September 08, 2003
Preaching and teaching

In the comments to yesterday's post, Tom made an interesting point:

One difference between Catholics and some Protestants might be captured by saying that Protestants have "pre-sermon readings" and Catholics have "post-Gospel homilies." Preaching is much less important to the Mass than it is to a lot of the Protestant worship services, as is shown for example by the fact that a sermon or homily isn't required at a daily (i.e., non-Sunday, non-feastday) Mass.

That's true, although I don't think it's a Protestant thing so much as an evangelical / fundamentalist thing. The two mainline Protestant churches I've attended were similar that way to the Catholic service.

In Christian Assembly there is no formal Gospel reading. The sermon incorporates quotes that are printed in the service leaflets, which sometimes the pastor has us all read together, but it's all pretty unpredictable. The sermon is a much bigger part of the service, going on for 20 or 30 minutes.

Although CA's pastor is, fortunately, not an egotist, you can see how the whole "star preacher" phenomenon that gave rise to televangelism can come from this. Ironically, this subculture has sometimes undone the formal power structure of Catholicism and mainline Protestantism only to replace it with pastoral despotism. Telford has written before about the difficulties of teaching students from churches where whatever the pastor says is treated as dogma.

Although CA didn't fall into that, thank God, I must say one thing I like about the more old-fashioned liturgies is that they give the laity more to do. I guess the concept in Pentecostalism is "do what the Spirit moves ya," but this mostly ends up with people not doing much of anything after the singing's over.

Posted by Camassia at September 08, 2003 10:27 AM | TrackBack

If you really want something to do, try an Exposition and Benediction liturgy. You stand, you kneel, you have almost as many lines as the priest, you sing along in Latin to a tune you're expected to somehow know, and then in the middle of it ... silence. You look at God, and God looks at you.

Other plusses: more gold per unit time (and the whole liturgy is shorter) than the typical Catholic Mass; likely to be incense; unlikely to be noisy kids.

Posted by: Tom on September 8, 2003 11:49 AM
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