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» The rise of neo liturgy | Proclaim Blog

The rise of neo liturgy

The rise of neo liturgy

The latest album and tour from liturgical post-rock artist Gungor has been far from conventional. In a recent interview with Relevant Magazine, group frontman Michael Gungor explained the group’s decision to subdivide their artistic efforts into distinctly different “head spaces,” even performing under different names. They continue to make great art under the banner of Gungor, and lead believers in worship under the name “The Liturgists.” The band views these two functions as distinctly different activities, and so they treat them as such, subdividing their concerts into three movements—two more conventional performance movements, bookending a worship movement filled with music, poetry, and reflection.

“I purposefully didn’t talk much or try to get people to do anything along with us,” Michael recounts on the group’s website, “But somehow in that lack of pressure, we started having these deeply spiritual moments in the room together, and by the end of the night, people might be crying or dancing or maybe just sitting there in silence, but there was something real happening among us.”

Gungor represents the leading edge of what’s happening across all of Christianity. After all but abandoning the traditional church calendar and shunning many of the ritualistic elements associated with Catholicism for hundreds of years, Protestantism is beginning to rediscover the value of liturgy. Trends are always cyclical. (click to tweet) The hymns, introduced by Reformers in the 1500s and championed all the way into the modern age as new ornamentation for the rediscovered doctrines of atonement and grace, have now become inaccessible, stuffy, and robotic in some evangelical churches, while others still hold them dear. Reformers of the 1990s discarded them in favor of an approach that was called “seeker sensitive” at the time. We can now see a reemergence of the liturgical tradition.

What is liturgy?

With roots predating the Reformation, liturgy is a collection of prayers and call/response readings intended to “make Christianity understandable to this mythical ‘modern’ man on the street,” says Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann in Christianity Today. Not what you were expecting? Maybe that’s because the liturgy in your experience has fallen out of relevance. Many churches today are introducing a new brand of liturgy by writing their own call/response readings or updating old traditional ones to create a meaningful time of reflection as part of their worship service.

We want to know: Have you used any liturgical elements in your worship service? Do you have plans to in the future? Let us know in comments.


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  1. Being a Lutheran and having not thrown out liturgy I have always found it deeply meaningful and profound as parts of it have come to me in times of difficulty and also in times of joy. It is amazing how parts of the liturgy resonates in my heart and even leads me in deeper reflection in my Bible reading and devotions. The misnomer of those that threw out the "liturgy" is that they replaced the formal liturgy with an informal liturgy that fit their comfort zones and often never pushed beyond the edges or made them have to create something new which was not necessarily biblical. Sometimes it also created splits because there was not always a common connection or an engagement of the worshipper but it was dependent solely upon the musicians leading, a.k.a. worship leader, which is only as deep as the spirit of the one leading. A liturgy does have a greater tradition that is less dependent upon the one leading. However formal liturgy or not one must be careful of how things are washed in prayer.

  2. Jake Parsons says:

    Our church staff met yesterday to discuss how we would continue to use our liturgy (as presented in a bulletin form) to encourage family-based prayers and devotions even after worship is over. Liturgy is powerfully to form Christian spirituality.

  3. Valerie Dowell says:

    we have recently started using the responsive readings in the hymnal again. It has been an easy way to lightly reintroduce aspects of liturgy to a congregation largely inexperienced in any liturgical practices. I plan on exploring more options from this jumping point.

  4. I am a lutheran too, though the congregation I belong to has a less formal order of service. When the layman movement here in Norway begun (which this congregation is a part of) people built "Houses of prayer" where they held informal gatherings, centring on the proclamation of The Word of God. Songs were chosen based on their content, not on their musical arrangement. This has been changing for the last 20 years. Songs are getting thinner in their theological message, but more extravagant in their musical arrangement – and therefore less and less people are able to sing along. The proclamation of the Word is loosing focus, while witty worship leaders are slowly turning the service into a show. I think a lot of people move towards the more "liturgical" churches for this very reason. The liturgy is familiar, and includes the congregation in repetition. More than that, it is more or less consistent from one church to another, and it is free from personal bias of the pastor. I guess I am repeating what you have already written, Christopher, but that is of course simply because I agree with you :-)

  5. Edward Green says:

    Yes. We use a full liturgical service every week. It is really hard work to prepare and make it look right on slides.

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