Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
April 30, 2001
Unique ministry draws in youth
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
I am a Christian traditionalist. For me, liturgical observance is the essence of Christian worship. Not just any liturgy of course, but orders of service that have stood the test of centuries of use.
However, even the most enthusiastic fan of liturgical worship is obliged to concede that the traditional forms are not exactly packing the pews on Sundays.
I hasten to add that I don't think that declining head counts are reason to abandon traditional liturgy.
I don't have much time for the notion of Church as entertainment, and I believe that what we "get" out of Christianity is salvation of our eternal souls and the opportunity to serve others - not distraction from boredom. I am convinced that the fullness of Christian worship is to be found in the traditional Catholic Mass, and that something will always be missing from other forms.
Those principles notwithstanding, perhaps appreciation of the richness and depth of traditional forms of Christian worship is something that requires a degree of maturity in the faith that is too much to expect of newbies, at least in this post-literate and post-modern era.
Indeed, I came to Christianity largely through the ministry of a countercultural, evangelical movement of the late 1960s and early '70s known as the Jesus People, essentially Christian hippies. There was precious little form and certainly no liturgy. The theology was simplistic, but the street Gospel spoke to me in the space I inhabited at the time.
And while the last 30 years has been a personal spiritual journey from non-denominational, Protestant evangel-icalism to traditional Catholic orthodoxy, it is a pertinent question as to whether I would be where I am today had it not been for that radically non-traditional ministry of 30 years ago, which is why, notwithstanding my strong affection for Catholic traditionalism, I have in no way disavowed my identification with evangelism.
Consequently, I was interested to learn about Freedomize, a non-traditional, evangelical outreach in Toronto whose ministry target is the heretofore largely unchurched young post-moderns, which bills itself as "a new Church created by the young and designed for the young."
Freedomize services, which are held on Sunday evenings in the neo-Gothic St. Andrew's Church, across from Roy Thompson Hall, feature candlelight, contemporary music and multimedia presentations. A "Kids Kingdom" child care centre offers stories and games for children during the service.
The church also has regular Wine and Jazz evenings, where attendees get "all dressed up for an evening of smokin' jazz and Epicurean delights served up by some local chefs and sommeliers," and monthly movie presentations - a contemporary film critique/discussion event where members delve into the hidden messages and artistry of current release films.
The church books a theatre, provides child care, coffee and a panel of experts, and everyone enjoys the film together. There are smaller group meetings through the week called Living Rooms "for friendship, accountability, prayer and for a media-generated biblical discussion."
Co-pastored by two 26-year-olds, Gord Marriage and Todd Castelon, Freedomize also has a stylistically avant garde Web site (www.freedomize.com). However, Freedomize rejects the postulate that they are watering down the Gospel message in order to attract the GenX and Echo crowd.
"We preach the Gospel harder and more offensively than our counterparts," Marriage told ChristianWeek's Helene Smrcek. "We just package it a little differently in a contemporary style." In ministering to members of the post-boomer generation, Marriage says: "we treat them like they are Christians, until they realize that they are not and want to be one."
I think that's a wonderful evangelical strategy. And in touring the Freedomize Web site, which includes a statement of faith, what I found confirmed that the doctrine and Christology Freedomize affirms is a conservative and orthodox brand of evangelical Protestantism - essentially the same message that originally attracted me to the Christian faith.
My hope would be that people attracted to Christianity through ministries like Freedomize will, as I did, eventually discover and develop an appreciation for traditional Catholic worship and the concept of sacramental grace. But in the meantime, I congratulate Marriage and Cantelon on their pro-active and apparently effective efforts to evangelize post-moderns with the Christian Gospel.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.