Incense, Robes and Candles (Oh, my!)

Before you go thinking I’ve just returned from covering a Wiccan festival read on…

I’ve followed church development trends for years and have written dozens of stories about church growth and renewal. Heck, I was even a new church pastor leading a “contemporary” church following seminary.

Other than some motion of millennials and young gen-Xers migrating toward the mainline church from Evangelical institutions, the basic story has been about ways existing churches – mostly mainline – ¬†attempted to provide contemporary and relevant worship experiences for young(er) people. (Some would even call it, tongue in cheek, “Contemporvant“…)

But there is another trend, one that I saw in the mid-1990s as well, of younger worshipers exploring and embracing ancient forms of worship that include liturgy, ritual and ceremony. “Smells and bells,” was what my Catholic and Orthodox friends called this type of gathering.

As the steady march of contemporizing continues throughout American churches, it is a little surprising to see places where ancient ritual is embraced or, dare I say, resurrected. St. David of Wales Episcopal Church in Portland, Or., recently started a High Mass service offering on Saturday evenings. A little more chanting, singing of scripture, fancier vestments, and of course lots of incense, are what set this service apart from their Sunday morning mass.

I was invited to photograph the first High Mass at St. David of Wales in preparation for a possible video project. Here is a selection of the images from the full album found on Photoshelter.

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