By: Rasid Rachman
We, the mainstream Churches in Indonesia, face a big struggle today. We have rivals in models of worship. Since 10 or 15 years ago, some new models of worship born around us, either in big cities or small towns. Those churches, where people find new models of worship, have been growing like mushroom in the rainy season. The point is our people go to those churches that give many answers of their daily problems. On the other hand, some churchmen said that they prefer to go to those new models of worship because we don’t have or provide those models in ours.
Sound nice. That’s why it makes mainstream Churches in Indonesia feel uncomfortable. We feel that we have a mistake in our way of worship. We think about it. We talk about it every where and every time. We spend a lot of time to renew our way of worship. We are almost sure that there is something wrong in our worship. We almost sure that we have to throw away our way of celebrate the Sunday Worship and change our way of worship like theirs. We hope our people come to our Church back, or at least we are able to keep our faithful people.
I want to give some brief explanations that there is nothing wrong in our worship. That is the point that I want to say. I don’t say there is no problem with our worship. There are still many people enjoy our style of worship. I just want to say people need a solemnity, beauty, tidiness, and inspiration of celebration.
My brief explanations begin with a terminology of a holistic liturgy. Then I present my reflection about using old and new material in worship. I finish with an explanation of a holistic liturgy in context.
The aim of holistic liturgy is to find out about contextualization of worship. At the end of my presentation, I will give a suggestion to show how worship is called contextual.
I. What is the holistic liturgy?
Church uses many worldly materials to celebrate the liturgy. The early Church took Jewish and Greek materials such as time and place. Those materials were changed to Christian terminology such as some old names were changed to new names. The first day in Hebrew: Ehad, was chosen as a day of worship, was called the Lord’s day. The Lord ’s Day or Κυριακή ήμέρα means the day of resurrection of Christ. Through His resurrection, through His glorification, Christ became the Lord. He is the κύριος or head of the Church.
The holistic liturgy is not only a celebration using whole kind of materials, but also address the liturgy to every aspect of humankind and give attention to many aspects of celebration. There are two thinks which we use as tools to celebrate liturgy. First, the worship uses both universal and local sources, such as tradition, culture, language, issue, message, sermon topic, etc. Second, the worship uses both modern and traditional materials, such as music and song, ornament, architecture, etc. Hopefully, the worship brings a worshipper to see actual problems.
I.1. Sources: universal and local
Some churchmen said that Churches in Asia are western. Some Churches in Asia enjoy with this condition. Many people even say that this western culture is a true Christian. That’s why many Churches don’t change their style of worship. Many Churches give only a little portion for local elements instead of western elements. We feel at home with this custom of worship.
Most Asian Christian Churches still celebrate liturgy as like as 100 % western, except languages and places. Ironically, western that was copied by Churches in Asia is the western from one or two or even more centuries ago. Besides celebrating Christmas as like as western style, we use snow made of cotton in two seasons land and sing Silent Night in a busy city. We also add other western cultures in our Churches. For instance, some Churches in Asia celebrate Thanks Giving Day or Valentine’s Day which are American culture.
On the other hand, we reject almost all local sources. Although some Asian Churches has changed this conservative way of thinking, most of our sources are still western. For instance, it is not easy to find Church building in which we see an ethnic architecture in large country like Indonesia. Many Christian even proud they could imitate baroque style or roman style.
So far, I am not saying that we have to refuse all western customs in our celebration of liturgy. We are naïve if we do that. I aware that western is not only our heritage, but our blood also. Blood, because western theology has given us a life: contain of our theology or flesh of Christian spirituality.
In other way, I am saying that we can’t throw The Apostle’s Creed or The Nicene’s Creed which come from Roman. We still use The Lord’s Prayer before Communion which came from the Middle Ages. We love to sing Kyrie eleison from Orthodox tradition. We sing hymns which are Greek original as well as wear Geneva gown although in different color. Of course we impossibly change the Sunday, which early Church chose, to other weekdays.
The point is celebrating liturgy in Asia means walk on path between western and local, or between universal and contextual. We can’t receive only one part and reject the others. We beat a path to find out true contextual expression among mixture sources around. We even couldn’t distinguish anymore which one universal or which one local.
