Though most folks these days are reticent to talk at all about their religious traditions in polite company, those that do tend to focus almost exclusively on what sets their congregation and its worship apart from the one they grew up in, the one down the street or the one they used to go to.
“Our new church is much more contemporary than our old church.”
“We we looking for something more traditional and grounded.”
“The worship really speaks to us.”
Despite all of this rhetoric, though, several sociological studies have shown that worship style is not nearly as important to seekers as is demographics, proximity to home or youth programming. Moreover, a close comparison of the actual liturgical styles of Christian Churches show that most if not all fall into a couple of broad bands and that these bands are becoming more and more similar the deeper we head into the 21st century.
Long gone are the days where differences in liturgy were something that Christians fought and died over. Long gone are the days of William Laud.
William Laud was Archbishop of Canterbury on the eve of the English Civil War. He was ultimately executed (martyred) by the puritan government for failing to take sides in contemporary controversies about the appropriate use of certain liturgical vestments and the celebration of certain church holidays.
Let me put things in more modern terms: Laud lived in a time when members of the same denomination were KILLING EACH OTHER over differences in liturgy. As my daughter would say, “What the what!?!”
While I am certainly glad that we have stopped killing one another over the differences in our worship traditions, there is a part of me that longs for a time when the differences among and between denominations were better understood and appreciated. This is really what Laud and his like were about. Not ignorantly fighting about the nuances of their tradition, but encouraging folks to adopt or decry various traditions with intention, with a goal to understands diverse points of view and a desire to enrich their own experience.