There is no subject in the world (always excepting sport) on which I have less to say than liturgiology. And the almost nothing which I have to say may as well be disposed of in this letter.
I think our business as laymen is to take what we are given and make the best of it. And I think we should find this a great deal easier if what we were given was always and everywhere the same. To judge from their practice, very few Anglican clergymen take this view. It looks as if they believed people can be lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications and complications of the service. And it is probably true that a new, keen vicar will usually be able to form within his parish a minority who are in favour of his innovations. The majority, I believe, never are. Those who remain—many give up churchgoing altogether—merely endure...
A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question, “What on earth is he up to now?” will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.” (CS Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, 1964)
I spent eight years in a liturgical church, and have been at liturgical service since then. I like them. I still consider it a great lack that we do not have the Confession at the beginning of any of our services, not even in preparation for the Lord's Supper, not even for Lent. That order of worship is not arbitrary. I do recall over many years people complaining about "having the same thing every week." While that is not strictly true, there is a good deal of truth in it. These complaints came from either young people who had grown up with the service and now found it tiresome or from other denominations who thought they did not have a liturgy and had disdain for what they felt was rote repetition with no life. The Jesus people and the various Charismatic renewals were very big on having things that they found fresh and spontaneous. I noticed that those quickly gravitated to patterns of their own - patterns that simply happened, not thought out. There would be a certain number of minutes of singing, which was sometimes called "worship time," followed by some prayer with stock phrases, then a correct amount of further singing - one could sense how much - then a lesson, or prayer requests with explanations.
It seems we will have liturgy regardless, the only question being whether it is intentionally designed with an eye to what has been considered essential to worship. Some black churches retain processions, which I think is a good thing.
I recall the itch that some felt to keep tinkering with the service. The new liturgy was always going to fix everything, to capture the modern, er, whatever better than what we had, which seemed so 1920s or 1940s, or 1960s to us now. Everything that is not eternal is eternally out of date, as Lewis also said. I understand the desire myself, and have created liturgies of my own for special occasions, with the pastor speaking, then the congregation, then the men alternating with women or the left side of the congregation with the right, or the children's voices and the adults, all to create a sort of music of its own. It does seem a wonderful idea. It echoes what we are told in the Revelation to John will occur in the world to come, with the Twenty-Four Elders singing their song, those who have been through the tribulation singing another, all with a sort of choreography of throwing down crowns and moving about. It should work. It never worked anywhere near as well as I hoped and I abandoned the effort.
But tinkering brings our minds out of the worship. We might hope that it brings the mind out to look at everything in fresh perspective, to see the old forms in a new way and have a deeper understanding of God, but I think "What on earth is he up to now?" is the more common response from those in the pews.