The 2016 meeting of our General Assembly approved a new Directory for Worship. This recommendation is now forwarded to the presbyteries for their consideration. If approved by the presbyteries, this new Directory for Worship will be added to our Book of Order. This action item was not controversial at the meeting of the General Assembly; I predict it will easily be approved by the presbyteries. This Amendment presents us with a wonderful opportunity to discuss our common worship life. For one example, I appreciate this discussion of "culture" (proposed new W-1.0304) which I copied here. As we ponder our public worship and the place of the church in the larger culture, I find the concepts of "contextual", "cross-cultural", transcultural", "countercultural" and "intercultural" very interesting.
God has poured out the Holy Spirit on all flesh; Scripture promises that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. The book of Acts and the New Testament epistles record the challenges and controversies of an emerging Church that would be “no longer Jew or Greek” (Gal. 3:28), but one in Jesus Christ. As the Church has grown and spread over two thousand years, it has taken root and flourished in cultures and lands all around the globe—bearing witness to the love of God for all the world and Christ’s sovereignty in every place. Finally, from the book of Revelation, we know that the company of the redeemed will be a great multitude from every nation, tribe, and people, singing praise to the Lamb of God.
Christian worship is contextual—emerging from a particular community and incorporating the words, images, symbols, and actions that best convey the good news of Jesus Christ in that gathering of God’s people. It is also cross-cultural—reflecting the diversity of traditions and cultures within and beyond the community of faith. Christian worship is transcultural—proclaiming the universal message of God’s grace in Jesus Christ and rooted in common elements of human life that transcend all cultures. It is also countercultural—asserting the scandal of the gospel and anticipating God’s reign of righteousness, justice, and peace. Finally, faithful worship should be an intercultural event—fostering mutuality, dialogue, and equality among all people.
Whenever and wherever we gather in Jesus’ name, we join the praise and prayer of the people of God in every time and place. Therefore, it is fitting that we share stories and sing songs from cultures other than our own as we pray for and with the Church throughout the world.