Worship in the Modern World

Praising God with the Best of the Past and the Present

RIP Cursive and What it Means for the Church

Last week, Indiana announced that the state will no longer require teaching cursive writing to students and instead will focus on keyboard skills. You can read about the decision over at Time Magazine. Some people are calling it the end of an era, and in some ways it certainly is. Indiana could be just the first of many states to abandon using cursive.

And really, in 2011, why should they still teach cursive? Since the mid 1960s, cursive has been on a decline and with the advent of typewriters and computers, formal writing in cursive is almost entirely unnecessary, while keyboards, at least for the foreseeable future, are an integral part of our world.

If you’ve read this far, I’m sure you’re starting to think “What does this have to do with worship/the church/anything?!” My question is this: What is the church equivalent of cursive? What have we been holding for hundreds of years that we need to consider letting go of because it’s just not relevant/effective/useful anymore?

Some would argue that it’s things like printed hymnals, church potlucks (complete with Jell-O in the proper liturgical color), pipe organs and choirs, pastors in robes and clerical collars… the list could go on. (*Disclaimer: Before writing angry comments or letters, note that I said “some” would argue… I’m not actually opposed to the whole list.)

Get a load of those choir robes. Those actually happened.

Personally, I think that while any one of those things could be the “cursive” of the church, finding out what’s the “cursive” at your church is the far more pressing matter.
Every individual church has things – customs, habits, routines – held over from days gone by. Most, if not all, came out of necessity and probably met a real need or were very useful at their beginning, but now find themselves being done purely out of habit and a sense of “that’s how we’ve always done it” that they not only are no longer meeting a need, but could actually be a hindrance.

I worked with a pastor once who shared a story about a congregation he had previously served and his experience when he first arrived. At every worship service, they would toll the bells at the beginning of the service. No big deal – lots of churches do that. But then at various points throughout the service, they would toll them again. This went on for a few weeks, and the pastor began to ask people why they did this. No one seemed to know; it had just always been done. After some research and asking around, it turned out that back in the early 1900s, many in the congregation were farmers and at harvest or planting time, they were unable to attend services on Sundays. The church reached a “solution” in which the bells of the church would toll at certain points throughout the service, such as at the time of the creed and the Lord’s Prayer, so that the farmers could hear the bells from their fields and say the prayer or creeds and be connected to the service. Now, the congregation is mostly suburban and there are no farmers in the fields, but the bells were still ringing.

So what is the “cursive” in your church? Step back, take a good long look and consider some ways to stay current and fresh today.

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