Wednesday, November 10, 2010
What About Those Who. . .
What about those who cannot or do not sing? The point was made that every time we sing something in the liturgy (in addition to the hymns) we eliminate from the assembly those who cannot or do not sing. Singing excludes people, in other words. I was struck by this because I found just the opposite. Singing joins us together and unites us. But that was not the perspective I heard here. Singing is not something essential to the Divine Service or to worship in general -- it is optional and for those who can or like to sing. Wow. What an eye opener.
As the conversation continued, I saw the pattern of this conversation continue even further -- now remember this was a conversation among Lutherans and particularly Lutherans who sing from beginning to end on Sunday morning. In fact, about the only texts we do not sing are the Creed (well, we do that occasionally) and the Our Father. The point being made was easily transportable to other areas and issues.
That is why some were opposed to installing kneelers in the pews -- what about those who could not or would not kneel? There were many who were not opposed to kneelers but felt that if we did install them, we would be excluding those with bad knees (a very small minority) or those who did not choose to kneel (a larger number than those who could not kneel). By the way, when we first moved into our new worship space, it was not fully complete and we went without an altar rail for a time and some folks began to question why we were getting one anyway -- what about those who cannot or do not want to kneel at the altar?
When it comes to things like incense, well, you know where that conversation is headed. What about those who could not attend where incense was used (again, a very small minority of people are actually allergic and that mostly to perfumed incense and not to real frankincense) or what about those who would not attend (again, a much larger number than those allergic)?
We already discussed a while back what to do with those who were intolerant of gluten or alcohol and their participation in Holy Communion. Our primary concern, according to some, ought to be what about those who cannot or would not commune under bread with gluten or wine with alcohol. Again, the primary issue is not allergy or physical intolerance but rather choice.
We should stop sharing the peace because of the flu and what about those who might catch something by physically contacting others in the eucharistic assembly. We should stop the common cup (chalice) because of what people might catch from it or because they just don't like it. And the list of changes goes on and on...
I guess we are left with the real question of what you are left with after you remove all those things that a few cannot tolerate or accept or the larger number of those who do not want to accept? It seems that this is, after all, the path secular society is following. We remove the peanuts from the planes because of the very few who might be impacted... we remove the toys from Happy Meals so that kids will give up fatty foods... we tax soda so that people will give up sugar... all because of our concern about those who... And so the Church has adopted the same methodology. We act on the basis more of minimums than fullness, on broad acceptance as the chief criteria for what should or should not be used in worship. Some have even gone so far as to say that anybody off the street who has never been in worship before should be able to feel at home in the Lutheran Divine Service (at least some watered down version of that Divine Service).
My point in all of this is where will it end? And why do we need to walk down that path at all. Why do we seek to find that which appeals to the most instead of that which is most faithful? Historical? Biblical? Is it because it is less trouble to offend the fullness for the sake of the vocal particular? Well, just some deep sighing today as I reflect upon one simply conversation...