Episcopalians: old-style service drawing young crowd

Here is an interesting article from ljworld, the Lawrence Journal, about an Episcopalian church returning to a traditional… actually Roman… style liturgy and drawing in young people.  Big surprise!

My emphases and comments.

Archive for Saturday, August 29, 2009
Mass appeal: Old-style service drawing young crowd

By Sarah Henning

August 29, 2009

When introducing a new service these days, most churches seem to go the rock ‘n’ roll route — something new to bring in a younger crowd.

To say that Trinity Episcopal Church went in another direction might be a bit of an understatement.

When the church decided to add a new service in fall 2006, instead of looking forward, it looked back.

Way back. As in the fourth century[fourth?]

The result is a unique celebration of Christianity referred to as the Solemn High Mass[WOW! A "unique celebration"?  Where on earth did they get this thing!?]  A mystical [Okay… clearly the writer isn’t all that knowledgable about this Solemn High Mass thing, but the "mystical" hits it right on the head.] meeting of old traditions in a setting where blue jeans and T-shirts are appropriate, [QUAERITUR: Are jeans and T-shirts "appropriate" in this context?]  the Sunday night service features incense, music and what the church, 1011 Vt., refers to as all of the “major propers” including the Kyrie Eleison, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Credo, the Sanctus and Benedictus and the Agnus Dei, which are chanted. 

Performed only during the Kansas University school year, the service, which began its 2009-2010 season last Sunday evening, has snagged a crowd young and old, Episcopalian and not, says the Rev. Paul McLain, the church’s curate.

“You’ll see some students here tonight, of course, a lot students in the choir,” McLain says before the first service of the year, which drew about 50 people to Mass and the free dinner that follows it each week. “But then you’ll see members of the congregation in all age groups, who have been attracted to the service and many newcomers. And we have people who drive in from as far away as Kansas City because it is such a unique service.”  [I believe these "unique services"… the real thing… are available in KC.]

A tradition using tradition

Solemn High Mass was introduced to Trinity in 2006 by its former rector, the Rev. Jonathon Jensen. Before leaving in June for his current post at the Trinity Cathedral in Little Rock, Ark., Jensen described his thoughts behind the addition of the old-style service this way: “We wanted to create something new that was different from what other places could offer in Lawrence. Lots of churches in Lawrence do contemporary worship, and that’s wonderful, but this is a 150-year-old downtown church that looks like an old English church and we have a fantastic organ and a wonderful chorale tradition, and we know what we can do best. And it’s not contemporary. It’s that (old style). And, so, we wanted to have this distinct offering.”  [Want to revive a church where the demographics are shifting?]

Hooked right away was KU junior Ryan Hood, who, though raised in a different faith tradition, was quite enamored with the formal style of the service when he first attended as a freshman at the university.

“It is a totally different way for people like me who sort of enjoy the higher style of churching  [Maybe not an English major…] — this is the highest style,” says Hood, attending in a white T-shirt and jeans. “I’ve been to a lot of churches around, and almost no church in the area that I’ve been to does things with as high, sort of formal, style as this is done. It’s very rare. It’s uncommon. Even most Catholic churches don’t do it in high style.”  [Indeed, Ryan, that is the case.]

Impacting the senses

The formality and style come from the service’s substance. Much of the service is sung or chanted by the choir, celebrant or congregation, including the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. Communion is given to the congregation in a kneel [Again… the writer is clearly interested in this story, but isn’t too familiar with the language, the ethos.] every Sunday night. The smell of incense is present throughout the ceremony with a thurifer swinging it down the aisle during specific portions of the Mass.

“I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the idea that it uses all your senses — it just sort of inundates you with things,” Hood says. “This thing encourages you to smell and to taste, to touch and to see and to hear and just sort of be flooded with … the presence of God and the presence of everything that we care about. Yeah, it really gets you involved on a totally different level than most services do.[The same point can be made about most Catholic churches.]

