When my pastor at the Community of St. Peter (then Historic St. Peter Church) was gathering feedback for his D.Min. dissertation about how worship was formative for our congregation, he asked the choir to gather for a special meeting. We choir members had had the broadest and most consistent exposure to the various liturgies celebrated in our community, including funerals and weddings, which generally were rather exclusive affairs. Our breadth of liturgical experiences made us especially important for his dissertation, so we talked with him. I remember speaking up at one point to offer that liturgy--however it may be done--teaches Christians agency and accountability. Where we are liturgical agents, we become accountable for the way we bring about God's Reign in the world. Where we are not liturgical agents, we are not accountable for the way we bring about (or fail to bring about) the Reign of God in the world.
It seems to me that for Christian communities who are fearful of becoming obsolete in their ritual practices, the answer starts, but never ends, with liturgy. In what way do congregations pray? If what we do at church is what we learn to do in the world, what exactly is it that we're learning? And if what we learn at church is that practicing the Reign of God is someone else's job, then aren't we doing church wrong?
The church doesn't exist for its own sake. Christians are called to live no longer for themselves, but for the sake of the world, that God's radical peace might find a place to dwell in every corner. Any Christian community that exists to serve itself may as well shutter its doors. We are formed in Christian community primarily so that we--all the baptized, not merely clergy--may be sent into the world to do what Jesus charged his disciples to do: to feed the multitudes with that for which they are most desperately hungry.
For what do our neighbors starve and thirst? And what will my Christian sisters and brothers and I--as people empowered by baptism and formed around the tables of holy word, living bread, and saving wine--offer them?