This condition has been happened over the centuries. At the beginning, Church adopted synaxis, prayer, and homily from Jewish way of synagogue worship. Synaxis became Daily Office or Sunday Worship with no Eucharist. Structure of Jewish prayer transferred to Christian structure which we usually use today. The way of Rabbi to explain the Holy Book had become the model of homily of Christian Ministers today. Church also adapted the time of worship, lectionary, and family gathering. Not at seventh day (Sabbath), but at first day (Ehad, the Lord’s Day) is the day for worship. Not the Law-Psalms-Prophet, but Old Testament-Psalms-Epistle-and Gospel (after 2nd century) is the sequence of Christian lectionary. Not the main family, but whole people as brothers and sisters gather to celebrate the Eucharist. Jewish worship inherited worship materials for the early Christian worship.
Besides, during Patristic era, Church was also influenced by Romans and Greek sources. Church adopted and adapted the feasts, vestments, rites, gestures, and languages. The feasts are the symbol to the Christ events, such as nativity, transfiguration, temptation, Easter, Pentecost, etc. Some of those feasts come from Jews: Ester and Pentecost were adapted to Christian Theology. Some others come from Romans, such as nativity, vestments and introit from Emperor. Greek had inherited Kyrie eleison and liturgical texts to the Church. Many sources have based Christian worship.
After Reformation era, England, German, Dutch, and Geneva had influenced Asian Churches. Besides hymns: Holy, holy, holy; O Worship the King; Stille Nacht Heilige Nacht; etc., names and vestments are also familiar for Christians in Asia. Example, Protestant Churches in Indonesia are familiar with votum. The votum, which is from the Latin word, is written and said at the beginning of liturgy. Ironically, nobody knows what the meaning of votum is. At least, almost every Protestants I met face difficulty to explain what it is. Actually, votum, which isn’t common word in liturgy itself, means “in the name …” (see Col 3:17; cf. bismillah in Moslem terminology).
Another example is Syafaat. The syafaat is the intercessions prayer. There is no doubt that syafaat or intercessions prayer is placed between Service of Word at pulpit and Service of Table at altar. Some Churches don’t set this prayer in the right place, but before Benediction or before Sermon. The reason is Churches don’t understand what the syafaat means. See the RC in Indonesia that has translated to Doa Umat (Prayer of the People).
In this Modern era, American cultural is influencing Asian Churches. Especially in worship styles and hymns. Worship style such as Pentecostal, Praise and Worship, and Seeker become an alternative for Church members. American hymns that are melancholic in tone and piety in words such as hymns of Doane, Fanny Crosby, Lowry, and so on. Of course then, many pastors are urged to speak in fervent sermon as like as Pentecostal preachers.
Fortunately, there is post-modern way of thinking in this time. The post-modern appreciates either global or local sources. Today tribal music and arts have a role in liturgy more than ten years ago. Not only Asian hymns and instruments, but also Church choirs begin to sing several indigenous melodies.
We, Protestant in Asia of today, have an important task. At first, we should clearly understand the terminologies of the universal sources which are used in liturgy. The second, we try to smoothly combine both universal and local sources. And finally, we implement both sources to know-how in practice of worship. Hopefully, we could get the nascent Asian liturgy to be.
I.2. Materials: modern and traditional
Christian worship of today uses materials, such as music, ornament, room, etc. Some materials are already traditional, yet some of them are modern. At least, there is an open-minded to get traditional or local materials into Church liturgy.
Over the centuries the Churches are able to choose and make any kind of materials: either modern or traditional. Modern materials or western materials are hymns with western compositions, western scale (diatonic), tower and bell on the top of Church building, ornament of vestment, etc. Traditional materials or local material are pentatonic scale (five tones), folk instruments such as gamelan, gondang, etc., ethnic ornaments of vestment or architecture.
Outside of Churches, there are many traditional materials. Those are provided by local land. Those are made by people. Icons that are used by Orthodox Churches come from local people handmade. People arrange hymns, create ornaments, and make up room for worship. Could Church accept those local materials into liturgy?
That is an inculturation. Since 1973, inculturation is now a familiar word in liturgical circle. Inculturation means learning process by which a person is inserted into his or her cultural. Moreover, inculturation is a method that can bring about a mutual interaction between liturgy and various forms of popular or local land. Although Protestant in Indonesia doesn’t use inculturation method instead of contextualization, inculturation always be found in praxis of Protestant worship. On the other side, RC in Indonesia prefers to use inculturation method, yet in the many steps forward than others in contextualization.
II. A holistic liturgy in context
Liturgy is not the only respondent on contextualization of theology, but also a theology in the way of celebration. Church uses many tools to celebrate the holistic liturgy and to make our liturgy glorious, beautiful, and solemn. Besides, Church needs many aspects to think, such as symbolic, artistic, educational, cultural, solemn, etc. Those tools and aspects enrich the liturgy so that fill the needs of worshippers that come from different backgrounds.
