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About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Part VIII

     

Vol.9: The Flood: Local or Global?

PART  VI

 

THE  PLACE  OF ART IN WORSHIP

 

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


Publishing History:
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)

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Introduction

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.
 

     pg.2 of  4     

     During 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

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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 and interest.
     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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