete break with biblical witness, something astounding for a denomination that claims roots in primitive Christianity. I think that those silly little cups came from the temperance movement.

Flags have no place in the chancel. We forget that the church transcends nationalism and politics. The so-called Christian flag has no pedigree. It is apparently a late nineteenth century Methodist innovation.

Projection screens are high on my lists of techniques to suppress. Watching an entire congregation stare at one amazes me. I am a Protestant, but I think that the
Versus populum was a dumb idea. The only worse innovation is the PowerPoint sermon, but I think that someone might learn how to use it well. I am waiting.

I do like some banners. A wonderful artist in my congregation makes splendid banners.

However, my pastor runs around during the service like an organ grinder’s monkey. He hands out token coffee cups to visitors. I feel that I have wandered into a Tupper Ware party. I wish he would find a nice place to stand behind the pulpit.

Then there are praise songs. One had such hope for them. What we get are hackneyed tunes with clichéd lyrics. The tedium of these things constitute liturgical torture and probably qualify as an abuse of human rights. They are worse than the stuff churches once lifted for Billy Graham rallies.

Ted Michael Morgan said...

Anonymous said...
Man, so many woeful innovations; so hard to choose . . .

Curious as to why your list was so singularly biased towards the Evangelical Protestant abuses, though . . . Not that any of these abuses is easy to defend, but I do understand where they are coming from, and however loathsome I personally might find the nominees on your list to be, I have to admit there might also be at least a grain of good to say about any of them. Let's allow as how any of them might be judged redeemable in the kingdom of heaven. The liturgical practices I find most bewildering are the ones I understand the least: (1) "Walking the labyrinth" (e.g., in the National Cathedral); (2) the umbrella (Ethiopian service), which goes together with the shaking of the "sleigh-bell" type cymbals; and (3) the Blessings of the Animals (dogs, cats, and yea, even goldfish, stuffed animals, beanie babies and trolls).
But probably none of these practices really qualifies as an "innovation", most of them belonging to venerable tradition older than any Christians in the New World.
So, for the last word in innovations, though, I would rest my vote on the "Hawaii shirt" as Priestly vestment. Thank you, Rick Warren!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006 12:13:00


Fat said...

No one has mentioned the virus spreading through the churches of ripping out the pulpit, the rail and the pews (Oh! They are all stored safely under the Church [except for the pews which we sold off]) and then hiding half or all the front of the church with some wooden (think ply wooden) and totally tacky anachronistic edifice celebrating the heights of architectural artistry of the 1970s or worse still the 1980s.

Then a wobbly lectern or even two bristling with microphones sprout up with their cable roots grasping at the carpet.

Perhaps it is only an Australian disease - I surely hope so.

Ted Michael Morgan said...

Gosh, how have the innovators missed using the hurleygurley?

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