I’ve mentioned before that it is one a paradox of the contemporary church that groups which might be identified as conservative or Bible believing can have surprisingly little Scripture read during their services, while those that might be characterised as progressive or liberal in their attitude to Scripture can have four separate readings each week.

Michael Milton comments on much the same thing, observing that churches which are part of the heritage of the Reformation are more similar in their practice to the church before the Reformation.
This is from a long article on Milton’s blog that I found interesting.

… let’s admit the obvious: the public reading of the Word of God is reaching an all-time low in Western nations. I challenge you to do what I ask seminarians to do in my class on liturgy. Go to several local churches of different denominations, say, four local congregations of different historical branches of Christianity (e.g., Independent, i.e., unaffiliated; Baptist, Pentecostal, and Presbyterian or Anglican). You will undoubtedly come away with a variety of experiences of reading Scripture in the service. Generally speaking, those churches that follow and use a lectionary in worship (Lectio selecta) or practice a continual reading through a book of the Bible (Lectio continua) will have more public reading of the Bible. A lectionary is a one, two, or three-year plan of reading through the Scriptures, sometimes including an Old Testament and New Testament reading and, in other more traditional Protestant settings, an Old Testament, a Psalm, a New Testament Epistle, and a Gospel reading. The lectionary has its roots in rabbinical Judaism. Paul mentions this in Acts: “For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues” (Ac 15:21).
In Lectio Selecta, lectionary reading, the reader, the preacher (those can be one and the same as in Jesus’ case), and the congregation can be most assured that the minister did not choose the passage for some personal goal or programmatic agenda. The practice of Lectio Sacra does not guarantee that the exposition of the Scripture will be faithful. Of course, Scripture can be read throughout the service, and the exposition is either missing or false. Public reading without faithful exposition is dangerous, to say the least. But so is denying the people of God the Bread of Life, plenty of it with its intrinsic variety and delivered with excellence forged by holy practice. On the other end of the spectrum, one may observe only a mite of sacred text in a service. For instance, the only public reading of Scripture in many Christian communities is a reading by the pastor before the sermon. Even that reading can be limited to a verse or two. Those are the polarized ends of the public reading of Scripture. Most congregations live in the middle regarding the public reading of the Bible. What did we do with all that time given to the reading of Scripture in the service? Limiting the public reading of Scripture creates an undeniable void of space, a vacuum made by a bad choice that is often filled with talk, special music, or long stretches of standing and reading lyrics from an overhead screen and mouthing or singing words to a melodic phrase that is known by only the initiated. As someone wrote some time ago, such a scene so common in (mostly Protestant) Christian communities across North America is more akin to pre-Reformational, and counter-Reformational congregations in Europe than to movements led by Calvin, Luther, or Wesley.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: