Related: Eucharist by Mail (The Guardian)
(telegraph.co.uk) The ideas for alternative-style worship are part of an initiative launched by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to appeal to the younger generation.
They are set out in a new book compiled by the Church’s Fresh Expressions programme, which aims to boost church attendance with more relevant and exciting services.
However, traditionalists have criticised the unorthodox services as “pointless” and “shallow”, and have warned that experimenting with Church tradition would do more harm than good.
One Holy Communion service promoted in the book, called Ancient Faith, Future Mission, begins with the congregation being shown a video clip from the YouTube website about a United Nations anti-poverty campaign.
Worshippers are told that “our planet is messed up” and that “things are not right”.
They are then asked to approach the altar and rub sea salt on their fingers to represent tears, before walking around and meditating at eight “prayer stations” representing themes such as “gender equality” and “environmental sustainability”.
A psalm is recited in “beat poetry” style to the accompaniment of African Djembe drums, and prayers are said “for the corporate world, for influential CEOs who oversee billion-dollar industries”.
The prayers continue: “We pray for John Chambers of Cisco Systems, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Dr Eric Schmidt of Google Inc, H Lee Scott Jr of Wal-Mart Stores and others who have already made commitments to justice.”
Among the alternative services explored in the book, which is co-edited by the Rt Rev Steven Croft, the new Bishop of Sheffield, are so-called “U2charists”, services in which the congregation receives communion but sings the songs of the Irish rock band U2 instead of traditional hymns.
The services, which include such songs as “Mysterious Ways”, “One”, and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, have been pioneered at St Swithin’s church in Lincoln.
The book also features Transcendence, an event held in York Minister in which traditional Latin chant is set by DJs to hip hop or ambient dance music and video images are projected onto the walls.
The Rev Sue Wallace, who has pioneered the event by blending modern technology with ancient prayers, says that the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Many of the services promoted in the book feature physical activity and symbols alongside traditional sermons.
In chapter of the book, Archbishop Williams says: “The Bible is full of stories about God communicating through act and sign as well as language … Far from being bound to communication through clear information economically expressed in words, our society is still deeply sensitive to symbols and inclined to express important feelings and perceptions in this way.”
The Fresh Expressions initiative was launched by the Archbishop in 2004 to combat the significant drop in churchgoing that has been seen in Britian over recent decades. In the past few years the decline appears to have steadied.
Church leaders are particularly concerned about the loss of younger people, who are abandoning the pews at a greater rate than their older counterparts.
The Rt Rev Graham Cray, who heads the Fresh Expressions initiative, said that it was vital that the Church explored new ways of engaging with modern culture.
“We have to reconnect with a very large percentage of the population that has no contact or interest in traditional church,” he said.
“It is important to offer spirituality to people who are offered a multi-choice lifestyle and who think that the last place they’ll find it is in church.”
He said that the new services were carefully designed for specific communities and stressed they was not supposed to challenge traditional worship.
However, the Rev David Houlding, prebendary at St Paul’s Cathedral, bemoaned the Church’s attempt to widen its appeal.
“All this is tosh. It’s just a passing fad, irrelevant, shallow and pointless,” he said.
“There’s no depth to it and it’s embarrassing because it’ll make people think that we’re eccentric and silly.”
The Fresh Expressions initiative has spawned churches for surfers as well as commissioning priests to work in night clubs and skateboard parks.