The New Liturgist Is Not That New


Works of pride, by self-called creators, with their premium on originality, reduce the Creation to novelty, the faint surprises of minds incapable of wonder.

Pursuing originality, the would-be creator works alone. In loneliness one assumes a responsibility for oneself that one cannot fulfill.

Novelty is a kind of loneliness.

-Wendell Berry

By Berry’s definition, I lean lonely. Like many of my peers, I have become enthralled with what is new and novel, as in never been before. It’s an audacious thought when you consider that the human condition means for all of us a similar epic of pride, love, finitude, need, failure—and such a limited language by which we may express these shared experiences.

A relentless individualist, however, I have spent a good part of my life seeking out unique forms and discarding the usual, boring ones. Could we get some alternatives to “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health”? I wonder as I sit through weddings. It’s not only rote, I want to say, you’re talking a fifty percent success rate on those promises.

To believe that uniqueness alone will add meaning to the spiritual life is as superficial as assuming that by writing your own vows, the marriage will stick. Unusual is no adhesive. Not only that; the pursuit of unfettered originality is in the best case, a distraction and in the worst, an estrangement from the wisdom God has revealed to those who have come before us. Concerning the faith journey, there actually are some roads tried and true. We would do well not to waste our energy trying to forge new ways, when instead we may find an abundance of creativity, newness and risk on existing paths.

Over New Years I became re-resolute: I will give up trying to be “new under the sun” in favor of doing the clichés well.

With this in mind,  I couldn’t be more pleased with Tim Keel’s lastest sermon series The Good Life, in which he asks, “What are the ways the faithful have engaged God for centuries, millennia?”

In the coming weeks, join me in tuning in as Tim discusses the Church’s ancient commitments Prayer, Rest, Community and Work.

Here’s a link to the first week on Prayer. (Sermon begins around the 4 minute mark.)

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  • Sandy Carter

    Jan 21, 2014 - Reply

    Beautifully said! And I’m so happy to see this thought expressed…after having traveled many roads in my walk with the Lord, I, too, have learned to take great comfort in the thoughts and shared words and practices of that “great cloud of witnesses”…

    • Elizabeth Perry

      Jan 21, 2014 - Reply

      Thank you, Sandy! In knowing you and your girls, I can certainly say that you too are one of those witnesses for us. Bless you!

  • Bruce Nuffer

    Jan 21, 2014 - Reply

    Concerning your phrase, “…an estrangement from the wisdom God has revealed to those who have come before us,” I wonder, by extension, how that relates to those around us today? In other words, do we as Christians need to experience community because of the wisdom God has revealed to those around us? Is skipping church similar to skipping prayer time, or scripture reading, in that it prohibits God from speaking to us in a manner proved throughout history? We value independence and personal space as much as we value originality–perhaps they are two different ways of displaying the same post-modernist impulses.

    • Elizabeth Perry

      Jan 21, 2014 - Reply

      So true, Bruce. I think “I’m spiritual but not religious” or “Christ but not church” arguments foster a narcissus and isolation very prevalent among the post-everything generation. I love the quote by Julian of Norwich, “I look at God, I look at you, and I look at God again.” Truly portions of his likeness are waiting to be revealed to us in our neighbor.

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