Mike asked in the Combox to the last post:
What is it like at your wife’s Lutheran parish? Tell us more! Would her services be fairly liturgical, solemn etc, and if so, how does the evangelisation operate in that framework?
Interestingly, my wife commented only just a couple of days ago that a visiting past pastor of the parish (now long retired after a stint as “bishop” in another district) made a comment along the lines that St Paul’s Lutheran Church at Box Hill is one of the only parishes he knows that really does evangelise through liturgy.
Through the efforts of this pastor, and his immediate successors right up to the current pastors, St Paul’s has maintained a very high level of fidelity to the best Lutheran liturgical standards. That is also due in large part to a dedicated music team, led by one of Australian Lutheranism’s best organists and his equally talented daughter. Together they have guided both the traditional and “contemporary” instrumental and choral groups of the church–which involves about 70 individuals all up.
The previous senior pastor was also an avid student of Evangelical-style church management (eg. Church Growth, Purpose-Driven Church, 12 Steps for Effective Churches etc.) which, although at times seemed to threaten the liturgical emphasis, has, over the years, melded into a situation in which the good from these approaches has been retained while most of the bad (and in some cases actually poisonous) has been rejected.
So today if you visit St Paul’s for any of their four services (usually all Eucharists) on Sunday, you will find all those “Baptist-style” welcoming elements Barry Kearney called for in the post below (eg. ” better music, choirs, more focussed welcoming, after Mass follow up for visitors and new parishioners”), coupled with unapologetically liturgical (although not always “traditional”) worship. The other important element that completes the “evangelical triangle” (so to speak) is very strong preaching and an “all-of-life” parish catechetical program.
Not everything there is to my taste–I am, after all, a Catholic and not a Lutheran! The services are sometimes a little too wordy–a bit of liturgy and then everything stops for an announcement or a children’s address or a special focus and then a bit more liturgy etc. This can make the services very long, with communion finally coming after a service of the word that has lasted an hour. (My wife once commented after attending a rural Catholic mass that she sometimes appreciates the no-nonsense approach of Catholics: “you go there, you do the liturgy, you go home”). But it seems to “work”.
Lesson for the average Catholic parish?
1) Take the practical suggestions that Barry makes in the post below seriously. A good welcome and open hearted hospitality, clear directions during the liturgy, a clear and legible bulletin, easy access to the parish office and ministry, good follow up for visitors, etc. How hard is it to put up clear signs to the toilets?
2) Avoiding the “baptistification” of the liturgy, but make it the best Catholic liturgy possible. Put real emphasis on the musical side of the liturgy.
3) Undergird everything with strong and faithful preaching and teaching.