Table of Contents
Vol.9: The Flood: Local or Global?
THE PLACE OF ART
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction: The Molding of a Preference
Chapter 1. A Place to Meet or a Place to Worship?
Chapter 2. Just How Beautiful are Thy Courts, O Lord?
Chapter 3. Liturgy: Help or Hindrance?
Appendix Of Uninspiring Men and their Inspiring Works
1 of 4
1966 Doorway Paper No. 10, published privately by Arthur C. Custance
1979 Part VI in The Flood: Local or Global?, vol.9 in The
Dooorway Papers Series, by Zondervan Publishing Company.
1997 Arthur Custance Online Library (HTML)
2001 2nd Online Edition (corrections, design revisions)
The Molding of a Preference
THIS IS A very
short paper. The opinions expressed in it are entirely personal
ones: some of them are highly controversial.
All my life I have been at heart
Anglican ‹ even when I never went to church. As a child growing
up in England and in the country, I became accustomed to hearing
the beautiful sound of church bells ringing out far and near,
and though not supporting the institution of worship personally,
I always felt a kind of nice feeling to know that there were
people who did ‹ Anglicans, that is. It never really occurred
to me that the people who went on Sundays to "those other
churches" were really going to worship. As a Public School
boy I always understood that they merely went to debate and talk
to one another. Of course, there were occasions upon which it
was proper to go to church (Christmas and Easter, for example),
and on these occasions I used to feel on the whole that it was
a good thing, but not for a steady diet.
As boys we had our own version
of the Psalms which contributed nothing to our sense of worship,
but made it rather fun trying to fit the same number of words
into the line without losing one's place so that one didn't start
singing up when everyone else started to sing down. In fact,
I vaguely recollect that there was a published book which was
a take-off on the Psalms that used to circulate around the school.
The author, I think, called himself Artemas.
the sermon in church we often used to watch spiders and things
crawling around on the walls and we always assumed that they
grew to their giant size at the expense of the corpses which
we took for granted were deposited in the walls
of the church behind the plaques which memorialized them.
Despite all our irreverence and total
unawareness of any reality behind what was going on during the
service, we nevertheless somehow imbibed something of the awe
and mystery of worship and, I might add, developed a not altogether
unhealthy fear of the Lord.
During the holidays most of us
enjoyed a glorious freedom living with the strong Christian "conviction"
that as long as we didn't try to discourage anyone else from
going to church, we were doing all that was expected of us as
budding gentlemen in English society. At the same time, we lived
in some awe of "the old people" (aunts, grandparents,
etc.) who were devout and whose devotion we assumed provided
a measure of protection for the rest of us. When I left home
finally and came to Canada and there underwent the process of
initiation into the mysteries of milking a cow and hitting the
pail, or chopping wood and not hitting oneself, these rather
nostalgic recollections of worship remained with me and undoubtedly
preserved me from adopting the low standards of living which
most of my co-workers in the bunkhouse adopted.
Some four years later, I became
a Christian while attending the University of Toronto and at
once entered into the wonderful experience of worshipping in
fellowship with other Christians. This experience took place
in a Brethren environment, and the apparently complete freedom
and spontaneity of all that went on was a delight to my soul.
And yet within a year or two I began to miss something which,
in retrospect, I think was in some way the consequence of the
very freedom and spontaneity which had at first proved so stimulating.
One day I returned to an Anglican
service and was truly amazed to find how much "content"
there was in the prayers and responses which I now entered into
for the first time with some understanding of what had been in
the minds of those who first formulated them. In fact, I came
to the conclusion that the people who wrote them must have been
Christians! Indeed, the more I thought about it and the more
carefully I studied and used the Anglican prayers, the more I
became convinced that a liturgical form of service could be (please
note "could be" not "is") far more helpful
and meaningful for a child of God than a service in which the
same leading brethren are called upon in succession to offer
their same heartfelt yet very limited prayers. As I listened
week after week I realized
increasingly that their so-called extemporare prayers, for all
their extemporaneity, were remarkably narrow in outlook, limited
in terminology, uninspiring in terms of spoken English and liturgical
in their repetitiveness. And I honestly doubt whether I paid
any closer attention to what was being prayed about, in spite
of the genuineness of my experience as a Christian, than I do
now when some Anglican minister, who has very little real knowledge
of the things he is speaking of, drones through the prayers which
are appointed for the day. There is this profound difference,
however: namely, that no matter how miserable he happens to feel
or how out of sorts he is, he is called upon and enabled to lead
my thoughts into some of the most profoundly evangelically oriented
and theologically sound and beautifully expressed petitions that
it is possible to conceive. And the breadth of subject matter
is in no sense limited by the narrowness of view of the man who
leads. There is repetition, it is true, but a fair analysis will
show that it is not nearly so extensive as it is likely to be
when one or two people are regularly called upon to lead the
congregation entirely on the basis of their own personal experience
In spite of all the possible abuses,
I have become convinced myself that a liturgical form of service
is a better medium of worship for the educated man than any other.
But the use of such a form of service inevitably brings with
it certain other elements in the total milieu of divine service,
each of which is not precisely essential to it but does tend
to contribute to this highest form of human exercise. And here
what I have in mind is the architecture of the building, the
music which accompanies not merely the singing of praise but
other parts of the service, the use of formal ritual, the simple
beautification of the surroundings by adornment of various kinds
‹ in short, all those other elements which are ideally intended
to create the right frame of mind or atmosphere for awe and worship.
All these things
‹ architecture, music, imagery, ritual, liturgy, the forms
of art intended to assist in the act of worship ‹ these are
the main topic of this paper.
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