I was first drawn to Dr. Spinks’ book because I’ve been wrestling with the reality that so many of my friends and family have either left the Catholic Church or stopped attending any religious service. I have been trying to understand their decision. Now that I am working on a college campus, the questions of faith, religion, and spirituality are part of my daily conversations and even more urgent. I primarily minister to Generation Y and I am struggling to minister in this culture of consumerism. On some level, I feel the need to understand their desire to “shop around” and experiment with different styles of worship. Will young and old alike continue to “purchase” from the various “stores” only what is attractive and comfortable and agreeable?
The Worship Mall begins by setting the scene of the postmodern world. Spinks discusses that consumerism is one of the main characteristics of this era and briefly analyzes the “Mall” culture’s effect on society, in particular, characteristics of Generation Y. It seems one conclusion is that Generation Y should be more open to religion, but do not always have the background to go deeper or ask the hard questions (p. xxii). The end of the introduction lays out two claims:
1). Religion is in competition with all the leisure and entertainment industries and consumerism is both leisure and entertainment.
2). The very fact that there are different trends in contemporary worship suggests that worship styles too represent a mall, offered by different churches to suit your personal taste or spirituality, all enticing in different ways, and in competition with one another (p. xxiii).
From this brief, but engaging introduction, Spinks then leads us on a journey of exploration through various postmodern worship trends. In each chapter, Spinks provides some concrete examples of various models. He presents a brief history of the movement and then outlines their worship service. This survey is eye opening and intriguing. I think this survey provides a thorough introduction to these various trends. Spinks’ analysis is only a beginning and invites the reader (or a future doctoral student!) to take the next step. What long-term effects will current trends have on religion and religious experience?
As you can see, he covers quite far-flung topics:
- Blended, fusion or synthesis worship (The U2 Eucharist, Duke Ellington Mass, Hip-Hop Eucharist)
- Consciously postmodern: alt., emerging and liquid worship (Nine O’Clock service)
- Entertaining worship or worship as entertainment? Megachurch, seeker services and multi-sensory worship (Robert Schuller, Joel Osteen, Willow Creek, Saddleback)
- Praise and Worship songs and worship in the charismatic churches (music and personality worship, Hillsong and Darlene Zschech)
- On the margins of corporate global postmodern culture (African Independent Churches, Korean Minjung Eucharists and Kuk-Ak Worship, Appalachian Mountain Religion and Taking Up Serpents)
- Contemporary “Celtic worship” (Iona Community; Celtic Eucharists)
- A variety of post-Vatican II liturgies (from the reclaiming of the 1962 rite to various pick-and-mix liturgies)
Spinks’ project is descriptive rather than evaluative, but as I read each chapter, questions abounded which deserve further treatment and conversation: In a society that is focused on individual success and gratification, how is our worship affected? Are the adaptations to existing models helpful? Do the new models reinforce consumerist and entertainment attitudes? How is ritual affected? The Worship Mall doesn’t necessarily provide clear answers to these questions, but Spinks does provide some insightful and provoking observations on how these worship trends engage and influence the “shopper.”
A line from the last paragraph of the book has stuck with me, “ Liturgy should entice and enchant us not only to desire, but also fall in love with God the Trinity, and thereby love our neighbours” (p. 216). Although his project is primarily descriptive, this idea can serve as a tool for evaluation for those planning liturgy and seeking a place of worship.