We do not pray in Latin or Greek or Syriac. We worship in the language with which we are familiar. There are many in the congregation who speak other languages but worship in English or Spanish out of a choice. That is, because they find that they are closer to God in this language.
When we were in Hungary a few years ago, Alina and I worshipped at a small, Methodist church in Budapest. The service was entirely in Hungarian, a language that I do not speak but Alina’s heritage language. She was able to pray and worship in the language of her family and it was beautiful. They had not become Christians until moving to the states and so English was the language of her faith up until that point.
Article 22 of the Articles of Religion guides us liturgically as a Church. It says that liturgy need not be identical but that we have a standard of the Word of God. As well, it says that changing the liturgy is not up to individuals but up to the church itself.
The point of worship is not to please everybody but to praise God. It is finding the balance between comfort and tradition, between the vernacular and the historic.
Worship has a goal and a purpose and every aspect of worship should be aimed at that purpose. As it says in the article, “Every particular church may ordain, change, or abolish rites and ceremonies, so that all things may be done to edification.” Are we being edified in worship or confused? Are we obfuscating or making clear.
As a preacher, I have to consider whether I talk about the Greek or Hebrew in order to edify or in order to puff myself up. Our bible is translated from languages quite different from English. Something is always lost in translation but that is not reason enough to worship in a language most do not understand.
But all of this means that as a church, we should be continually looking at how we worship to see whether we are being edifying or not. Whether we are doing things because they bring people closer to God, or because we’ve always done them and haven’t had time to think about a change.
If you lift your arms in praise or if you do not, God is present in our worship and we glorify God in that time by making worship as meaningful as possible to everyone.
Article XXII — Of the Rites and Ceremonies of Churches
It is not necessary that rites and ceremonies should in all places be the same, or exactly alike; for they have been always different, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely doth openly break the rites and ceremonies of the church to which he belongs, which are not repugnant to the Word of God, and are ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, that others may fear to do the like, as one that offendeth against the common order of the church, and woundeth the consciences of weak brethren.
Every particular church may ordain, change, or abolish rites and ceremonies, so that all things may be done to edification.