That difference was felt immediately by the Rev. Ronald Pogue, the church’s interim rector. He was a novice at the execution of a Solemn High Mass, though he says he was excited at the opportunity to be at a church that offers such a service. He believes such a Mass is important to the future of the church — even though it’s such an old style.  [Especially because…]

“We have noticed a growing interest in ancient or meditative liturgies, particularly among the 18-30 year old age cohort. It’s one aspect of the emerging global cultural shift that is taking place,” Pogue says. “I am proud of Trinity Church in Lawrence and Father Jensen for taking this important step in opening the doors a bit wider to include those who are seeking a service like this.”

Some corners of the imploding Episcopalian world are sensing the right direction.

Why don’t more Catholics?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Thomas S says:

    “Some corners of the imploding Episcopalian world are sensing the right direction.

    Why don’t more Catholics?”

    More is a relative term. Of course we could always use more Catholics embracing Tradition, but I don’t think we take a back seat to Episcopalians when it comes to this. I’d say we outpace them in taking the right direction in both raw numbers and percentage of the whole. We still have a ton of work to do, but it’ll be a picnic compared to what the Episcopalians have to do.

  2. AM says:

    I used to be Anglican. Now I belong to the Church Catholic, thank God.

    It’s all very well to “embrace Tradition” – but since the sacred liturgy is focused on the Sacrifice of Christ at Calvary, made sacramentally present by the ritual, and since the Anglicans cannot do this, their use of all the ritual practices, bowings, chants, genuflections, etc., are useless, not to mention formal idolatry.

  3. Oleksander says:

    “Some corners of the imploding Episcopalian world are sensing the right direction.

    Why don’t more Catholics?”

    I would say Father because when it comes to music and liturgies Anglicans have taste unlike the intelligentsia of the English speaking Catholic world. Probably has to do with the English being a traditional bunch, at least historically.

    I am friends with an Anglican and besides being the smartest dresser i’ve ever met his taste in liturgical music and liturgies is very good and i love looking through his liturgical book collections.

  4. Traductora says:

    Poor Piskeys! I get them as visitors at our Catholic Cathedral and they are always so sad. They tell me how they love their traditional liturgy…but their church doesn’t believe anything anymore and they don’t know what to do. A pretty liturgy doesn’t make up for a lack of orthodox faith. They’ve been telling themselves for years that it does, but more and more of them, as their church goes further and further off the rails, are beginning to realize that it doesn’t.

  5. Jacob says:

    Father, I got the sense that the author of that article was wanting to write an article about just another new form ‘praise and worship’ type service and was left grasping for vocabulary to describe it all.

  6. RR says:

    The experience of the Episcopal Church is also instructive as a caution. Episcopalians have generally far outstripped Catholics over the last few decades in terms of traditional worship. In music, vestments, preservation of the sanctuary (almost all still have altar rails and kneel for communion), and the words of the liturgy, the Episcopal Church has maintained tradition in a way that would make the Novus Ordo seem very FutureChurch.

    However, the Episcopal Church has generally organized itself around the unifying element of beautiful liturgy. It has not done so with respect to theology or discipline–hence the disaster it has fomented within itself and the Anglican Communion. Some of the most resolutely traditional Episcopal parishes are also highly liberal. For example, Christ Episcopal Church in New Haven, CT, or St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, PA. Both were quite orthodox and Anglo-Catholic at times in their history, but no longer. You can hear great music from the Renaissance, the gospel chanted, orthodox prayers, etc. most Sundays. Christ Church even retains its rood screen, has a Marian shrine, and a confessional in the back of the sanctuary.

    The lesson to be learned here is that liturgy is important, but it is not enough. If it becomes a substitute for the more difficult work of theology and discipline, it can even be a bit of a Trojan horse–feeding the flock apple pie that feels like the strength of the wisdom of the ages but is just a wink-and-nod.

