I’ve been conversing with a friend of mine about the question of how the clergy themselves are able to worship when they are involved with so many aspects of the Sunday service. Although my friend belongs to a mainline Protestant church, I think the issue he raises can be found among clergy of a wide range of Christian traditions.

A standard definition of liturgy is “the work of the people,” an idea rooted in the Greek word leitourgia. Unfortunately, what is the offering of praise and worship to God by the entire body of Christ has too often become merely an event to attend and observe. A show where the church’s members expect to see the clergy do “their thing.” That is, to do the work of worship for them.

In a sense this is understandable. Clericalism is deeply-rooted in the church. In addition, worship often is thought of largely in terms of things that are usually thought to take professional training (such as preaching, exegesis, playing and leading music).

There’s also the issue of the basic meaning of a professional clergy for the spiritual life of the church. The existence of a professional clergy can – and has – fostered the expectation that they are the ones paid to be “religious” and embody the practices and values that rightly belong to all church members.

There is also in some traditions an unfortunate confluence of revivalism and secular traditions of spectacle and entertainment that shape expectations of what one expects of worship. Thus clergy become alchemists of religious experience, expected to construct worship that will produce the desired (and expected) feelings.

No wonder that in such a liturgical setting it would be difficult if not impossible for clergy to feel that they too are able to worship God.

I don’t mean this post to do anything but muse a little on this problem, and maybe also to sketch the direction of future posts about it. So briefly . . .

First and foremost, there is the matter of the clergy’s own spiritual life in general, and of how their liturgical role or roles form part of that life – or not. More fundamentally, we need to ask how clericalism has eroded and even destroyed the spiritual life of clergy.

There are deep liturgical issues at work here too.  Not simply questions about what worship is all about, but also about the relationships between worship and the nature of the church.  I also wonder about how deeply the liturgical movement really took root in the churches. Not just the Protestant churches, but in the Orthodox church as well.  Was all that work for naught?

There are wider issues of spirituality, ascetical theology, whatever you want to call it – but I need to think further before I can formulate something more precise.

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