The (Episcopal) Church of the Redeemer in Morristown NJ is pretty "out there" in terms of its services, Christian education, and overall philosophy. They seem to be about as liberal a parish as you're likely to see. Its Web site generated a veritable flood of comments today on the (conservative) TitusOneNine blog, mainly flabbergasted and sometimes angry.
I too would find it hard to get comfortable with many of this parish's innovations. A troubling thing is that one of the instruments of the Episcopal Church's unity is our uniformity of liturgy, and this parish seems to be ignoring that prinicple.
But some of Redeemer's liturgical ideas are downright intriguing, especially in their choice of readings and creed. For example (quoting here):
- Every Sunday one of the three lessons comes from a "secular" source, or from the sacred writings of a tradition other than Christianity. On any given Sunday, a Hebrew Scripture, a Contemporary Lesson and a Christian Gospel are the regular lessons.
- Collects are taken primarily from the collection of Janet Morley in All Desires Known and end with the wording: "through Jesus our Christ."
- The Nicene Creed does not speak of the relationship most people here have to Christianity. We have adopted the very first Christian creed, "Jesus is Lord," as a way to express that relationship. We have put this to music and sing it three times: "Jesus is Lord and we are the Body of Christ."
I like these particular ideas and would love to see my parish try them (I'm not holding my breath):
- It would be great to have the first reading be a mix of ancient and modern writings. Paul's views are fine as far as they go. But there's no reason to let his writings monopolize the readings. Many other fine theological thinkers have left us their insights in the past two millennia. Their work could inform and inspire churchgoers at least as much as Paul's. We should hear some of that work during Sunday services.
- The Janet Morley book's sample pages, at the Amazon.com Web site, look pretty intriguing. The prayers in the sample pages were graceful and literate.
- This parish's use of the Jesus-is-Lord creed is unusual. But scholars do in fact believe that to be the very earliest Christian creed, which gives it a certain authenticity I find sorely lacking in the Nicene Creed of some 250 to 300 years later. I don't see anything wrong with trying it.