As the last bit of my “summer” (i.e., relaxed and not intended for any course or program) reading, I am rereading sections of a liturgical text that I first read decades ago. The author had a humorous but truthful point: nothing is so solid and “unchangeable” as the way we worship, and that as far back as the 4th century, it was discovered that the only way to introduce “change” into liturgy without having full blown warfare (whether in a parish among parishioners or in the Church universal among Bishops) is to “add” new things on to what is already there. Eventually the “new” becomes, in the mindset of that community, what we’ve always done.
As much as we pay lip service to the contrary, it has been my experience that humans abhor change. We know what works, why mess with it. (“If it aint broke…etc.”). And, of course, there is a level of comfort when we do things in familiar ways.
While this is almost a “sin” for any parish to consider, I believe that parishes need to be open to hear different voices, try different ways of doing things, be open to different ideas, different music at liturgy, different ways to preach and teach, create different emphases, be willing to make mistakes – all without the sacred mantra “but we’ve never done it that way.”
The more I experience how our secular culture is becoming more adamant that it wants nothing to do with us, then I believe that how we live, and teach, and raise our children, and worship is going to change – if we are going to in fact reach others and bring them into the joy that Christ alone gives. I’m watching this happen on our Diocesan level. It will also begin to happen to us on a local level. We will find ourselves making changes, and the gospel will be communicated in a different way to different folks. Our community will probably change in its makeup. And through it all, God will be praised.