On the Adult Ministries Team at church, we are going through the book Desiring the Kingdom, which focuses on the distinctiveness of Christian formation through worship in ritual. It’s excellent. Here’s a passage:
The core claim of this book is that liturgies -whether “sacred” or “secular”- shape and constitute our identities by forming our most fundamental desires and our most basic attunement to the world. In short, liturgies make us certain kinds of people, and what defines us is what we love… (p. 25)
Christians “learn” not just through absorbing facts and ideas, but when s/he is shaped by powerful experiences, especially in worship, that are repeated. Our team has taken a lot of this to heart, and we are praying about ways to creatively apply this to the members of our congregation.
It occurred to me this truth is so fundamental that it reflects what we try to do as a family as much (perhaps, more?) than in church. Families are to be worshiping communities too, right? In fact, much of what parenting is can be seen as “liturgies.”
Formation is one of the keys of parenting. Cyn and I are always trying to build habits into our children. It doesn’t so much matter what they do as the practices they are learning. At the table, that includes praying before the meal, and washing hands and mouth afterwards. It’s a pain in the butt to ask Abigail to clean up after herself, because it takes 3x as long as if I did it alone. But we want to build that into her. And, at church, it’s important that she stays through the first part of the service, even when she doesn’t understand what we’re singing.
Bit by bit, she’s learning through habit. Neural connections are being made in the brain, and sentiments are being formed in the heart. As JK Smith says about liturgies, they “prime (her) to approach the world in a certain way, to value certain things, to aim for certain foals, to pursue certain dreams, to work together on certain projects. In short, every liturgy constitutes a pedagogy that reaches us, in all sors of precognitive ways, to be a certain kind of person.”
We are our habits. We just hope, at some time, they point us in an everlasting direction.