Symbolic aspect is the most important in celebration of worship. Worship is celebration of Christ event. That’s why celebration has to use symbols. Without symbols in celebration of worship, there are verbalism, instructions, and death only. Shapes of symbolic aspect such as time, place, gesture, word, as like as a blood for human life.
There are two contexts we have had as a Christian Church: common ecumenical context and local context.
The very common ecumenical context is the Bible and liturgical year. At the beginning (around the year of 30 AD) Apostles and some people gathered to remembrance of Christ’s resurrection every first day of the week. That gathering was the worship of Church. That antique Church read the Old Testament, sang the psalms, and read the Epistle as well as created Sunday as day of worship. In the other word, early Church used the Bible and the Sunday to remembrance of Christ.
From the Bible that is read in worship, the Church knew and announced Christ to the world surround. From the Bible then the Church celebrated Christ events. From Christ events the Church built the liturgical years. The liturgical year is contented with anamnesis (memorial, commemoration, remembrance) of Christ events.
The liturgical year is started from the resurrection of the Lord. In the 2nd century, the Church celebrated the resurrection of the Lord not only on Sunday, but also on Easter. Sunday is called as minor Easter celebration. After that time, Easter became the center and the beginning of the liturgical year.
The local context is a context of place and time where the Church alive. The context contains of cultures, symbols, behavior, way of life, etc. Therefore, Protestant Churches had had a trouble of this.
After Reformation in 17th century, Protestant Churches tended refuse symbolic aspect in celebration of liturgy. Role of pictures or sculptures of the Saints, relics, gestures, etc. in worship were changed to rationalism and verbalism. They were refused from liturgy because anti-Catholicism that were understood by most Protestant theologians in 17th to 19th century. They were seen as idolatry, and Church must not accept those objects such as images into worship.
Fortunately, that way of thinking of 17th century doesn’t exist anymore in this time. Time has been changing. Step by step, Churches open their mind. In the last 50 years, Churches begin to use any material and way for worship which used to be called as idolatry. Although images such as pictures and sculptures are not placed at one single position in Church, at least they are used at some occasional moments such as in seminary’s chapels or in special services. Some Protestant pastors practice gestures in Sunday Worship such as in walking during procession, in reading passages of the Bible, in saying prayers, and in distributing bread and wine in the Eucharist. Some Protestant theologians and pastors have been thinking that the celebration of liturgy is not a mere outside-theology. It had never been thought by Protestants 50 years ago.
Having two points of view: be ecumenical and local, Church celebrate liturgies. Both ecumenical and local are the context of liturgy. Church walks on footbridge and brings burdens of ecumenical context in right hand and local context in left hand.
I will give some suggestion below that what we have to reform our liturgy. First, believe that there is nothing wrong in our liturgy. Second, we need to repair our way of worship. Third, we suppose to use both ecumenical and contextual materials.
First, according to the tradition of liturgy that we get as heritages from our Fathers/Mothers of the Church, God has installed everybody of us celebrate worship in these ways. That is not a mistake at all.
Second, we still need to repair our way of worship. For instance, there is common practice that Churches in Indonesia don’t fully sing hymns. Churches in Indonesia usually sing only some stanzas; it means a part of whole hymn. Churches in Indonesia have to renew this bad habit.
Third, Ecumenical Churches provide some materials such as Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) and hymns. There is no problem anymore with hymns, because most Churches in Indonesia use Kidung Jemaat as a common Hymns Book. Kidung Jemaat contains both universal and local hymns. Therefore, Churches in Indonesia are not yet familiar with the RCL. Churches in Indonesia usually create own “lectionary” that are not better then the RCL or themes for their Sunday worship.
Bringing worshippers see actual problems around is how to make our worship relevant in our life today. Is our worship still warm for people? Is our sacraments could bring people to see their symbolic meaning? Are symbols used in worship give new inspiration? Or, do people feel death during worship because we still use old materials and sources in worship? Or, do people feel like strangers in their own land? Hopefully, we are able to open our mind to new phenomenon on liturgy. °
*) This is an article that I presented for United Evangelical Mission Seminar: Intergenerational Consultation on Music and Liturgy “Living churches are churches alive in worship with music, words and body languages
reflecting and addressing the real and contextual needs of the believers: participative and holistic worship.”
April 6th, 2006, Cipayung – Jawa Barat.