Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Traditional and Reformed: A Tautology?

To many, the description of a church’s worship as containing "traditional, Reformed liturgy" is a somewhat tautological and needless repetition of concepts (one which most likely originated in the Department of Redundancy Department).

But is it necessarily the case that the label "Reformed" inherently contains the concept of "traditional"? When I think of traditional Presbyterian worship, what comes immediately to mind are things like dark suits, pipe organs, schmaltzy hymns like "In the Garden," and hard pews with Ward, June, Wally, and the Beave sitting in them (Eddie and Lumpy are outside smoking cigarettes in the church parking lot).

Alas! The 1950s' may not have been the high water mark of American religion after all....

The worship at Exile Presbyterian Church is certainly liturgical and Reformed, but I don’t know if I’d call it traditional. I don’t wear a suit but a black Geneva gown, we celebrate Communion every week, and we sing both biblical psalms and hymns, some of whose tunes are from the third century with others having been written last year. Moreover, our liturgy is a bit more rich and robust than what one would usually associate with traditional Presbyterianism (we kneel for confession of sin, raise our hands during the Doxology, and have been known to sing some of our prayers).

So are we a traditional Presbyterian church after all, or just a Reformed one? Is this a distinction without a difference?