Friday, August 21, 2009

C.S. Lewis and worship

C.S. Lewis attended his local parish church faithfully from the time he became a theist — well before he was a Christian. He disliked hymns — bad poetry set to inferior music (and this when one of the editors of the hymnbook had been Ralph Vaughn Williams!). He often found the sermons boring. And he tended to bolt the church as soon as the service ended. But he went to church.

Will Vaus, author of a couple of good books about Lewis, writes about Lewis's worship practice and attitude in "C.S. Lewis Sat Here".
When asked during a “One Man’s Brain Trust” in 1944, “Is attendance at a place of worship or membership with a Christian community necessary to a Christian way of life?” Lewis answered:
My own experience is that when I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn’t go to the churches and Gospel Halls; and then later I found that it was the only way of flying your flag; and, of course, I found that this meant being a target. It is extraordinary how inconvenient to your family it becomes for you to get up early to go to Church. It doesn’t matter so much if you get up early for anything else, but if you get up early to go to Church it’s very selfish of you and you upset the house. If there is anything in the teaching of the New Testament which is in the nature of a command, it is that you are obliged to take the Sacrament, and you can’t do it without going to Church. I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit."
Jack did indeed face opposition to his church attendance on the home front. Mrs. Moore would often taunt him on his return home each Sunday. “Back from the blood feast” she would say. Yet Jack did indeed continue on with church attendance, Mrs. Moore and boring sermons notwithstanding.

By 1940 Jack and Warnie even had their favorite pew at Holy Trinity. ....

In our own age in which “church shopping” is so prevalent we have much to learn from the unwavering discipline of C.S. Lewis in regard to church attendance. Despite the fact that Lewis seldom “got anything out of” the sermons in his parish church, he never went looking for another congregation. He believed in attending services at the church closest to his home and that was that. Lewis was determined to go to church, not for what he could get out of it, but for what he could put in, namely—worship. Lewis understood well the temptation of searching for a church that would “suit” him; he once delineated this temptation in another letter from Screwtape to Wormwood:
My dear Wormwood,
You mentioned casually in your last letter that the patient has continued to attend one church, and one only, since he was converted, and that he is not wholly pleased with it. May I ask what you are about? Why have I no report on the causes of his fidelity to the parish church? Do you realise that unless it is due to indifference it is a very bad thing? Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that “suits” him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.
C.S. Lewis was determined not to become such a “connoisseur of churches”. As he wrote to Mary Van Deusen, “Is there not something especially good (and even, in the end, joyful) about mere obedience (in lawful things) to him who bears our Master’s authority, however unworthy he be—perhaps all the more, if he is unworthy?”.... (more)
C.S. Lewis Blog: C.S. Lewis Sat Here

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