>A Christian Hipster reflects on G-pack’s Liturgy at New Life

Posted: 29/03/2010 in church, glenn packiam

>I went to a church service in Jesusland* and I liked it.

I am on my final spring break of the combined times of College and Supra-college. I am spending a good chunk of it in Colorado Springs (Jesusland), CO. Since yesterday was Palm Sunday, I knew I was going to be in church. On Sunday morning, I went to an Episcopalian service with an Episcopalian friend. Later, I was spending time with some quality folk that Sunday. This included a few friends from Azusa Pacific.

I wound up going to New Life, for their evening service. It was run by Glenn Packiam -G-pack, if you will- who is incorporating the Book of Common Prayer, the Nicene Creed, and Readings of scripture into the standard, de facto mega-church liturgy. This is a bold move for G-pack, since many people in that tradition consider the “t-word” and the “l-word” the rote incantations of those who don’t rely on the Holy Spirit or whatever. G-Pack has written a nice explanation and defense of what he is doing. I applaud him for his efforts and bravery.

The net result of the service was an interesting concoction. For the New-Life regulars, this was an unfamiliar, and strange addition to what they are used to. For me and other high churchgoers it seemed an odd dilution of the order of worship that we are used to. Reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the Nicene Creed is not new to me. Those are what I hear every Sunday. It is not the new addition to the service time. It is the heart of the service time.

G-pack read prayers of confession from the Book of Common prayer. Everyone prayed the Lord’s Prayer in a Lectio Divina style. This is clearly not normal of a mega-church, and I think it is a good move. Evangelicalism suffers from doctrinal apathy, historical amnesia, and sometimes presumptuous view of the Holy Spirit. What G-pack does will no doubt help with all these maladies. After all, Evangelicals should not have to go to a Christian college to learn where Christology came from.

Alas though, my high church sensibilities still prevented me from taking communion, though it was offered. The Sacrament of communion was still handled according to the standard liturgy of evangelicalism. The bread and the wine where placed on several different tables out at the periphery of the worship center. Everyone wandered out to them and took them on their own. After that, everybody took the sacrament and then listened to G-pack, who stood center stage. This is a very sharp contrast: the Minister in the center under the spotlight, and the bread and wine lurking by the door way in the shadows.

I do not know what G-pack things on this last issue, but this manner of handling communion will always be odd to those of us deeply ingrained and sympathetic to high church liturgy. When we see take the bread and the wine, we do not feel that we are merely doing a remembrance. We feel that we are touching the the literal, physical, presence of Christ. Because of this, it is odd that the literal physical presence of Christ would be literally and physically on the periphery of the Church. If we are going to the Church for the communion, it is odd that a minister’s “talk” (what is formally known as a “sermon”) would be central with Christ casually placed beyond the back pews. Even if I suspend my commitment to the real presence, it still seems odd that a sacrament could ever play second fiddle to a sermon on the same Sunday.

Please understand, this last bit is not a criticism of G-pack or New Life. If I am not in a church that is committed to the real presence in the bread and wine, I can’t very well fault them for not acting like it. Yet still, I feel that Christians that really understand the traditions that G-pack wants to bring to New Life are generally also committed to a very serious and very privileged view of communion. It will be hard, even after many years, to imagine New Life changing in such a way that it can accommodate this aspect of high church liturgy. What G-pack will do is anyone’s guess.

For now though. God bless new life and God bless Glenn Packiam.

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