“Disruptive innovation”

Understanding this current change will require a more sophisticated concept of Church as people in God and worship as people in God at prayer writes F

Aug 29, 2020

By J.P. Grayland
“Disruptive innovation” is not a common term in theological and liturgical discussions. It comes from Clayton Christensen’s 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma.

The application of disruptive-innovation to our current experience of liturgical practice helps us to see why the fundamental presumption of liturgy as a communitarian event, where the ritual elements of priest, people, Sunday, church, music, eucharistic prayer and communion that once made sense, no longer do.

The disruption to the concept of community has created innovative forms of worship; forms that no longer presume the use of all or most of the ritual elements of Catholic worship.

Liturgical disruption – what it looks like
Let’s consider what liturgical disruption is by looking at the world around us.

In the world of taxis, Uber is described as a disruptor, but this might not be entirely accurate. While Uber has challenged the taxi business it hasn’t moved the concept of personal transport in a radically new direction.

When we look at the movie industry and Netflix, we see a different effect. I first discovered Netflix while living in  the United States when DVDs were delivered to our homes.

I remember thinking “Why would I do this when I can walk to the local video shop?” Now, I watch streamed movies and news programmes in a variety of languages from across the world.

Initially, Netflix didn’t disrupt the supply of movies – video shops continued to exist. Netflix disrupted the fundamental behaviours of movie watching people and capitalised on this when the Internet arrived.

Disruption of customer behaviours matched with innovations in customer services has seen the growth of the Netflix community (customer base) and the death of the local video shop’s customer base.

The death of video shops and the morphing of cinemas into bars and cafes with movies attached, to survive, is indicative of the disruption-innovation needed to survive significant behavioural change.

I would suggest that the proliferation of online Masses is not the key disruptor – it is more Uber than Netflix. Online Masses predate COVID and the sheer  volume of them now shouldn’t distract us.

The volume is not the key disruptor because it has not brought a change in foundational behaviours.

The transference of the Mass’s performance-based ritual from the sanctuary to the screen did not disrupt alreadyexisting liturgical behaviours; priests did what they normally do – perform the rituals- and believers did what they normally do – watch the rituals being performed.

Thus, the ritual behaviours didn't change because the already dominant operative behaviours were not disrupted.

The behavioural disruption came with the inability to recreate the physical presence of the community and physical participation in the shared eucharistic meal, even to the point where concelebrating presbyters uses separate chalices and individually consecrated host rather than sharing these elements.

If anything, the online mass has unwittingly contributed to the liturgical disruption of the physical liturgical community by taking the viewer from the pew to the couch.

The disruption-innovation dynamics of the liturgical community
Liturgical life during COVID offers three considerations of disruptioninnovation.

First, habitual worshipping practices have been disrupted and behaviours that have been central to liturgical and parish life have radically changed. Because the primary concern is safety, these behaviours define liturgical practice.

Believers are more prepared to stay away from church gatherings, to pray at home, or even celebrate a “lay eucharist” with family instead of going to Mass.

Second, online Masses and worship groups have innovated choice; as a colleague suggested online ‘worship has become promiscuous.’

The dynamic of choice is not new – for example in my experience people move between parish Masses based on a variety of reasons such as convenience, the liturgical style of the Mass, or the music.

Now choice includes legitimately worshipping at home.

While the Church (corner video shop) is the place to find “spiritual communion”, our attention is now turning to the innovation of the “domestic church” and home worship as the new locus of authentic liturgical prayer.

Third, and most importantly, the behaviours of physical liturgical community have been radically disrupted and innovated.

Community is a threat (disruption) as well as something we want (innovation). While believers can search the web for a community they can feel safe in, this is not always the case for physical community.

Profound disruption to liturgical behaviour has come through social and physical distancing, wearing masks, communion from behind a screen, prohibitions on singing, restricted numbers,  and closed churches.

These have altered our behaviours and changed the way we experience liturgical community; they have changed our shared understandings of community itself.

When we stand in the carpark, chatting after Mass, we realise implicitly that our physical behaviours inside the church say; “worship and Church community are dangerous and it’s safer not to participate”.

