Rachel Held Evans and others have been posting about the recent trend for Millennials (those currently in the 18-29 age bracket) to end up in the high church traditions–Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, etc.
After years attending and leading worship in the non-liturgical settings, I was nevertheless also strangely drawn to liturgical and sacramental life. I finally ended up in the Anglican Church1.
Here’s why I came to embrace the way of ancient Christianity.
1) It points me to Jesus.
The ancient liturgical traditions each have specific theological reasoning behind them. Each one, whether it be saying a corporate confession of sin, “passing the peace,” or even the style of vestments used are meant to communicate something about God. They function as a continual guide during worship back to meditating on Jesus.
2) It connects me with history.
The past matters for the high church traditions. We worship with prayers, songs, and actions that have been practiced since the Apostolic era. This connects us with with all those saints that have gone before us, keeping us grounded in what God has done and living in the reality of the “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1).
3) It fosters communion.
Not only do we actually have Holy Communion each week, but the liturgical way is in fact much more interactive than the typical “sing, sit, listen” pattern in mainstream Evangelical services. “Liturgy” means “work of the people,” and together we stand, kneel, join hands, make the sign of the sign of the cross, respond with written and spontaneous prayers. There’s a rhythm of back-and-forth in most liturgies that reminds us we’re all engaged in the work of worship, and brings us closer together as a community centered around the person of Jesus.
4) It gives me tools to grow.
The ancient traditions include robust devotional tools for daily prayer, meditation, and discipline. The most important for me have been the Daily Office (set prayers and appointed Bible readings for morning and evening), prayer beads, the Church Year, beautiful and ancient art, and of course the writings of the Church Fathers.
5) It reintroduces me to the Triune God.
Fully Trinitarian prayer is a beautiful thing. Without a high degree of intentionality, it’s quite easy to leave out certain members of the Trinity in our daily spirituality. This can sometimes be a especially true when it comes to the Holy Spirit. In the ancient ways of worship, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all addressed according to their function within the Godhead, and we are often reminded that they are together one God. This simple prayer has been incredibly influential on my spirituality:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
- Technically, the church I attend is really kind of “broad-church,” that is, it incorporates elements of both very simple liturgy and more ornate rituals. We’re between high and low church (with a preference toward high compared to most Evangelical services). We’ve got this cool casual-yet traditional, informal-yet-liturgical thing going on that I love. For instance, we ring bells to start the service (high church), but we sing Hillsong and sometimes the clergy wear jeans. ↩