I mentioned the Liturgical Movement in an earlier post. Alexander Schmemann and James F. White were two of the most influential theologians of the Liturgical Movement for North American audiences and beyond. Both sought to address the problems of contemporary liturgical practice in their respective traditions, and argued ceaselessly for a return to the roots of Christian liturgical practice. I was privileged to count Jim White as a teacher and a friend.

Both were vilified by those in their churches who saw their work as a threat to the liturgical status quo. On the Orthodox side, one still hears dismissive remarks about “Schmemannism,” and I can still remember a United Methodist district superintendent sarcastically describing a United Methodist Sunday service in which the Eucharist was celebrated every Sunday as “worship a la James F. White.” The irony in both cases is that both Schmemann and White were not advocating their personal, idiosyncratic views of Christian liturgy; they were arguing for a return to the deepest sources of Christian liturgical tradition in the practice of the churches of the apostles and their successors.

The vision of neither Schmemann nor White has come close to being fulfilled. We may have renewed liturgical texts, but so much of the heart of the church’s liturgical life remains unrenewed. Texts can be changed – much more difficult to change the way the church lives its life.

Perhaps the time is coming for a second Liturgical Movement?

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