I was perusing the website of my Mother’s new church. (She just left her former one. The last straw, after a grievous series of non Anglican innovations, was when the priest announced that he would only wear vestments on high holy days.) I noticed on the new church’s website that they have a “Worship Pastor.” Also this week I got a prayer request from a church plant that they were looking for “a lead musician.” Look around this new Anglican world and you will see this approach again and again. Can we talk?
First I offer some clarifications of my perspective. It is okay for you to think that I am a dinosaur because I am. But being a dinosaur does not automatically disqualify me from the conversation. My passion for the Church catholic is as strong as the day that apostolic hands were first laid on my head.
Second I was in the Jesus Movement in the 1970’s and pastored a non denom church for 10 years. I recognize that was just after Edison invented the light bulb but even back then we had overhead projectors and worship teams and lead musicians with microphones. I’ve got the T shirt.
What drew me back to Anglicanism (my father was confirmed in 1935) was the numinous. I had enough of songs about Jesus being my buddy or worse yet love songs in which you could substitute “girlfriend” for “Jesus” and not have to change anything else. I was tired of worship leaders trying to manipulate my emotions so that they would feel successful when they saw a response. I was weary of an emotion based religion that left me drowning in a sea of subjectivity.
It was like a drink of cold water to my parched soul to enter worship where God was seen as Holy and Other, where every minute did not have to be filled with noise, where I did not have to gin up my emotions to experience God’s presence. What a joy it was to have the expectation of meeting with God because of His promises, not the least of which was to be united to Him through the Sacrament.
To protect how we worship as Anglicans, it has been the wisdom of the Church to designate the priest as the leader of worship. We do not separate “worship pastor” from “priest” because our priests are the worship pastors. It is the priest who presides over the worship and not a “lead musician.” He is supported by a team that includes assisting clergy, an organ/choirmaster, the choir, and an altar party, to name a few.
It is an artificial and even damaging notion to bifurcate the worship from the Sacrament by having separate “pastors” because it is ALL worship. From the processional hymn, to taking up the offering, to the dismissal, it is all worship. It is a misunderstanding therefore to have separate “pastors” just as it would be nonsensical to have a “Word Pastor” and a “Table Pastor.”
New Anglican church plants are taking their cues from other traditions with their worship teams and stages and song after song of often vacuous praise music that lacks the theology that this emotion driven generation so desperately needs. In some cases Anglicans are jumping on the bandwagon just as others are leaving it. Instead of being relevant or missional or cool we are coming across as grandfathers in bell bottoms.
We need to preserve our identity as Anglicans. We don’t need “Worship Pastors.” We need priests who know how to work with a choirmaster to choose the best hymns that match the propers of the day so that the people experience rich worship and wise pedagogy. Our worship tradition has been tested by centuries when most of those we mimic today will be gone tomorrow. Let’s not sell our heritage for a bowl of porridge.
 Addendum. Each innovation was being done in the name of being “missional” and yet they have remained at an ASA of about 35 for years now. Ref. Dr. Phil