By Juan M.C. Oliver
Editor’s note: This article is a response related to a recent At the Threshold series of articles on the St. Polycarp Worship Society in New Orleans.
And you thought it had all been decided centuries ago? Worship is once again in the forefront of talk about the churches’ mission into the 21st century.
This is not exactly new, though. As early as 1971 the superior general of the Jesuits, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, was calling them to the work of inculturation. By this term he meant,
“…the incarnation of Christian life and of the Christian message in a particular local cultural context, in such a way that the experience not only finds expression through elements proper to the culture in question (this alone would be no more than a superficial adaptation), but becomes a principle that animates, directs, and unifies a culture, transforming and remaking it so as to bring about “a new creation.”
I have written elsewhere , about how in order to survive the current membership crisis and thrive into the future, Christian churches will have to invest huge amounts of creativity in trying new ways of doing things. Worship is certainly no exception, and the inculturation of worship is leading the way.
Briefly put, we must re-incarnate our worship so that it engages the local culture, for if we want to “… unify a culture, transforming and remaking it so as to bring about a new creation,” as Fr. Arrupe said above, we must speak its language.
Liturgical “language,” however, consists of much more than words. In a ritual setting every action, every item, every person is significant and charged with meaning. They work together as part of a holistic experience of the sacred in which a life lived in God´s presence is rehearsed and transmitted, forming a community of faith. Read More…