Saturday, April 09, 2005

reading the popes funeral through alt.worship eyes

It was interesting to watch the Pope’s funeral on TV last night. Great to see an inspirational leader honoured in this way. Wonderful to see religion so mainstream.

I kept wanting to watch it as a worship curator; wondering how I would lead/take/curate such an event. Here are some Protestant reflections.

Contextualisation: The Mass was in Latin, so basically incomprehensible and inaccessible. Yet the commentators, an Archbishop and various Catholic experts, provided interpretive comments. So there is some desire for accessibility and comprehensibility. So why not go the whole hog? Why not translate?

Tradition: A strength of Catholicism, eg the retaining of Latin, is continuity with tradition. You respect and honour a 2,000 year old history. Yet this notion of tradition was deconstructed by the commentary noting the changes. For example, the 20th century pope not being carried everywhere in public on a special chair. Another example, the willingness to just distribute a wafer as an inclusive symbol of both bread and wine. So tradition can and does change. Surely any change weakens your ancient roots.

Audience participation: It was totally impressive to see the host distributed to an audience of 40,000. So you can have audience involvement in large events. So “alt.worship” might not just be for small groups? And at times the funeral was halted by the cheers and chants of the crowd. Great to see that even in such mass events (pun intended), the audience shaping the “liturgy.” I am interleaving this with reflections on U2 and how they involve the audience in their concerts. Large need not equal passive.

And a question:
What was George Bush, that “Christian” fundamentalist, really thinking as the host was distributed?

Posted by steve at 12:36 PM


  1. Alt worship for small groups? Hmmm… as long ago as 1991, worship at Greenbelt with John Bell, would, in my retrospective eyes, be classed as alt worship. And there were 20,000 of us!

    Comment by Larraine — April 9, 2005 @ 12:55 pm

  2. Larraine,
    Historically, when I would talk about Graceway in different Baptist pastoral settings the comment would be made “oh you can only do that in small settings.”

    So “Alt worship” for small groups is a criticism that has been made, but like you, certainly not one I would agree with.

    Comment by steve — April 9, 2005 @ 1:22 pm

  3. Interested in the idea of Latin being “incomprehensible” – actually the problem they faced was how to present something with 84 language groups present without interminable simultaneous translation – why not use the common language which anyone over the age or 40 or so would understand – Latin and could translate personally.???

    Comment by Tom Allen — April 10, 2005 @ 5:35 am

  4. Thanks Tom. It shows the postmodern critique doesn’t it – how is common knowing possible among 84 language groups
    a) stick with latin and exclude those under 40?
    b) be pentecostal and try 84 languages?
    c) ….

    Comment by steve — April 10, 2005 @ 2:40 pm

  5. Re: your question at the end.
    I’m more curious what the Muslims and the Buddhist monk I saw were thinking as the host was distributed. Bush at least understands what’s going on, the others- did they think they were getting a snack to hold them over until the whole thing was over? Did the Jews celebrate a bit of passover?

    Comment by Roger N Overton — April 10, 2005 @ 7:18 pm

  6. Roger,
    i carefully phrased the question re bush. I did not see him consume the host. Did you see the buddhist monk and muslim consume? it is my understanding of catholic theology that they would not have been able to. i heard the commentators saying that Rowan Williams would not be taking the host, out of respect for different understandings.

    Comment by steve — April 10, 2005 @ 8:51 pm

  7. I fell asleep when they started serving the host, so I really didn’t see many people consuming it. I just assumed most people did. Though, I’d still find it more interesting to hear what the monk and muslim thought when the host was distributed, and really as the entire funeral progressed. For me, it was the first mass I’d ever seen. But I at least had some tools to figure out what was going on (since I’m Protestant). What does a Buddhist monk do with that?

    Comment by Roger N Overton — April 11, 2005 @ 5:47 pm

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