  7. drea916 says:

    I find that not only are there lots of young people that are flocking to tradition. I also find that tradition attracts a lot more MEN than the hand holding/rock music Mass/worship. As a single Catholic woman, that is much appreciated! :)

  8. Jacob: You are probably right.

  9. servusmariaen says:

    I think the lesson to be learned here is that beauty, reverence and transcendence are more important than many (maybe most) who are in authority in Holy Mother Church are willing to admit (the holy Father and a few bishops & priests aside). We’ve been wandering in a desert with low church liturgies of mediocracy for 40 years. Yes, a beautiful liturgy is NOT enough in itself but it’s more important than many realise or are willing to admit. My problem is that I know that the Novus Ordo can be offered in continuity with tradition accompanied by orthodox preaching and beautiful music but let’s be honest how often is that the case? I’ve been to maybe 3 places in my 43 years that this was the case. Such places are like far flung islands few and far between. Just this morning I stood by while the congregation sang “Jesus in morning, Jesus in the evening, Jesus when the sun goes down”. Paul VI sent out a booklet of Chant “Jubilate Deo” in 1974 as a “personal gift” to all the bishops of the world. A collection of basic chants that all Catholics should know. I never knew anything about it until 2 years ago. I guess his “personal gift” wasn’t really appreciated (probably ignored). I think people are starving for the beauty of holiness. They are starving to death for transcendence and instead have been given stones for 40 years. The question I keep asking myself is why? Father Bryan Houghton the Anglican convert priest who resigned his parish and went into retirement rather then say the new Mass in 1969, wrote in “Mitre & Crook” regarding the Novus Ordo Missae: “I might be prepared to look at a new Mass form if it magnified God still more and exalted him still higher; if it lowered man still further in the imagination of his heart; if the mysteries appeared more woundrous and the doctrines more luminous; if the language was more noble and the images grander. But look what we have been given: the avacuation of mystery, and ambiguity of doctrine; the flattest of images in pidgin vernacular.” I think there is a tendancy among we Roman Catholics to scoff at Anglo Catholics with their beautiful music, smoke & reverent liturgies as “apeing” true Catholic worship instead of just appreciating their attempt toward the beauty of holiness while Sunday after Sunday, year after year, decade after decade the great majority of Catholics must suffer through irreverent “banal on the spot products” to use the Holy Father’s description of the Novus Ordo. Even priests who try to be obedient to the rubric and courageously attempt to offer Holy Mass in a spirit of continuity and tradition with Ad Orientem, using communion rails etc have little or no support from their bishops or are told to “cease and desist” as i read earlier this week. There is something very wrong with this picture.

  10. DavidinWA says:

    All I can say is that my great-great-great-grandfather, Rev. Charles Reynolds, who in 1857 did the first service at (what would become) Trinity Church in Lawrence, KS must be smiling at least a little more now. It’s at least a step in the right direction.

  11. dgj23112 says:

    Just a few thoughts from a former Anglo-Catholic who’s still working through letting go of his love of the king’s (queen’s?) English……
    Is it sad that the traditional liturgy of the Anglican Communion done in the “High” style is now touted as something new?? Oh my, you’ve no idea….but, hope springs eternal….even if the sacraments aren’t licit. There remains real power and strength in the prayers, none-the-less. Many (MANY) Anglican and R/C clergy would do well to just pray the prayers after really reading, studying, and inwardly digesting them…..(it’s true…one really doesn’t have to have “smells, bells, and holy water sprinklers” to bridge the gap between the temporal and the heavenly.) That said, (and with the admission of being much influenced by a semi-retired organist/choirmaster mother), traditional liturgy coupled with really good liturgical music and hymns (reguiring the full participation of the congregation as well)…….what more can one ask for???
    Betcha by this point I sound like one of those “snooty ex-Episcopalians who complains about everything instead of just accepting Rome, warts and all”, right??? Truth be told, if I wanted garbage liturgy, why would I have left???
    If you’re seriious about “outreach” or “evangelism” or whatever buzz-word is currently in vogue, the get really serious about
    a.) promoting the growth of Pastoral Provision congregations, or, at least, services using the B.D.W.; as well as:
    b.) promoting the furtherance of the T.L.M..
    Surely there must be a large number of really smart folk in the hierarchy who could connect the dots here.

  12. medievalist says:

    drea 916: “I also find that tradition attracts a lot more MEN than the hand holding/rock music Mass/worship.”

    Men don’t sing, don’t hold hands, and definitely don’t dance…hence Tradition works quite well. As a young Catholic man I can say from experience that I any many of my friends find Tradition much more appealing. Ever wonder why the most progressive OF parishes are full of graying ladies (with all respect due to them) who leave their husbands at home?