The foundational disruption to physical community has changed our liturgical behaviours, and, therefore, our experience of prayer itself, which the phrase lex orandi, lex credendi summaries: we pray (orandi) what we believe (credendi).

Because we are a community who pray what we believe and who bring our belief to prayer, the disruption of prayer will have an impact on the belief. When we pray online and reduce Mass to spiritual communion for the viewer the potential danger is to extenuate the clerical aspect of Mass and formalise visual participation as “sufficient” for belief.

When a family prays a “lay eucharist” at home they exclude the presbyterial ministry. In both instances the disruption to community has changed our behaviours and along with it our presumptions of authentic liturgical prayer and ministry.

The foundational disruption to the communitarian aspect of lex orandi/lex credendi will show itself in accommodations to “liturgical masks” and “liturgical distancing”.

Such accommodations have the potential to move the physical celebration of liturgy from “we” to “I”, thereby returning worship to a privatised, or selfisolated ritual action.

Thus, the most significant disruption to liturgy is the disruption of physical  community and the most important innovation to liturgy are the new ways of being liturgical community.

The disruption-innovation of communal prayer (lex orandi), I suggest will likely impact the not only the Church’s communitarian framework, but its presumptions of authentic ministry.

Liturgical innovation – future changes
The disruption-innovation of the COVID-liturgical period can only be sketched. Liturgical history shows that naming disruptors is not easy because liturgy evolves over a longer timeframe and generally does not anticipate social and cultural shifts, it reflects them.

However, liturgy’s formal struggles with adaptation and innovation are always related to changes in behaviours and theological contexts.

Understanding this current change will require a more sophisticated concept of Church as people in God and worship as people in God at prayer if we are to benefit from the disruption-innovation to community we are creating.

It will require a higher level of ecclesial leadership and a much higher calibre of liturgical leadership and insight than we have seen recently from Vatican departments.

The disruption to physical community is greater than online, virtual worship and the effects on who we worship with, who we are as Christian people and, ultimately where we belong, remain to be considered.––LCI ((https://international.la-croix.com/

