Parson’s Handbook: the moral dimension of well-ordered worship

Later. This was post #2000.

From the fourth edition of The Parson’s Handbook, pages iii and iv:

It is indeed essential to remember that, important though the artistic side of public worship must be, the ceremonial question is primarily a moral one. We have to be honest and straightforward in obeying the rules we are pledged to carry out, candid in acknowledging mistakes, courageous in rectifying them, and humble in comparing the value of authority with that of our own private judgment. We need not, indeed, think our offices incapable of improvement . . . .

Here Dearmer is contrained by the rubrics of the prayer book and English law, but not custom which flew in the present lax standards of

catechising of children, the age for Confirmation, the position of the Holy Communion, and the daily services. Our attempts at setting up our own judgment against that of the Church have failed with melancholy persistency. To-day we are recovering what we have lost, because on the whole we have become more conscientious; but in an age when every point of Christian theology has to be justified to a critical world, we have more than ever to show that we are capable of dealing fairly with facts in the simpler and more obvious matter of ceremonial.

While Christian faith and practice is more that “the magic hour on Sunday” new and prospective Christians are likely to connect with other Christians first through worship. It needs to be clear in its purposes, as comprehensive as possible and attractive to the senses. It’s been my experience — and perhaps Dearmer’s — that middle-class sensitivities run against all of these. Bland, vague, parochial and shabby too often describes the middle-class church. Such a church is captive to itself. When you read Dearmer and his like, don’t see is so much as a cookbook but an escape map.

Author: Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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