Saturday, March 06, 2004

reply to anglobaptist

community, individualism, and worship. This week i'm been trying to think through issues of community, individualism, and worship by replacing the typical pairing of community/individual with community/worship. After a couple rounds in the comments anglobaptist posed this question...

"I think we ask for liturgy to do too much. I really do. So, I am struggling with your dialectic. If community and worship are the poles, what do you do with individuals? This is an age of individuals like it or not, theologically appropriate or not. So, our churches function as such...right or wrong. How do you, personally, deal with the individual that approaches you "on behalf of others" to declare your worship empty or troublesome?

My first pass at this question is to distinguish b/w "individuals" and "persons" (using both in a some what technical manner) "Individuals" were created in the Enlightenment as an singular ego standing outside of tradition and community, separated from social bonds, attaining to universal reason, and "individuals are created by our capitalist consumerism as people with insatiable needs, desires, cravings which require satisfaction, and where "choice" is everythink. Too often our communities are merely a collection of these individuals.

But we need to move people beyond being individuals to being persons made in the image of God, relating as such--i.e. persons in relationship, not isolated individuals. (more on this see theopraxis 03/02/04 post)

So the wrong question is "how do we incorporate individuals into community?"
The right questions is "how do we take individuals and make the persons again?"

If we ask the first question we will properly conceive of worship or community. So practically and pastorally, we need to always be pealing back to lays of individualism, pointing people toward Christ the true person (or true "man" to be less PC), and creating communal and worshipful practices that facilitate this transformation. So this is my answer to the first question of "what to do with individuals..?"

The second question deals with individual tastes and expressions within community and worship. How do we keep liturgy organicly linked to the community and the individual so that it is not alienating to either one. This touches on the ever important question of the cultural effect of the church, which is huge. Just as there is not a timeless expression of the gospel, so too there is not a timeless liturgy. So we don't want to impose it from on high. It must be a true expression of the people. But liturgy, as well as theology, as well as the church, should be a counter-cultural movement of following Jesus. Or as I would rather put it, the church is a "culture of fulfillment," being the expression of the highest hopes and dreams of a people. I'm still thinking through this aspect as I read 3rd world theologies, but I'll make that last point clear someday...

my last point is that worship and community are eschatological concepts, always progressing toward the consumation of Creation. They are not static and shouldn't leave us unchanged.

so, what have I missed now? what are my blindspot? so much more could be said...

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