I was preaching at Hlalanathi again last Sunday. I was a little disappointed to have a congregation of only five people. How soon the expectations rise! Not so long ago I was very happy if there were two people!
The older, more traditional members were not there, but I decided to try to use the abbreviated liturgy anyway. Those there made a valiant effort, but they did not really know how to sing it. I am constantly torn between those who say that they cannot enjoy church without the liturgy and those young people who would surely come if the church was less formal.
Sometimes I think it would be better if the Methodist Church did not try to plant churches in informal settlements - leave it to churches who are able to genuinely connect with people. But I guess that is not a particularly loyal sentiment!
Can or should the Methodist Church change?
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Liturgy or No Liturgy?
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Interesting observations but so true of the informal settlements. Should the Methodist Church change, certainly because the church of today is the young people and the older ones need to be made attentive of the non-attendance of the young and questioned about why they not attend. Ask them for the answers. Should we use the Methodist liturgy - yes we can use part of it; I on the other hand prefer a more open service with questions asking for responses. I do the "Our Father" and let them choose songs and encourage use of hymn books. Try and introduce some more modern songs for the young and even play some of the songs to them. Much of what we do is an education process and it is slow, but do not despair and give up. Attendance is often affected by some advent in the community or attendance to a funeral society, be conscious and ask about it.
Change from what to what?
I can't answer that for you, you need to answer it, but I can give an example.
We go to a congregation in Mamelodi that meets in a school classroom. They belonged to the African Orthodox Church (an African independent Church), and their services were half Anglican Mattins and half Protestant hymn sandwich (the minister could remember just so much Mattins from the Anglican prayerbook, in South Sotho, while most of the congregation spoke North Sotho). They decided they wanted to be Orthodox.
So they needed to change some things. Orthodox do certain things, and don't do certain others. We use ikons, and we bow and kiss them. We don't sit at school desks like pupils with the minister sitting at the teacher's desk in front of the blackboard, like a class, or like the chairman at a meeting. So we changed the geography of the classroom.
We had a "Readers Service", which is like the Liturgy, but with the priests and deacons parts left out. We had it translated into North Sotho, which the people spoke. We sang it, and taught the people to sing it. Now they can, and they can do it on their own. They couldn't do that with their previous method of worship. If the minister wasn't there it was awful, and even if he was there, it was awful. He couldn't read, so he said what he'd memorised and ad libbed the rest.
I couldn't read North Sotho any more than he could. We got the kids To read, because some of the grannies stumbled.
And when we were starting a new congregation in Tembisa, one of the kids, a 12 year old, in Std Five, who'd never led the service before, suddenly launched in and astounded us. She'd been coming to the services since she was 9, and we'd discouraged her from singing because she couldn't sing in tune, but this time she managed and was spot on. She'd just absorbed it.
We sometimes take the congregation to "proper" churches where most of the people are Greek or Serbian or Russian and think they know it all, because they were born that way, but the people from our congregations know more than they do. And now the Greeks and Serbs and Russians are the ones who need to change!
They changed, but the from what and the to what are probably very different from yours.
We have been using part of the liturgy - the Lord's Prayer, Siyakudumisa and the Ndiyakholwa as well as hymns. This is the abbreviation that they use in the 'English' service at Central and I thought it was a good compromise. After Sunday, I'm not sure. But we will persevere as there is no benefit in changing something before it has had a chance to settle!
I'm not too worried about there only being 5 people there - but they couldn't tell me about any funerals or such. Probably just the school holidays.
Thanks for your input!
Thanks for your input! There is plenty to think about. In a sense we are creating, more than changing, because this is still a new church 'plant'. But if we don't go traditional Methodist that is change for some of the people. Your story is very encouraging though. We need to spend more time in the community. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I am at this stage too low in the pecking order to really make a difference. Also, because I will be sent away by the church at the end of the year I can't start things that I cannot finish. Not ideal. But I can think and learn from these situations!
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