  13. Hidden One says:


    I find us men quite willing to chant, however, so long as nobody’s going to find problematic a lack of skill or of a good voice.

  14. RR says:

    medievalist: Nail meet hammer. Hand holding during prayers is so hippy.

  15. Bthompson says:

    I had a similar interesting experience last week. My seminary (Theological College at CUA) invited a gaggle of protestant seminarians over for dinner and ecumenical discussion. Among other things, one issue we discussed was the huge surge of young people especially–but also some middle age and older folk–flocking toward more traditional worship aesthetics if not traditional rituals as well.
    It was intriguing for me that these Lutheran and Episcopalian seminarians (the majority of which were female) were speaking passionately about their strong feminist ideals, and in the next breath were lauding the solemn high liturgies of their tradition (those two things are not mutually exclusive, of course, but not often thought of together). We all arrived at the same conclusions why, though: we live in a world where we are increasingly isolated and confronted with a materialist (as in no transcendence) paradigm, and more traditional and liturgical worship helps us to have a distinct experience of the transcendent which we desire but find no access to in the world (indeed we are discouraged from seeking it. Indeed, even new age type stuff is ultimately very immanent).
    I was even a little amazed when one of the episcopalian women was recounting how she has been trying to convince her rector purchase a monstrance for them, I didn’t even know Episcopalians did adoration! But anyway, there is something about the transcendence and immense eloquence of ritual action–especially when the worshiper is well catechized in what it means–that fulfills the hungers of the human heart in a way that satisfies it more than the “warm fuzzies” of cheap sentimentalism.

  16. mpm says:


    As an Amen to your post, I found this sentence from a learned Oxford Anglo-Cathloic priest on his blog very funny, and insightful. I’m sure we all know who “Rowan” is.

    “Naive fools, we were surprised that nobody ‘on the other side’ read our book (except, perhaps, for about three people, two of whom was Rowan).”

  17. Oleksander says:


    Dont worry you dont sound like a snooty ex-Episcopalian, I am not sure if you are Catholic or not but either way you personally have a right to have a beautiful Catholic liturgy, I would even say Christ expects beautiful things be given to him whether it is the design of churches or Masses.

  18. “Some corners of the imploding Episcopalian world are sensing the right direction.

    Why don’t more Catholics?”

    Father, I think (and pray) that we will continue moving in the right direction in the Church over the coming decades. Most especially, I think the changes will accelerate as more and more orthodox and traditional young priests start to become pastors of their own parishes.

    It’s been my experience over the past few years that the vast majority of American Catholics do not fall into either the traditional liturgy camp (as most of us do here) or the liberal/NCR/Commonweal camp that enjoys clowns, puppets, liturgical dance and Marty Haugen songs. Most American Catholics do not study or delve more deeply into these issues. Instead, they simply accept what they are being given at their own parish and assume that the pastor and the Church is giving them what they need.

    As more parishes gradually move to more chant, more Latin, more beauty and reverence in the liturgy, I believe the majority of Catholics will accept it and will be better off for it. There will always been a very vocal minority that will resist and cause a stir over it. However, I believe the “reform of the reform” and a move back to more solemn liturgy is inevitable in the U.S. in the coming decades.

    In my own parish, the pastor has made several changes over the past few years and has met little or no resistsance. We now have new stained-glass windows of the Apostles and important saints (to replace weird abstract images of stained glass from the 1970’s that were installed in the Church). We’ve added statutes of Mary and Joseph in prominent locations. We’ve added a beautiful traditional mosaic of the Holy Trinity on the once barren wall behind the sanctuary. The tabernacle has been moved to a high platform directly behind the altar and in a position of prominence. The once wooden altar has been replaced with a marble altar. Even our music director has added more hymns from 200 and 300 years ago (rather than 20 and 30 years ago) and has increased the amount of Latin in the music in our parish.

