I’m grateful to the Aquila Report for publishing a pithy article by the Rev. Terry Johnson, Senior Minister of Independent Presbyterian Church of Savannah, Georgia, on the topic of worship in the PCA. Pastor Johnson incisively reviews the “liturgical anarchy” that characterises the worship landscape of the PCA, rightly describing it as “Trotyskesque.” He has gathered his observations year after year as he and his family have travelled on vacation and visited PCA churches.
From the article:
Here’s my basic observation: the PCA is first and foremost a land of liturgical mediocrity. It is Vanillaville; a jar of mayonnaise. Some of us are doing the praise band thing, but not nearly so well as the mega-churches. Others are doing the high-church thing, but without the historic continuity and liturgical excellence of the Anglicans. Others are looking an awful lot like charismatics, but without the uninhibited exuberance of neo-pentecostalism. Still others are blending in a bit of this and a bit of that, but without the creativity of the Emergents.
Here’s my question: Why? Why look for models everywhere but Geneva and Westminster? Why is so little respect shown for the liturgical traditions of Reformed Protestantism? Is it just a matter of ignorance? We are not anabaptists, the charismatics of the Reformation era. We’re not Episcopalians. We’re not historically rootless Emergents. Why, then, are so many of us, on the one hand, adopting the introductory 20-minute song set, the raised hands, the closed eyes, the gentle swaying, the emotionalism of the neo-pentecostalism; and on the other hand, dolling up the service by expanding the number of congregational responses (e.g. sanctus, gloria, sursum corda, etc.) removed by Reformed Protestants nearly 500 years ago?
Does anyone out there in PCA land still do the regular Reformed thing of reading the word, preaching the word, singing the word, praying the word, and administering the visible word? Does anyone still feature lectio continua reading and preaching, a “full diet” of free prayer, biblical psalmody and hymnody, and the covenantal administration of the sacraments?
Yes, Rev Johnson, some of us still do, and we thank God for the part your ministry has played in the reformation of worship in our small corner of Christ’s Kingdom at Brainerd Hills Presbyterian Church. Next vacation, why don’t you stop in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and spend the Sabbath with us? I trust that as you enter worship you’ll feel right at home.