"My heart goes out to the Boomers," I muttered to myself, as I sat through a traditional service I visited recently. "They were raised with this stuff, and they ran away. I don't blame them."
I've been pretty hard on the Boomers. They moved the church from the urban to the suburban, from the older church building to the suburban mega-complex, and they removed all symbols and rituals from worship and replaced them with praise choruses. What's to like?
I've spent some time visiting some traditional denominations recently, and I have begun to develop some sympathy for the Boomers. These communities, upheld by the Silent Generation, participate in rituals that have lost their meaning. If meaning is what something is and does in the life of a community, then I see no meaning in these activities. In some of the places I've visited, these rituals were lifeless and unconnected to the rest of life. They did not communicate in the 'real' world at all, at least not in mine. This communion really does seem reduced to grape juice and bread. Bread of life? Not in that service!
So, maybe the Boomers did what they could in simply moving away from practices that no longer carried meaning. They introduced rock and roll to church because none of the church music integrated their everyday life to God. They removed Communion because it was anything but that. They moved the church to the strip mall because that is where they lived.
I constantly give credit to Emerging Churches for retrieving rituals and integrating them with popular culture -- rooting the community in a tradition while fostering a contemporary vigor. The Eucharist, the Christian Calendar, Ignatian prayers, body prayers, the Jesus prayer, praying the hours, lectio divina, labyrinths, the use of icons, all have a home in Emerging Churches. The difference is that Emerging Churches integrate these rituals into their everyday lives, and these practices are now pregnant with meaning, both corporately and individually. But maybe Emerging Churches were able to do what they did because the Boomers cleared the way. Just maybe...