Rituals are everywhere. They are found in the mundane as well as the formal. From the ritual of waking up and making coffee to the way we celebrate a birth or mourn those who have passed. Beyond that, our worship services are rich with ritual. There is a time for the welcome and a time for the doughnuts. There is a time for a rock ’n’ roll band to take the stage and a time for the video announcements. A time for the pipe organ to play the Sanctus and a time for the passing of the peace. The question every leader struggles with is “when is it time to change?” When is it time to build something new, and when to build by tearing down a practice that no longer reflects the values of your community? The David Crowder*Band dealt with just this issue during the past year. We were fortunate enough to sit with David Crowder as he and his band were on the final leg of their final tour and on the cusp of a new direction—a new song. The topic of conversation? The past. And when is it time to make changes to our rituals.
The news that David Crowder*Band was releasing their final CD was a bit of a surprise to many followers. But what isn’t a surprise is the breadth and scope of their final offering: a double CD with over 90 minutes of music, it’s massive, and it’s a ritual of worship. But not just any ritual, DC*B created a Mass—a requiem to be more precise. For those rusty on the early church’s Mass nomenclature, a requiem is the celebration for the repose of the soul. Their final offering is a funeral CD. How appropriate. Of course it’s “In the happiest of keys.” The David Crowder*Band has never shied from the past. Their first CD had a classic hymn cover, before that was a hip thing to do. Throughout the years they’ve busted out Bluegrass, “Church Music,” keytars, and now a Mass. The question becomes, is this a reaction to the current state of contemporary worship where there seems to be a lack of regard for church history? Not exactly.
“It’s more a lack of complexity,” explains Crowder. “What’s majestic and beautiful about a lot of the older liturgy that we’ve maybe misplaced is that that it feels transcendent. Many times the liturgy was like a journey. You couldn’t just pop in for half the service and get everything. You know, you can pop in a lot of contemporary services and not be very confused by any of it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but, it’s like the show Lost. The reason that show was so attractive was because there was an exploration that it demanded of you. You couldn’t understand everything that was really happening. I think there’s something very attractive about worship where everything is hinging on mystery, and it’s a difficult thing to put your head around. It’s more complex.”
It’s clear that Crowder isn’t alone in this view; the next generation of worshipers (who will also become the next generation of leaders) is far more interested in the past than many worship settings allow. “There are so many college students that are attached to what we’re doing,” says Crowder. “And the thing I love about where they are in life is that they want desperately to live for something bigger than themselves. Of course, that’s not new to our theology and our theological approach to life, but it is something that’s been a huge social trend. It’s even a buzz amongst corporations; in their need to market to this younger generation they have to somehow present a product that’s bigger than just consumption.
“And the younger generation is finding that this present moment is not sufficient enough. That we need something that’s bigger than just ‘the present.’ And we need words that say something that’s bigger than the present. But we cant’ look into the future, so we look backwards and pull from what has already been said. In doing so we also realize that we’re not alone in this present moment, but in fact our history is with us.”