I read a recent article about a conference
that Evangelical churches are hosting to study the ways of the ancient church to help them to be re-vitalized. The conference is predicated on the notion that non-liturgical churches are more subject to secularization because they have no connection to their "historic core." At this two-day conference they will "explore how communion, the creeds, common prayer and other ancient practices can revitalize the modern evangelical church." The conference leader, Rev. Ed Gungor, notes the loss of evangelical's roots to the ancient church and its practices and creeds. The church "has not only forgotten its past but its identity as well", referring to it as an "Alzheimer's Church." He feels that this has led to a secularization of the Church and evangelicals have become "better Americans than Christians." He also speaks about the lack of unity among evangelicals and believes that a return to the ancient practices would "supercede" the political, economic and cultural differences that separate evangelicals.
I believe that these Christian pastors are on to something big here. In a quest for unity and less secularization (more piety perhaps?) they want to pursue how the early Christians practiced their faith. Will they discover that the normative worship service of the early church was not a bible study and hymn sing, but a "breaking of the bread and the prayers" and receiving the actual body and blood of Christ?
"The Praxis Conference is an event designed to explore, collaborate, and discover how using the ancient practices of the historical church such as communion, creeds, and common prayer can actually manifest encounters with the Holy Spirit and resurrection in our local church communities." (cf conference website)
A few years ago, the Emergent Movement was a similar attempt to recreate the early Church worship by a return to burning incense, icons, liturgy and return to the concept of sacraments. Some of the emergents actually became Orthodox and Catholic in their search. As hopeful as this sounds, just reading the creeds, participating in liturgy and placing a higher prority on the Lord's Table will not guarantee unity and purity of doctrine and less secularization, but it is a start.
Evangelicals who desire unity and purity of doctrine need to come into full union with the ancient church Christ built upon Peter and his successors. Only then will the fullness of the faith be experienced through the amazing grace that is poured out in the sacraments validly celebrated in a church in communion with the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic one.
As we approach the Feast of Pentecost, the birth of the Church, let us pray for this conference
and in particular for Reverend Gungor, that the Holy Spirit will show them the path to the fullness of faith. An interesting aside, Catholic musician and worship leader, Matt Maher, will be speaking on Eucharistic Liturgy.