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THE EMERGENCE OF THE EUCHARIST IN THE EMERGING CHURCH

Commentary by Roger Oakland
www.understandthetimes.org

For printer friendly version, please click here

One of the common beliefs circulating amongst the supporters of the Emergent Church is a concept called “Vintage Christianity”. According to this view, experiences effective in attracting Christians to come to church in the past should be reintroduced today in order to attract the postmodern generation who are hungry for experience.

Dan Kimball, author of the book The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generation is one of the key proponents of this idea. He firmly believes that worship must play an important role to attract post-moderns into Christianity. In a section of his book subtitled “Truly worshipping in a worship gathering,” he writes:

We should be returning to a no-holds-barred approach to worship and teaching so that when we gather, there is no doubt we are in the presence of God. I believe that both believers and unbelievers in our emerging culture are hungry for this. It isn’t about clever apologetics or careful exegetical and expository preaching or great worship bands. … Emerging generations are hungry to experience God in worship. [1]

Rob Redman, author of The Great Worship Awakening: Singing a New Song in the Postmodern Church agrees with Kimball. He has noted that churches that provide a liturgical vintage form of worship are attracting the postmodern generation. He writes:

Liturgical churches, particularly Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox, report increasing interest in traditional liturgical worship among young adults. [2]

Redman notes that as the result of this renewed interest in liturgical worship, a “worship awakening” is now underway and Protestant worship services are beginning to incorporate liturgical worship practices. He states:

A common approach to the worship awakening among Protestant churches is to create a blended service combining older and newer liturgical elements and musical styles. [3]

 

Julie Sevig, author of an article titled “Ancient New” explains how worship and other activities that stimulate the senses are attracting the post-modern generation:

Post-moderns prefer to encounter Christ by using all their senses. That's part of the appeal of classical liturgical or contemplative worship: the incense and candles, making the sign of the cross, the taste and smell of the bread and wine, touching icons and being anointed with oil. In Soul Tsunami: Sink or Swim in New Millennium Culture (Zondervan, 1999), Leonard Sweet says: "Post-moderns want a God they can feel, taste, touch, hear and smell—a full sensory immersion in the divine." [4]

In the same article, an interview with Karen Ward further describes the style of worship that is emerging in the Emerging Church:

Evangelicals are using traditions from all liturgical churches from Orthodox to Lutheran to Catholic. Though they have limited experience using their new-found symbols, rituals and traditions, they’re infusing them with vitality and spirit and life, which is reaching people. [5]

“U2-charist”

Based on what has been documented in this commentary from three different sources, it is apparent that experiential worship is an important means of attracting people who are looking for experience.

As Julie Sevig stated, people “are being reached” by sensual stimulation. However, a legitimate question needs to be asked: if they are being reached, what are they being reached for? Do they have a clear understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures? Or have they been introduced to a form of Christianity that is more experience-based than Bible-based?

Further, it is apparent that a “no-holds-barred” approach is definitely a real part of this “reaching” process.” The following article describes a “no-holds-barred” approach that is presently underway in emergent meetings as a means of reaching people:

It may not qualify as a mini-Reformation, but a Communion service driven by the music of singer Bono and his U2 bandmates is catching on at Episcopal churches across the country. The U2 Eucharist is not some kind of youth service held in the church basement but is a traditional Episcopal liturgy that uses U2's best-selling songs as hymns.

"It makes you, like, warm inside," says Bridgette Roberts, 15, who is a Roman Catholic and attended a recent U2 Eucharist at All Saints' Episcopal Church in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. "Usually at church, you love Jesus and everything. But this way you can express how you feel." Says her friend, Natalie Williams, 17: "I love Bono, and you can rock out to the music. But in church, you hear it in a different way. It's like new." [6]

U2

Eucharist

"U2-Charist"

According to the article, the Rev. Paige Blair, an Episcopal priest in York Harbor, Maine, came up with the idea for the “U2-charist.” She held the first service at her church on July 31, 2005, displaying U2's lyrics on a screen by the altar. Since then she informally has consulted with about 150 churches that have had U2 Eucharists (or are planning to) in fifteen states and seven countries. [7]

Eucharistic Evangelization

Apparently interest in Rev. Blair’s innovation to celebrate communion is catching on. Blair's church is starting what it calls a "U2-charist team" to take U2-charist evangelism on the road. [8]

I find this example of Vintage Christianity very interesting in light of what is called the New Evangelization Program. This is the program initiated by the Roman Catholic Church to win the world to the Eucharistic Christ. I am fascinated to find out that the Emerging Church vintage worship campaign is now sending out “evangelists” who are introducing post-moderns that are hungry for experience to the Eucharistic experience.                               

I would expect there will soon be many non-Catholics who will be introduced to this encounter through “U2-charist” evangelism. Many will believe this experience is new, when actually it is quite old. It is what the Roman Catholic Church has always taught that one must believe in order to be a Christian.

The Sacrament of the Eucharist

Now that the Eucharist has emerged in the Emerging Church I will make a prediction. You can expect Eucharistic evangelization to become more popular and successful. We are living in the Last Days and spiritual deception is intensifying in the name of Jesus.

 

 

 

[1]  Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generation p. 185.

[2]  Rob Redman, The Great Worship Awakening: Singing a New Song in the Postmodern Church, p.129.

[3]  Ibid., p. 197.

[4] Julie B. Sevig, The Lutheran, “Ancient New,” Online posting:
 http://www.thelutheran.org/0109/page36.html, cited September 2001.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Gary Stern, “Episcopal 'U2-charist' uses songs in service”, Online posting: http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2006-10-25-u2-churches_x.htm, cited October 25, 2006.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

 

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