Friday, October 24, 2008

Obligatory “Liturgy Committee” Rant

I felt like engaging in some light-hearted "church chat" today. No particular reason, really, except for the item I read last night at New Liturgical Movement. Cappellemeister and Southern gentleman Jeffrey Tucker elaborates on the challenges posed to the musician who seeks to restore Catholic tradition, when confronted by that demon spawn known as... the liturgy committee.

This sort of thing makes musicians crazy because it is a setting guaranteed to yield shabby liturgy and community chaos. It is the worst possible thing to happen to a parish music program, and not because the community shouldn't have a voice. If the community has a point of unity, it concerns the faith itself and the tradition; otherwise, in terms of issues of taste and preference, there is no such thing as a community: there are only individuals with a multiplicity of conflicting desires...

It would be the same if we chose the texts or the vestments of the Mass with this method. Nothing good can come of it...

If "a camel is a horse designed by a committee," there can be little doubt as to which end of the horse falls under the jurisdiction of this crowd. Except for the renovation of a traditional-style church building (that rare opportunity to do permanent damage with serious money, that everybody else will be stuck with for years), the typical Catholic parish will provide no greater opportunity for the dabbling of dilettantes, than it will for people who haven't cracked open a mildly serious book on the topic of Catholic worship since the day they were born. Saying this may seem unkind or judgmental, except to the extent that it is true. I cannot for the life of me understand what goes through most pastors' minds when they convene such a group. But in my experience as a chorister, musician, lay reader, and acolyte, there is nothing more irritating than the arbitrary decrees of a group of people who don't know what the hell they're talking about, beyond the bag of gimmicks they picked up at a liturgy workshop the previous weekend. Some of the stupidest ideas I have ever heard on behalf of a parish priest, emanated from groups charged with "planning the liturgy."

"Liturgy planning" is another dumb idea. The Church has already "planned" the liturgy. They print it in books with nicely bound covers that are really hard to miss when you walk into a sacristy. Our job, at most, is to prepare the liturgy, most of which becomes routine a few weeks after a priest is ordained. When you have to reinvent it, when you have to constantly explain what is going on with it, it is no longer a ritual. You see, a ritual is SUPPOSED to be done the same way over and over again, with minimum variation, and no explanation. That's why they call it a RITUAL, you dummy!

And so...

The first assumption that can safely be made about a parish liturgy committee, is that they are invariably as useful as mammary glands on a bovine male (or, as they say down in Texas, "t*** on a b***"). Go into it with that attitude, and you will... well, you'll be known for having a bad attitude. But chances are you will also be right. Most parishes can do without them, save for the gathering of people with genuine responsibilities associated with worship; the music director, the sacristan, the persons in charge of altar servers, readers, ushers -- yes, even the nice ladies who have arranged the flowers in the sanctuary since time immemorial. And if you have a Traditional Latin Mass, don't forget your Master of Ceremonies. Now there's a guy who's done his homework.

This last conglomeration is a group of fine folks willing to roll up their sleeves, that any pastor can live with. But the rest of these bozos -- "Hey, Father, listen to this awesome Gloria we've got picked out for Advent." -- they should be put to work at something genuinely useful. Like helping to park cars between scheduled Masses. Maybe working bingo nights...
.

3 Comments:

At 10/24/2008 11:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said! As the former organist at my parish, I was renowned for having a "negative attitude" and was ever required to sign a paper promising that I'd be a "good girl" and behave at choir practices instead of expressing my often negative opinion about the quality of music the directors chose (they were/are completely unqualified as to liturgical music). The pastor sided with these two women, and in January of this year I finally had enough. I "retired", with nary a thank you, not even a card, just, "here's the door, don't let it hit you on the way out." I'd been there for 20 years. Too bloody long -- and yes, a lit committee is as useful as those appendages you describe. Yeehaw!

 
At 10/24/2008 02:44:00 PM, Blogger Adrienne said...

I am actaully (sad to say) part of a liturgical committee - one that is newly formed and limping along. I asked our pastor over and over why we were forming such a committee and what the purpose was. I never got a good answer.

We've had a few meetings that have been a total waste of time. A room full of people who are clueless, trying to decide what to do.

I might add (not bragging - just reporting the news) that a considerable amount of my time over the past 9 or so years has been devoted to the study of liturgy. And all of it really boils down to "Say the Black, Do the Red"

I won't be going to any more meetings and we now attend a different church.....

 
At 10/24/2008 02:45:00 PM, Blogger Adrienne said...

oh - and thanks for the great post!!

 

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