Thursday, July 29, 2010

Circ de Soleil -- From Church to Circus

The entrance rite for large church gatherings and even for some congregational settings has grown from procession to something less church than circus in content and style.  Whether for national church gatherings or conventions or youth events, the entrance rite has become a Las Vegas style extravaganza -- and this is not solely the domain of the Lutherans, either.

I recently watch a video from the formerly stodge Presbyterians that shows they are no longer your grandfather's stern church.  You can watch it HERE.  Compare it to Roman Catholic spooky puppets HERE or a thousand other YouTube vidz and you get the idea... And it is not just limited to youth oriented gatherings.

The point of this is that the entrance rite is just that -- the entrance.  It is not a circus or a parade.  For the festive Sundays and holy days of the church calendar, that entrance rite is enhanced -- BUT with the accouterments of the liturgy and not with all the outlandish and goofy stuff we can find.  The ordinary procession may include processional cross/crucifix and candles and we may add to this banners, the Gospel book, incense, choir -- even a second processional cross/crucifix.  I am not fond of but think that very tastefully done and well prepared liturgical dancers can possibly be added.  But where on earth do we come up with those giant, spooky puppets (sure to cause nightmares for young and old alike)?  When was it decided that a hundred streamers (more like the old wind socks that people used to hang on their front porches) were a good fit?  When did it begin to be good taste to multiply the numbers of participants and the things brought it during the entrance rite?

And another point... When did the procession become THE focus?  What began as the somewhat utilitarian need to bring the participants in the Divine Service to the Chancel has become its own focus and the parade has been magnified until it detracts from everything that comes after it.  The entrance rite is not the focus but just that -- the entrance rite.  Let the music not accompany this rite but be the primary focus -- a processional hymn perhaps with choir additions and not simply accompaniment to the movement.  It is a scandal the way these things have turned into their own focus and the entrance rite an event that towers over the main event of Christ's presence in Word and Sacrament.

You can all add your own examples and when you read these words, you may remember the most egregious examples of such overdone circus style church events.  Through it all we might do well to remember St. Paul's valuable words about moderation in all things and the constraint of wisdom that says "all things may be possible but not all things may be beneficial" and, I might add, profitable unto salvation.

Consider the difference between this photo above and this photo to the right. 


Janis Williams said...

Fr. Peters,
Have seen the vid from the first photo. There were "tasteful" liturgical dancers with it, too. I personally think we can leave that idea off, too. We'd have to reeducate just about everyone to a foreign artform to include dance in the introit. The folk who like to say, "well, King David danced..." don't really want to go there.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Pews. It all went down hill with Pews. Before then the Entrance was simply a "Hey, get out of the way, we need to get up front." Now, it has become spectacle.

Elsa quanbeck said...

Is it not true that the early entrance rites were accompanied by the people's "kyrie" sung over and over.? "Lord have mercy" seems an appropriate way to enter into the holy space and presence of God. Humility is hard to come by these days.

Thank you so very much for your incites on this blog. I read them faithfully.

Elsa Quanbeck

Anonymous said...

Our forefathers never meant for this to be the meaning of religious freedom.

Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...

Just saw the procession for the PCUSA's convention over at 'Bad Vestments.' Someone posted that it looked like they were having Presbyterian camp at Burning Man.

So often this tedious visual palaver is an attempt to imply 'see how diverse we are.' When what it really says is 'we're divergent.' How much better would a church's unity be demonstrated if clergy from all geographic regions of the church process wearing similar vestments, singing a hymn that everyone knows, bearing scripture and cross showing reverence to Christ and not to our considerable human folly.