03 June 2006

Churches should incorporate folk culture in lectionary, says bishop

THE Church should celebrate “festivals of commerce” as well as holy days such as Easter if it wants to remain relevant to the concerns of contemporary Britain, according to a Church of England report.
There should be a new 12-month liturgical cycle “to connect commercial opportunities with spiritual ones”, a senior bishop says. Services to meet the needs of modern Britain could include Father’s Day celebrations, the marking of Bank Holidays and a “celebration of love” to mark Valentine’s Day.

According to an article in The Times celebrations linked to events such as St Valentine's Day might revive religion's appeal.

It's an interesting thought, but the Anglican Church in South Africa brought out Liturgy 1975 about 30 years ago, and it had an interesting new liturgical cycle, based on nine Sundays before Christmas and nine Sundays before Easter. It was dropped about 10 years later, but while it lasted it seemed to have more potential for developing a folk religious consciousness than its predecessors.

About the time that it was introduced there was a popular custom of having "flowers through the church". Church women's groups (in more affluent suburbs, at least) would show their skills at flower arranging, and invite others to come and see the results of their work in the church (and make a donation to the funds of the women's guild).

These flower shows usually had a theme, and in one church the theme chosen was the Nine Sundays before Christmas (it was held in September, which is spring time in South Africa, and, appropriately enough, the beginning of the church year). So the arrangements began with Creation, and went on to the Fall, the Covenant of Preservation (Noah), the Call of Abraham, and so on.

The results were very interesting. Those who did the flower arranging embarked on some serious Bible study, and some of the arrangements were very impressive, and expressive. The one illustrating the Fall had some dry grass and bare branches left over from winter, and some charred sticks, and an apple with a bite taken out of it. It had quite an impact on those who saw it.

Perhaps the abandonment of the "theme" lectionary was not such a good idea.

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