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Slavic Christian Societyinfo@slavxrist.org
UNIVERSAL CHURCH ICONOGRAPHY Illustrated Creed “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, … And was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary and was made man; was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; and the third day rose again … and the life of the world to come. Amen."1 1. IMAGE/ICON OF GOD AND THE CREATION OF THE WORLD ? AT CHURCH ENTRANCE2 2. SCENES FROM THE COMMON SACRED HISTORY ? ALONG ONE WALL/ICONOSTAS, E.G.: FALL OF ADAM AND EVE NOAH AND THE FLOOD SACRIFICE OF ABRAHAM MOSES AND THE TEN COMMANDMENTS NATIVITY OF CHRIST FLIGHT INTO EGYPT JESUS IN THE CARPENTER SHOP CRUCIFIXION RESURRECTION DESCENT OF HOLY SPIRIT ON THE APOSTLES / APOSTOLIC COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM CONSTANTINE’S EDICT OF 313 / COUNCIL OF CARTHAGE IN 397 AND THE BIBLE CANON CHURCH OF SAINT PETER’S IN ROME / OUR LADY OF KAZAN IN SAINT PETERSBURG 3. SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF A FAITHFUL INDIVIDUAL ? ALONG OTHER WALL/ICONOSTAS, E.G.: GOOD WORKS – GOOD SAMARITAN / ZACCHAEUS PRAYER – REPENTANCE PRAYER OF THE PUBLICAN / THE GOOD THIEF SEVEN SACRAMENTS – SAINT LEOPOLD MANDICH / SAINT PIO IN THE CONFESSIONAL 4. ALTAR RAIL / ANCIENT STYLE LOW ICONOSTAS ? IN FRONT OF APSE AND ALTAR 5. LECTERN PORTABLE ? IN FRONT OF ALTAR 6. IMAGE/ICON OR STATUE OF MARY WITH THE CHILD ? LEFT OF ALTAR 7. THE FIFTEEN SCENES OF THE ROSARY ? LEFT WALL OR ICONOSTAS 8. IMAGE/ICON OR STATUE OF CHRIST THE TEACHER ? RIGHT OF ALTAR 9. THE WAY OF THE CROSS, INCLUDING DESCENT INTO HADES ? RIGHT WALL OR ICONOSTAS3 10. TABLE OF PREPARATION ? LEFT OF ALTAR 11. ALTAR ? CENTRE OF APSE 12. TABERNACLE ? CENTRE OF ALTAR4 13. CRUCIFIX ? ON ALTAR 14. IMAGE/ICON OF LAST SUPPER, THE FIRST EUCHARIST/MASS IN JERUSALEM ? IN FRONT OF ALTAR5 15. IMAGE/ICON OF ETERNAL LIFE DEPICTING THE SAINTS AND GOD ? IN CHURCH APSE6 REFERENCES. Abbreviation: e.g. – for example. 1 Illustrated Creed is a depiction of the entire Creed, from the beginning to the end, thus proclaiming Christian Faith in pictures, including pictures in stained glass windows – a synergy of faith and art, good and beautiful, and a perfect and unsurpassable artistic masterpiece of Christian civilization. The ideal church building, the house of God’s people, is a sacred functional/practical symbol of timeless form and proportion, containing images of sacred persons and events from the beginning of creation to the glorification in heaven. The shape of a church dome may be symbolic of the rainbow from Genesis 9:16 and the cross on its top is a sign of the New Covenant. Simplicity of design in parish churches is helpful for their economical maintenance; symmetrical and well-proportioned design gives beauty to a church building in which Eucharist/Liturgy/Mass and other Sacraments are celebrated for the glory of God and for human sanctification, e.g., churches in Jerusalem, Constantinople, Kiev, Saint Petersburg, Rome, Montréal, Washington, San Francisco and Mexico. 2 This is an original 2013 Slavic synthesis based on Genesis 1:1-31, Exodus 3:14, Colossians 1:16, and Church Tradition, and a correction of theologically-deficient, though artistically excellent, Renaissance painting in the famous Sistine Chapel in Rome, which also lacks scenes from the Rosary and the Way of the Cross, popularized after the 16th century; see Santa Sofia basilica in Rome. 3 The 15th station of the Way of the Cross, Christ’s descent into hell on Good Friday, is an original Slavic-Italian sequel (final) published in 2006. 4 See: Saint Francis of Assisi church in Mississauga, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield, and others, http://ewtn.com/ library/curia/cdwinoec.htm – the centrality of the tabernacle. 5 See: Saint Francis of Assisi church in Toronto and a multitude of others. 6 This picture, like the 15th station of the Way of the Cross, beautifully and perfectly rounds out the illustrated Creed into a fitting and irreplaceable whole; see: apse of San Vitale in Ravenna, painting of Domenico Ghirlandaio, and many others. See also: http://newadvent.org/cathen/05257a.htm; http://sacredarchitecture.org; Pope John Paul II’s letter commemorating the 12th centenary of Nicea II, Rome, 1987; Paul Evdokimov, L’Art de l’icône: théologie de ta beauté, Paris, 1972; Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Rome, 1963; Pope John Paul II (promulgator), Catéchisme de l’Eglise catholique, Rome, 1992; Josef A. Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman rite, New York, 1951. Prepared by Slavic Christian Society / Société Chrétienne Slave / Sl?viansko Xristianskoe S?branie, Mississauga http://slavxrist.org 1999; originally published in Polish as Uniwersalna Ikonografia Ko?cio?a: Ilustrowane Credo, Mississauga http://kolbe.ca 1999. English edition: (1) Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Polish Roman Catholic Church, Mississauga, 1999; (2) revised according to the 2013 Croatian edition Univerzalno Crkveno Slikarstvo: Ilustrirano Vjerovanje – blessed by Bishop Bogovi?, published by Knights of Columbus, Council 12922, 1883 King St. E., Hamilton, ON L8K 1V9 https://kofc.org/en 12.2.2016.