Thursday, January 04, 2007

Back in Toronto

I'm back in Toronto for the North American Academy of Liturgy annual meeting where I'll be presenting a paper at the "Word in Worship" seminar tomorrow. The weather is unusually warm here--probably approaching the upper forties, with not a snowflake in sight. I spent the mid-morning walking through the University of Toronto upper campus near Queen's Park, peering into the old chapel at Emmanuel and visiting the Northrop Frye Building at Victoria. The latter has a marvelous portrait of Frye hanging in the administrative building. His lion-like mane flows out behind his wire-framed glasses, making him appear to be somewhat distinguished and angelic at one in the same time.

Frye's insights on understanding literature guided much of my early graduate work, just as McLuhan and Ong surfaced later to assist me in understanding how culture and language come together in the interpretive process. On Saturday we'll take up Stephen Webb's recent book, The Divine Voice: Christian Proclamation and Theology of Sound--someone else deeply marked by these same cultural scholars. Webb claims that hearing is always primary to the Christian faith, whereas seeing is ancillary. This is particularly apropos when understanding much of American Evangelicalism's adoration of worship as spectacle--something which must have Ambrose and the Reformers spinning in their graves.

This group of liturgical scholars is committed to understanding and shaping the culture of Christian worship in the midst of one of the greatest times of cultural captivity of the church. Some of them have been marginalized, but I doubt there is any group more so than the few of us who actually call ourselves "evangelical" here. Fortunately, I have found some real kindred spirits who share many of the same concerns that I do. It is somewhat ironic whenever I am more at home with those from outside of my tradition who embrace my contributions compared to those within who see my work as at best idiosyncratic, if not irrelevant.

In any event, it is great to be back in this city which I love so much. The diversity here is always refreshing, as well as the more cosmopolitan look at the world. I'm hoping that this will serve as a springboard for addressing the chapel focus in the spring of how we, as Christians, engage the larger culture in which we live.