I’m posting a few thoughts on how we put together our Sunday gatherings in The Crowded House in Sheffield. The previous posts I’ve looked at the aim and shape of our gatherings. Here I turn to one of the principles that guides how we select the content.
Contemporary and traditional
We want our gatherings to feel contemporary and local. We recognize that this represents a challenge because there is no single local or homogenous culture. Instead there are many sub-cultures within our society. We have decided that our music should have folk or indie feel as this feels normal even by those with different personal preferences. Where do we adopt music from other cultures (for example, from the United States) we are adopting musical styles that the wider cultures also adopts so again this means this music feels normal.
At the same time, we want elements of our corporate worship to be traditional. That is, we want them to reflect a common heritage of Christian public worship as an expression of our belonging to the church across the world and across the years. In other words, some of the things we do have been done by Christians for centuries and by doing them we express our connection with them. The confessions and creeds we use are either derived from Scripture or employ wording that stretches back many centuries. Unbelievers typically expect tradition when they attend a church meeting so they rarely find these traditional elements as off-putting as we might imagine. They are more likely to be put off by innovation. Indeed usually whatever we do feels more contemporary than their expectations.
So we want to reflect the context in which we are placed and that context is both a local cultural context and the context of the worldwide church.
Clearly there may be some tension between these two aims – being contemporary and traditional. Often, though, we can resolve this by using biblical or traditional content in contemporary forms (by, for example, updating the words to modern usage or using contemporary tunes to traditional words).