How the Boomers Blew It or the Baby with the Bath


If you’re over 50 you’ll hate this…

Something happened in the late 60s/early 70s. A new sort of liturgy or lack of liturgy was introduced into liturgical churches. It seems that after the reforms of Vatican II, the Episcopalians and the Lutherans figured that messing with the liturgy would be a good idea too. There needed to be special outreach to the youth who were not feeling like the Church understood them, and it was liturgical tradition that was holding them back. Suddenly there was a slew of “new traditions” and new hymnals with just great songs to sing. Even the Psalms got a new up to date treatment:

What was the impetus for this change?

The boomers came to power. Yes: came to power, with a healthy distrust of people over 30. Bringing that “don’t trust anyone over 30” ethos to things ecclesiastical, they started to systematically dismantle the liturgy and any other tradition. It doesn’t matter that the western rite has been meet for millennia, it has nothing to offer the youth. The language is arcane and archaic: it doesn’t speak to our contemporary culture or aesthetic. However, since the boomer reformation, that’s just what the boomers have become: quaintly archaic. The values that the boomers instilled in their children, in gen X–rebellion and question–have backfired as the under 50 set thirsts for the traditions that have been laid aside by their parents.

I came across an example of this on the Facebook page of The Episcopal Church. There is a photo of the church I attend. (If you’re confused, I’m still a Lutheran and a confessional one at that, but I attend an Anglo-Catholic church. It’s all explained in my About page. Kind of.) The picture is of the hymn board for the first Sunday in Lent.There was some confusion, as the hymnal that is used at Saint Ignatius is the Hymnal 1940. The confusion comes from churches that are using the Hymnal 1982 in which some of these hymn numbers are Advent hymns.

The decade of the 1980s saw a groundswell of reformation. Not only did the Episcopal church get an updated hymnal (there was an update of the Book of Common Prayer in 1979) but both the Missouri and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America synods of the Lutheran Church got new hymnals. The language certainly was different in the new ELCA and Episcopal hymnals. No longer did Good Christian Men Rejoice, but rather Good Christian Friends do the rejoicing. Since then, the ELCA has gone through another reformation of its hymnal in which you can find wonderful additions like the ever-so Enthusiast “Jesus Loves Me.”

LutherPreachingWittenbergIt may be argued that Luther did the same thing to the mass in the sixteenth century when he attempted to bring the liturgy to the masses, but his reforms were there to allow for an evangelical understanding of the liturgy as well as a vernacular explication of the faith of the people. Linguistic changes were not an attempt to be inclusive, or to connect to the youth, but rather to clearly, and without sentimental pandering, communicate the Gospel. Luther’s reforms of the Mass were in no way to be considered authoritative. Pastors were supposed to be as traditional as their congregation and culture required. One may look at Luther’s Latin and German masses as analogous to Rite I and Rite II in the Book of Common Prayer.  But what fresh liturgy hath the boomers wrought?

There is a confusion. It seems that churches with the greatest concern for the future, the ones with a declining population of the under 50s, are the ones that sold out their traditions to contemporary worship. Generation X (now clearly middle-aged) and gen Y are returning to church, but not to the hippy dippy church of our fathers, and not even to the church of our grandparents, but to the church of our great great great grandparents. They are looking for churches that use traditional language, churches in which the music that was taken from the church and put out to pasture in the concert hall by the boomers is engaging a congregation in living worship rather putting their aging parents to sleep in a stuffy auditorium.

There are some middle-aged men who have invested in the status quo set up by the boomers, but it seems that these people are a bit like magpies chasing after the next and newest bright and shiny fad, the newest edition of the dictionary, the one with fewer words for ease of reading, the one that will communicate to the youth, putting value in the temporal rather than the eternal.

What was it that one of my table-mates said at brunch today?

“The Lord Almighty grant boomer theology a peaceful night and a perfect end.”


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