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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Bell Ringers 'Sacked for Being Too Traditional'

It seems that a group of bell-ringers in the UK has had enough. They would not play the "silly worship songs" for the new contemporary service. That led to a changing of the locks at the church. They knew it was over when the bells ended up on one of the ringer's doorstep. (You have to admit, that would be hard to do with an organ!) And you thought you had problems...

Here's the article that appeared recently in the News Telegraph:

A team of bell-ringers has been sacked in a row between Anglican traditionalists and modernisers at an 11th century church. The dispute has led to the locks of the tower at St Nicholas Church in Leeds, Kent, being changed and equipment belonging to the ousted bell master being dumped on his doorstep.

Chris Cooper, 25, and his five colleagues were given their marching orders after refusing to ring the bells during modern, family services featuring "silly worship songs" and for demanding the full reintroduction of services based on the Book of Common Prayer.

The Rev Robin Gill, the vicar of a church whose foundations were laid by the Saxons in 1000 and whose oldest bell was cast in 1617, decided to end the dispute by replacing Mr Cooper with Chris Saunders, a church council member at St Nicholas.

Mr Cooper, who is also on the council, said: "I had all of my equipment, including a peal board of great sentimental value dumped, outside my house in the middle of the night.

"I returned to the church with my band to find locks had been changed and I had already been replaced. All of us in the ringers are furious but I am the one who wanted to go public with this because the church want to keep it hushed up. In the end we were dismissed for being too traditional.

"All of this was done behind our backs. It's like living in Soviet Russia. During our last council meeting, Chris Saunders and I had a row about the way everything had happened but his actions were defended by the church council because he supports the modern services, where I have spoken out against them.

"There seems to be a big conspiracy against people like me who want to protect the Book of Common Prayer. The whole thing has been nasty and sneaky. Chris has even modernised the name bell master and called himself tower captain. It's a joke."

Mr Cooper, from Hythe in Kent, became bell master at St Nicholas's five years ago. He is a member of Leeds Youth Ringers, who also play at churches in Ashford, Hothfield and Mersham.

He said problems began at St Nicholas when he aired his views on the importance of maintaining traditional values. "Modernisation goes hand in hand with removing pews, not being silent before services and the introduction of these silly worship songs," he added.

"They didn't like what I had to say about the preservation of the Book of Common Prayer. I would expect better from a Christian church that is supposed to be based on trust and fellowship."

Mr Gill admitted that Mr Cooper's belongings had been dumped outside his home but said that he had condemned it. "That was not the act of the church and I have already expressed my deep distress and anger to the person who did that," he said.

"We have met with Chris Cooper and told him it was not a matter of him being sacked but that we wanted a new leader because he is not prepared to ring the bells for the family services.

"We have four churches - two have the Book of Common Prayer and two have modern services. Chris isn't happy with this but we were doing it when he joined."

The Rev Nigel Fry, an assistant priest, added that the decision to remove Mr Cooper had nothing to do with theological attitudes. "It was nothing more than a practical thing because he couldn't promise to ring the bells every Sunday," he said.

Here's a link to the full article by David Sapsted.

Brings a while new meaning to the term "Worship Wars". Any horror stories or victories you'd care to share about this (or your own) worship wars, personal preference, or how personalities and egos can get in the way in worship? Please click the 'comments' button below!

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September 21, 2004 in For What It's Worth | Permalink

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As a fellow journeyman on the road of Christianity, it is articles like this one that make me want to cry and laugh in the same moment. The members of this congregation and the leaders of this ministry are missing the point when it comes to traditional vs. modern. Excuse me, but we are now living in a postmodern age; the tradition/modern wars are over and the winner is "BOTH". It is time to stop fighting over style and get back to substance... that is what the average postmeodern is looking for. Are Christians ever going to start acting and living like Christ? The world is watching, St. Nicholas Church! It seems to me you have lost your way. Worship is about God and not about us. Our "silly worship songs" and our readings from the Common Book of Prayer are useful as long as they draw our attention to God and help us focus our attention on what God is trying to do in the world. New locks will still protect old wounds and will continue to keep the Holy Spirit at a safe distance. Please church... let us stop running from our conflicts and our past wounds and humble ourselves before a holy and mysterious God who deserves our worship no matter what the style. I pray with you the lament from David to God in Psalm 51... from the Message Bible: "Going through the motions doesn't please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don't for a moment escape God's notice."

Posted by: Tim Bistline | Sep 21, 2004 8:01:13 AM

Typical. It seems that we forget the purpose of gathering together. When one joins a church, one also should accept the traditions of the church as well. It is a package deal. If I go to my neighbor's house and it is traditional to remove my shoes - I remove my shoes. To do otherwise is to offend the host(ess).

We had a church in our group who attempted blended services. When the hymns were picked up - a group of those who preferred contemporary music would get up and walk out until the hymn was over. When the contemporary songs were sung with overheads, several traditional members would either sit down and refuse to sing. The pastor of that church left in burnout.

Maybe we should rethink worship altogether. The time that the church gathers is not meant for worship but for teaching. Worship is not limited to Sunday morning - it seems to me that maybe if we did less singing and paying more attention to God's Word so we can follow the principle of Romans 12:1-2, we would not fall into the trap of the "worship wars."

Posted by: Dan Moore | Sep 21, 2004 9:11:54 AM

Question: Is worship all about us, or is it all about God? Seems to me, folk on both sides of this aisle in too many churches are more concerned with self than they are with God. Too often, at least in American, worhsip has become a spectator sport - people going to be entertained, with litle or no thought to what true worship is.

In my mind, (corporate) worship is to be a time when we gather together to (scripturally) raise hands to a holy God. IF (purposefully capitalized) we truly offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom. 12) in obedience to His commands - we'll begin to experiene true worship. Then we wouldn't have the disagreements over traditional vs. contemporary, etc. etc., ad nauseam.

