Friday, September 23, 2011

In several of the essays contained in the current issue, the Liturgical Renewal Movement’s emphasis on the essential connection between worship and justice is emphasized. In 2008, Scott Haldeman examined this emphasis more closely, suggesting five characteristics of worship that does justice. The first of these characteristics was that worship that does justice is subject to human need rather than transcendent of bodily experience as a "spiritual" exercise.

My own church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a nickname based on our reformed notion of predestination and our habitual bodily comportment in worship: "the frozen chosen." Most Presbyterians check their bodies at the door and bring only their minds to worship for edification—a rather diminished sense of participation to be sure. We sit quietly and listen to our well-educated clergy expound upon the day's text. We do sing but not lustily. We do pray but not expectantly. We don't get warmed up or get our hands dirty or even, as Billy Holiday used to sing, muss the crease in [our] blue serge pants." We practice being interested but dispassionate, calm, and collected. We leave perhaps with a new insight but as isolated and affirmed in our middle class propriety as we were when we came in. Perhaps Presbyterians and others reflect in our practices an attempt to transcend our physicality and live on a more "spiritual" plane in our worshiping assemblies as the Pharisees who confronted Jesus one Sabbath day. Jesus and the disciples were walking through a field and, being hungry, they picked some grain to eat. The Pharisees accused them of breaking the Sabbath code. Jesus replied, "The Sabbath is for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).

Worship shaped by the values and traditions of Liturgical Renewal is most often characterized by an appolonian rather than a dionysian aesthetic. How does this interfere with our ability to offer worship that is fully embodied and incarnational?

Scott Haldeman (2002) "The Welcome Table, Worship that does justice and makes peace, Liturgy, 17:1, p. 6.

Scott Haldeman is Associate Professor of Worship at Chicago Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books, most recently Towards Liturgies that Reconcile: Race and ritual among African-American and European-American protestants.

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