    And wouldn’t you know it, our parish has added nearly 500 families and over 1,100 parishioners total over the past 2 years….amazing coincidence, isn’t it? So, in summary, I think these changes are in the hands of our young priests and our future priests. By educating their parishioners, by explaining the importance, and by mandating the changes in their parishes, we will regain the beauty of Catholic liturgy….it’s happening, but not as quickly as some of us would hope (still an awful lot of “spirit of Vatican II” priests in charge in many of our parishes…but they’re in their 50’s and the 60’s and won’t be around forever).

  19. laurazim says:

    My family belongs to the cathedral parish of our diocese. No matter if the Bishop is saying Mass or not, there is an awesome sense of reverence. From the music, which includes Latin chants when possible, to the candles and Crucifix on the Altar, to the legions of young men who flock to serve (usually between 8 and 12 boys, seldom fewer, and often many more)–they get there early so that they get the right size cassock (!!), to the solemn procession with incense and candles to the ambo for the Gospel reading, to the even brighter procession of incense and candles at the Sanctus…ad infinitum…and this is a NO Mass!

    Before things were done this way in our parish, we were the only family with children. Now there are so many families and so many children that we don’t all fit in the (rather large) Narthex afterward. Part of it is the beautifl liturgy and the understanding of the importance it carries. I think the bulk of it, though, is the solid words coming to us in the homilies. Sound preaching with careful attention to catechetical accuracy is a huge draw. I tend to disagree that liturgy isn’t highly important…I’ve attended Mass in other parishes where the preaching is sound but the poorly executed liturgy and rock’n’roll “worship team” music is so distracting that the homily is barely memorable.

    Brick by brick.

  20. Mark R says:

    Oddly enought, (or not) the Pastoral Provision is not at all popular in England. Most English Catholic converts are very happy with the Novus Ordo, which until recently was offered quite broadly in Latin. (I suspect there may be a suspicion of externals among Catholic converts from Anglicanism because of the hyper external orientation of Anglicanism.)

  21. Mark R says:

    Oops. Strike the “t” in “enought”.

  22. Girgadis says:

    Before I came to my senses and returned to the Catholic church, I attended a
    variety of Episcopal churches, the last of which referred to itself as
    Anglo-catholic. Interestingly, in this place that seemed so sacred and on
    which there was such emphasis on reverence and tradition, the theology and
    discipline could not have been more liberal. I remember attending Evensong
    and Benediciton on the feast of St. Francis and being struck by the possibility
    that the monstrance contained nothing but a wafer. It was definitely when I
    started to seriously question the validity of an Episcopal mass in terms of the
    Real Presence. With all their incense, Latin chant, and vestments including
    maniples and black vestments for requiem masses, I could see that it was all
    window dressing. It’s great that young Episcopalians are migrating toward a
    high, more traditional service but does it mean anything when their church has
    all but canonized Gene Robinson, and the dean of one of their divinity schools
    thinks abortion is a blessing? In my case, I began to see that the beauty of
    the service seemed geared more toward the entertainment of the congregation rather
    than sincere worship of God.

  23. Agnes says:

    RR wrote, “The lesson to be learned here is that liturgy is important, but it is not enough. If it becomes a substitute for the more difficult work of theology and discipline, it can even be a bit of a Trojan horse—feeding the flock apple pie that feels like the strength of the wisdom of the ages but is just a wink-and-nod.”

    Absolutely. I grew up at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral with all the trappings of good liturgy, music and architecture, but the meat and potatoes of good doctrine were clearly absent. Now it’s just a place for mink coats and homosexuals to feel holy. At least it laid the foundation for me to be open to a place like St. Agnes and for that, I’m very grateful.

    Good liturgy and good catechesis absolutely must go hand in hand.

  24. The University of Kansas’s Catholic center (aptly named “St. Lawrence”) is a rare example of orthodoxy in collegiate Catholicism. (An example of the TLM being offered on campus here: http://www.st-lawrence.org/pictures/st_lawrence_center_mass.jpg)

    Small wonder that the illustrius Clear Creek Monks trace their origin to the KU (http://www.ewtn.com/library/SPIRIT/zmonastthous.htm) with Lawrence, Kansas’ tradition-friendly denziens.

    The TLM isn’t a regular occasion at the St. Lawrence Center at the University of Kansas. But when they offered their first TLM in a couple decades back in 2007, within the year, the Jayhawks won the NCAA men’s basketball championship.

