I miss the church year

One of the impoverishments of much of the free church and evangelicalism is its neglect of the church year. Last week the universal church started Lent, but if you went to your typical evangelical church, you wouldn’t know about it. Every year I miss out on Lent and tell myself I’m going to try to remember it next year. But if your community doesn’t remember it, you’re not going to remember it.

While the universal church follows a sacred calendar that takes them through the life of Christ and the life of the church and Israel, the free church cuts itself free from the pattern and goes where individual pastors take their congregation. The church year puts a congregation in touch with the wider church, both the historical church and the current worldwide church. It gives congregations a sense of going somewhere, of moving together through seasons. It makes sure we cover all the bases of the Christian story.

We were using the lectionary readings, structured around the church year, in our old house church and as much as I sometimes felt bound and restricted by them, a lot of the time they gave me structure and life.

I think there might be a small shift among evangelicals toward the church year; there are emerging church elements who embrace it. But only a small shift.

What am I going to do? I think I’m going to start using the lectionary readings for my daily Bible readings. And use what small influence I have on the evangelical world by writing this post. Pastors: why not try it? Please?

The revised common lectionary is found here: http://divinity.library.vanderbilt.edu/lectionary/ for those like me who were brought up knowing nothing about it.

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8 thoughts on “I miss the church year

  1. Hear, hear! That’s something I appreciate about my own tradition (Anglican): we have a prayerbook that means the public church service is not under the power of some johnny-come-lately who does whatever her / she wants. Some understandings of freedom can actually entail tyranny.

  2. Yes, I say most evangelicals don’t use the church year but Anglican and some Uniting evangelicals, as well as the odd Church of Christ (but never a Baptist!) do. And are probably richer for it! Whatever (good) freedom is, it’s not a total lack of structure and pattern.

  3. Hey Nathan,

    I hear you although I’d like to reinvent it a little. I heard someone once say the church year is great for the gospels, ok for the new testament and hopeless for the old testament.

  4. Hi Nathan,

    I share the same concerns as Chris about the church year. Much the same could be said about Creeds, which aren’t strong on Jesus’ life and teaching. I wonder to what extent the church year offers a helpful framework or is just one more of those Christendom vestiges?

  5. Hi Nathan — belated comment…

    If you find the Sunday lectionary and the church year interesting, you might also like the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office), if you haven’t already checked that out.

  6. Chris, Phil and Tracy – thanks for your comments!
    I actually like what it does to the OT: seems to cover all the best bits, and puts them in the context of NT hope.
    A Christendom vestige? Well not necessarily. I mean, I think the idea of having sacred time at odds with the rest of the world could be very unChristendom.
    I don’t know the Liturgy of the Hours – something I should look into.

  7. The Anglican church Dave and I are attending doesn’t follow the church year, and occasionally uses the prayer book (I looked, it does have that comment about Anabaptists at the back). Different people lead the service each week (choosing the music and readings) and the minister has his bit in the middle. It is entirely different than what I thought an Anglican church would be like, so Dave sums it up with “Sydney Anglicans” and I think the location of the church (small, unpretentious town) has a lot to do with it.

    I miss Advent- the lighting of the candles, the readings leading up to Christmas. I enjoyed following the church year when I was involved with a church that followed it.

  8. Great to hear from you Heather. Your church sounds pretty good. I don’t think Anglicans these days major on #37 or whatever it is of the articles, about property not being in common like the cursed Anabaptists. But then Anabaptists don’t tend to hold their property in common that often these days.

    Interestingly Tom Wright criticises how Anglican churches in general (but not yours!) make a big of Lent, preparing for the crucifixion, and then don’t spend the time celebrating the resurrection, which is meant to be the whole point.

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