success stories

Posted March 16, 2004

Book: Worship: New Century Theology
Author: Keith F. Pecklers, S.J.
Continuum, New York, pp. 234

An Excerpt from Jacket:

In Worship Keith Pecklers aims to give theologians, liturgists, clergy and laity of all denominations a new sense of the theology of liturgy. From a historical/theological treatment of the evolution of Christian worship in the west, he addresses twentieth-century liturgical reforms and emphasizes liturgy’s role in the social and moral transformation of society.

The social dimension of worship is further highlighted in chapters on popular religion and inculturation. Pecklers considers the future of Christian worship in light of a new sociological reality: the break up of the stable parish community; credible preaching within an increasingly secularized society; and the growing rift between conservatives and progressives who share membership in the same church.

An excerpt from the book:

Even where the congregations are flourishing and solvent — whether in the cities or suburbs — there is an emerging phenomenon which is unprecedented in our history. In a book written several years ago, “The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism (1998), sociologist Richard Sennett writes of a problem which is eroding family and societal bonds with major implications for parish life and worship. He speaks of a crisis of commitment due in part to a phenomenon which he calls ‘no long term’ — a by-product of the New Capitalism. In such a context, instability is presented as normal. As young professionals are forced to uproot and move their families in order to remain gainfully employed, self-identity, personal security, and strong communal bonds are threatened. The traditional sense of the neighborhood where the family was known gives way to more transitional living situations where the individual or family may or may not know the neighbors. Such work-related moves can mean perhaps three or four different schools for children over a period of eight years. This brings obvious consequences for making friends and sustaining relationships. Furthermore, there can be an underlying sense that it is not worth investing oneself or one’s family in the neighbors or the neighborhood, school system or parish, since in eighteen months or two years that household will be uprooted yet again. Thus, a relative anonymity rather than familiarity becomes normative with potential feelings of isolation or alienation. The implications for parish commitment and worship are many.

. . .In the concrete, this means that social worship leaves little room for concerns about ‘what I get out of it or ‘what’s in it for me’, so typical of consumer society. Those consumerist tendencies emphasize quantity over quality, seducing us into settling for the least common denominator when it comes to worship. Our twenty-first century culture, for example, values time-management and endeavors to accomplish tasks in the shortest time possible. Christian worship deals with God’s time and is not controlled by the clock. But we are all products of the cultural milieu. Ironically, when Christian worship is celebrated in a ‘no frills’ minimalist style on the Lord’s Day, it actually plays into the hands of a consumer culture it would normally choose to stand against. Worship itself is not practical. Indeed, we could say that it is ‘useless’ as far as the culture is concerned as it produces no marketable product, no immediate tangible results. As such, the full employment of our liturgical symbols and diversity of liturgical ministries stand as a radical and prophetic witness to God’s justice and what we long for in God’s world. Put differently, we could speak of liturgical art and liturgical symbols as matters of justice in that they stand apart from what the world values, offering us a privileged glimpse of God’s reign on this earth.

In their 1986 Pastoral Letter ... The bishops wrote:

“Worship and common prayers are the wellsprings that give life to any reflection on common economic problems and that continually call the participants to greater fidelity to discipleship. To worship and pray to the God of the universe is to acknowledge that the healing love of God extends to all persons and to every part of existence, including work, leisure, money, economic and political power and their use, and to all those practical policies that either lead to justice or impede it. Therefore, when Christians come together in prayer, they make a commitment to carry God’s love into all these areas of life.”

Table of Contents:
1. Worship and Ritual
Explores the context of Christian worship in the wider arena of human rituals and patterned ritual behavior

2. Worship in Development and Decline
Traces the earliest historical foundations of the Church’s liturgical life and worship’s gradual distancing from the laity in the Medieval Period

3. Worship in Crisis and Challenge
Examines the liturgical reforms of the Sixteenth Century Reformation and the Roman Catholic Response in the Council of Trent which inaugurated new liturgical developments

4. Worship in Transition
Presents the work of the twentieth-century pioneering efforts of the Liturgical Movement and the movement’s eventual vindication in the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council

5. Worship and Culture
Defends the importance of contextualized, inculturated worship as an essential ingredient for its credibility

6. Worship and Popular Religion
Discusses the tensions between popular devotions and liturgy with special attention to Latin American popular religiosity as a fundamental instrument in human liberation

7. Worship and Society
Advocates a more socially oriented worship where the link between liturgy and human solidarity in works of justice is both intrinsic and self-evident

8. Worship and the Future of Christianity
Raises some difficult questions about the future of Christian worship in a postmodern ethos with a host of new social problems and declining church attendance