A few weeks ago a young man in his mid 20’s, dressed in an understated post-modern, Elvis Costello sort of look, starting showing up at our mid-week Lenten services. He told us that he was from a local CoWo church (Contemporary Worship). We were kind to him but as we do with all such visitors from other parishes, did not encourage him in any way to join our church. We are straight-forwardly unapologetic to all of our visitors about our meat and potatoes/traditional and liturgical approach to church but with members of sister churches, even CoWo ones, we are careful not to encourage “sheep stealing.”
This young man gave a two-fold reason for attending our Lenten services. First, it was convenient for him to come from work to our parish. It was on the way home. Secondly, he mentioned that he was a little concerned about some of the things going on in his home parish.
By the time we got to Holy Week, still without an invitation from us, he decided to join our parish. He told us that compared to his own church he was now being fed more richly on the Word of God. What I find ironic is that he is one of the sound board volunteers at his old church, and as such was instrumental in them pulling off their CoWo.
I realize that the CoWo churches can put up plenty of their own conversion stories of folks leaving liturgical churches and joining their pop culture churches. They might even be able to win if we turned it into some sort of contest. There is however plenty of anecdotal evidence and even some hard facts showing that there is a lot of shuffling of members amongst the CoWo scene. The hard fact is that despite the claims that CoWo is needed to grow the church to reach the masses, the Church in the United States is shrinking, not growing. CoWo does not work as it is claims.
The gist of this post is not to point to more converts to liturgical worship than the CoWo people can point to. We live under the cross, not by a theology of glory. The point is that this young man figured out, by comparing one of the local CoWo parishes to ours, that the traditional, liturgical approach to liturgy and preaching, was feeding him a better meal. Guess who’s coming to the liturgical dinner of Holy Communion? A CoWo sound board guy and a wide variety of folks from all sorts of backgrounds, all of them in need of the Divine Service which focusses on sin and the forgiveness given by Christ in Word and Sacrament.