To put it in the Greek, "Stop focusing on yourself, and start focusing on Me."

Posted by: Bob Dutton | Sep 21, 2004 9:31:36 AM

I'm glad I'm a church planter. But even in newer churches we encounter folks who come in with an agenda to make this church like the one in their memories!

Most of us equate our cultural preferences as sacred realities. But rather than worshipping the Living God we are resting in a memory, at best, or worshipping our ancestors at worst.

If today's worship service strikes a chord with the memories and emotions of the past, then we conclude that the worship service was "anointed"! And this is true for traditionalists and contemporaries alike.

Posted by: dane | Sep 21, 2004 9:51:30 AM

As a "cradle Episcopalian" and a minister of music - this is one of the reasons I found it necessary to leave this denomination. Many are so hung up on maintaining the tradtions of the church they have lost complete sight of what we are really called - The Great Commission. The Book of Common Prayer is nice but it is not the Bible!! Let's concentrate on bringing the unsaved and unchurched into the Body of Christ. It's not about us!!! Until we learn that - we will never accomplish what we (Christians) are truly called to do. No wonder so many people want nothing to do with the "church". It's things like this that give it a BAD NAME.

I pray that God will forgive us.

Warren Schob
Worship Leader
City Church
Trinity Florida

Posted by: Warren Schob | Sep 21, 2004 11:49:32 AM

In a sad way, I too find this story humorous and quite close to home. My current ministry setting is a satellite campus begun by our 125 year old, downtown congregation. Part of the reason they chose to start this new ministry was to avoid change. A new ministry would enable each campus to worship as they chose. Sounds good - at first. But five years down the road we find ourselves recreating "mini worship wars" each week in staff meeting. And I don't think God finds it humorous at all. Somewhere we have indeed lost the focus...it should always be about God...for God...a gift to God. I am a classically trained musician who serves in a very informal, blended worship setting. My appreciation for music and creative arts runs very deep. But my desire to see people make a connection with Christ runs deeper. And when we remove the Christ connection from the center of our planning and conversation dissention runs amuck. Here's the challenge as I see it. The new blog - great idea - but aren't we just "preachin' to the choir"? Obviously each response is quite similar. How do we broaden the BLOG to include the full spectrum of worship preference???

Posted by: Polly Morrison | Sep 21, 2004 1:57:44 PM

As an Anglican myself, this saddens me. While it may seem to be a bit humorous, there is also a lot of sadness involved with this type of division. Some contemporary worship doesn't fit in with the Anglican tradition, but neither does this sort of fighting, either.

Posted by: Amanda Demers | Sep 21, 2004 2:54:54 PM

As a Ruling Elder in our Presbyterian Church, I have witnessed and survived the Traditional/Contemporary Worship battle. The bottom line, as all above have said, "it's not about us." To shepard a church through these style wars, takes time, patience, and education. Teaching people that most of the "silly worship songs" are scriptural in their lyrics is a good first step.
Having a Director of Music rearrange hymns is another. The richness of the lyrics of old hymns is priceless. The music can be a bit of a drudge sometimes, but rearranging can bring them into the 21st century.
We found that blended services just get everybody upset, so 7 years ago we went to two separate services; one traditional and one contemporary. The tradtional service which preserves the liturgy, richness, and ritual of a "mainline", "this is your Grandmother's Church" service is held at 8:30 AM and appeals many of our older members of our congregation. The organ plays and the choir, in robes, sings, and the congregation uses the hymnals to sing the 3 hymns.
Our Contemporary Service has a 9 piece Praise Band with two keyboards, drums, bass guitar, lead guitar and a 4 vocalists. Words to songs are projected on a screen and the order of worship is far more flexible.
Key to both services is the preaching of the Word.
Our Pastor is gifted when it comes to preaching his sermon, and the message of Christ crucified and resurrected for our sins is preeminent.
We no longer have battle lines drawn in a "Civil Worship War" but have joined forces in the fight against the enemy.

Posted by: Bill Hicks | Sep 27, 2004 4:26:39 PM

Funny, I thought that worship was about God and not us. It seems to me that God is not pleased about our silly little wars about style and wants us to have a heart of worship that honors Him, no matter what form it takes.

Posted by: James Byler | Sep 27, 2004 11:45:23 PM

Our God is indeed an awesome God who reigns with strength and might, and even this very day I have personally one again faced this very "worship war" issue. I sit here at 4:45 EST waiting for a 7:30 pm meeting that will continue this debate. Then I read this story and read these many comments and I am encouraged to realized I am not alone. I have only been in this position for three years and yet I feel desperate and not a little "burnt-out" I love Jesus, I want to use my musical and dramatic gifts and abilities to praise Him and to make disciples. I do not want to listen to this endless bickering anymore. Lord, make me a channel of your peace! A prayer for all to obedience not preference.

Posted by: Penny Rasnake | Sep 28, 2004 4:28:19 PM

God loves worship whether it is traditional or contemporary. The issue isn't style. The focus must be God. The Church and it's clergy and ministers of music are charged with the awsome responsibility of helping the people of God, worship God , that is - "Puting God first in our lives." It breaks my heart to know that people have made an idol out of a style or preference for worship. They are missing the point. We, especially those who dare call ourselves Christian, must remember that God said, "Thou shall have no other God's but me",and I agree with with Joshua, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

Posted by: F. Creamer | Sep 29, 2004 5:00:06 PM

I too have been through this. It all boils down to our sinful nature asserting itself, and there will be disagreements about something until Christ returns.

Posted by: William Weinmann | Oct 11, 2004 2:00:01 PM

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