If you really want to attract disaffected Anglican youth back to church, get out the thurible, the maniple, the cope, crank up the organ (and hide the guitars), find lots of candles and incense and, of course, dig the red books out of storage. That’s the takeaway from the 2012 Cranmer Conference.
I write as a low-church evangelical with a preference for the Prayer Book. That’s my formation thanks to the Rev’d. Dr. David Widdcombe and St. Margaret’s Anglican Church, Winnipeg. That’s my continued preference for worship, and I don’t apologize for it. But I thoroughly enjoyed a very different, yet thoroughly Anglican expression of worship as led by Mr. Aaron James and Rev. Andrew Nussey. We were a smaller number than we had hoped to be–I think around 16. But what we lacked in size, we made up for in enthusiasm!
Anyway, back to my original (and I hope just a little outrageous) declaration. Making our worship as other-worldly as possible is an authentic means of outreach to our youth and young adults. Why? Because if the youth are at alike any of those I met at the Cranmer Conference, they know–instinctively–that worship should take them to another place. It should be enchanting. It should lead them to the throne of the transcendent. And having been raised in a multi-sensory world where all the senses are being engaged all the time to promote indiscriminate consumption–all the noise noise noise noise–these young people are ready for worship that engages all their senses, but refuses to collapse into crass consumerism. Oh, they know they come to consume. But they also know they come to consume a gift, something that cannot be bought. Namely, the life of the Blessed Trinity as it is communicated to them in Word and Sacrament, the means by which Christ through the power of the Spirit, is savingly present.
I left the conference encouraged. If you are 19-29, are interested in themes of worship, enchantment, and anti-consumerism, I hope you’ll consider coming to the 2013 conference! You’ll find yourself among like-minded people. By the way, the invitation is not for Anglicans or Christians only. It is for all who wish to “come and see.”
I was blessed by the opportunity to speak to this remarkable group of people over this weekend on “the politics of worship.” Beginning tomorrow, I’ll be post my sermon from yesterday’s morning Eucharist, and follow it with my talks in text format.
I hope that conference participants have a chance to reflect on what they heard and I hope that those who have yet to come to a Cranmer Conference find in them a reason to consider coming!