Thursday, 29 May 2008

The Difference Going to church Makes in My Life Part II: To Be Engaged not Entertained

I don't go to church to be entertained as such. I go to church to be engaged. There is a difference, and it is important. In the entertainment industry there is a star up front, with an audience who do not actually participate, but watch. The purpose of the entertainment is fun through distraction, or even worse, manipulation and 'bread and circuses'. Entertainment usually provides less space for the imagination, and engages the senses of sight and sound, but usually in an overwhelming manner. And the entertainment industry is slick, without the still, small voice. (See 1Kings 19:13) Some churches attempt to match their worship to this cultural expectation. Funnily enough, their capitulation to culture on this grand scale seems to go unacknowledged, and they are often the churches that accuse other churches of capitulation to the world on sexual ethics!

Traditional liturgy is not entertainment. In comparison to the entertainment industry it might be boring; and maybe that is not a bad thing. It should be engaging though. And it should provide imaginative and emotional space, time to think and respond, and give a means to do so. It should engage all the senses, but in no way overwhelm them. Even the sixth sense should be attended to in the liturgy. And liturgy should have a structure, most certainly not be manipulative, but rather through the structure of the liturgy open up 'space' to encounter God and glimpse the self, and get an intuition that something deeper is going on in our lives and the life of the world.


  1. I wonder whether you might be related to the patronal saint of lost causes. That's not to say I disagree with you on this, because I do agree with much of what you're saying here. However I'm not sure whether it's possible to be engaged by something that's boring. But perhaps,on reflection I'm wrong, because I can recall being bored and angered - which I suppose counts as engagement of a sort, though perhaps not the sort toward which you're pointing. I do, however, take your main point, which is that worship is not about entertainment. Though I think we're probably in a minority.

  2. My pedigree does not extend to the realm of the saintly! But anyway, engagement should not include too much boredom. (Sometimes, if what is on offer is engaging, and we are bored, there is something to learn.)Our churches are too boring agreed. Although, if we can pull ourselves together, I reckon there will be a shift away from surface entertainment for many people looking for something deeper. Doesn't mean they won't like superficial entertainment at times, just want something else as well. So I reckon we should whip ourselves into shape ready for it.

  3. As a younger person, from my own experience and to those I've talked to of my own age. The issue with the liturgy is not so much that people find it boring. It is that they sense a lack of integrity. There is a huge difference when the Priest that is celebrating actually believes the words that they are speaking. When there is a passion in saying them. Its one thing to go through actions and words. It is another thing completely to believe what you are saying and doing.

    To go to a form of entertainment people said that the victorian vs. dream team football game was boring. It was though when you read what they were saying because the Dream team lacked passion and an integrity in what they represented.

    Now I agree the liturgy is not a form of entertainment. However, if we do not believe the words that we are saying or the movements we are making what is the point.

    Our society uses the word boring to mean lacked integrity and lacked passion.

    Being boring is one thing but lacking integrity and passion is something far worse for us as a church.