    Rock Chalk!

  25. bobw45 says:

    You are correct, Father. Kansas City has the diocesan approved Anglican use Mass at St. Teresa of the Little Flower Church, 58th & Euclid, Kansas City, Mo. The Mass is every Sunday at 11:15 AM.

  26. stpetric says:

    Actually, the undergraduate quoted misuses the word, but “churching” is indeed good English. [You think so?] It’s a liturgy in the traditional Books of Common Prayer, for blessing a woman in the church after childbirth; and it’s called “The Churching of Women”. [yes… we know these things]

  27. The other day I was sick, very sick, in fact I was bed ridden. My friend decided to go and get a doctor for me. He brought in my next door neighbor. My next door neighbor is a painter. He was wearing a white code and that had paint on it and had plastic bottles filled with kool-aid. He told me to drink the kool-aid and call him if I was still sick.

    Well, I was none too happy so I told the both to leave and not to come back until they had a real doctor with them. The two came back with a guy who looked like a real doctor. He had gray hair, had the proper white coat and even a stethoscope. He had some little jars of different colored liquid labeled as various medicines that came out of the typical doctor’s house call bag. He looked me over and gave me some medicine and told me that if I was still sick to call him back the next day. I was just about at ease and was ready to do as the “doctor” ordered when I thought to ask him where he went to medical school.

    “Oh, well … I’m not really a real doctor” he said “I just play one on TV. I have a lot of fans.”

    I had to get out of bed, and even as I almost died, go across town on my own to find a real doctor who could treat me. No a painter, not an actor, not an abortionist, A Real Doctor.

    And so what is the lesson here?

    Your average protestant preacher, even in the Anglican Church is no more than a painter in a white coat pretending to be a doctor and offering his patients kool-aid.

    A protestant who tries to act traditional is like the actor. He has the right look. He has the right dress and equipment. He has the right medical jargon. He even has bitter tasting stuff in little jars that comes out of a doctor’s house call bag. He looks totally real and yet is still totally fake. His medicine is nothing but bitter water with food coloring in it, it can’t heal me.

    A Catholic priest is the real doctor. He probably has the right look and the right equipment and the right jargon but even if he didn’t it wouldn’t matter, he can heal me and get me the medicine I need. Most real doctors look like real doctors, but even in the cases of those that don’t look it, they are still real.

    I would hope to see the day when most priest again look like real priest and behave as a real priest should all the time but even in the cases where they mess up a bit, even in the cases where they look like a homeless guy off the street they are still far more real than the actor with all the right looks. Ecclesia Supplet.

    As a teenager I was invited by my foster parents to go with them to an anglican service. I went once. My plan was to go with them to shut them up and then as soon as it was over (I was hoping for a one hour service) I would hope across the street to the Catholic Church and go to the Mass that would be just starting.

    As things would turn out, this anglican church was very traditional and even had a little Latin mixed in to the songs they sung. It looked a lot like Mass. But instead of making me comfortable, that just made me more angry with my foster parents for dragging me to this thing. No matter how traditional and “christian” they tried to look, it was all so ridiculous that I almost laughed out loud at them.

    The really bad part was that since they had no idea what so ever of what they were doing they had to try to make it have meaning by over doing it with exaggerated motions and gyrations. The “mass” took two hours.

    When it was over I saw across the street that the Real Mass had also ended. The anglican guy in a fake priest’s robe asked me how I liked the service and I said I hated it since I missed Mass. He said “really,” looked around for a second and asked “where were you” as if to imply that his service was actually Mass. I responded “wasting two hours of my life watching you engage in B*** S***.”

    I was never asked to come back and I was soon placed with new foster parents.

    Later when I was in College, my anthropology class was supposed to go on a “field trip” to that same anglican church to observe “religious ritual”. I didn’t need to go in. I stood outside with a protest sign trying to encourage my classmates not to go in.

    To me there is no difference between an anglican pretending to be a priest and having his congregation pretend that their pieces of bread are Jesus than the Swamigi guy in India having his followers pretend that he is the incarnation of their god. The heart of both is satan worship.

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