The Trauma of Secularisation in Afrikaans Reformed Churches
Keywords:secularisation, liturgical change, renewal in the church, electronic music in the church, tradition and modernity, trauma and change in the church
On 18 July 2018, a column was published in a South African newspaper, Beeld, in which the authors present the results of interviews conducted with members of Afrikaans Reformed Churches in South Africa. The interviewees reported the trauma they had experienced with the church changing its symbols, which the interviewees experienced as “secularisation.” Where the church is regarded as a place congregants visit for support in times of uncertainty and anxiety, in this case it has become the source of trauma. Interviewees expressed trauma wherever the following occurred: 1) well-known liturgies, symbols, and songs are replaced with “worldly” ones; 2) electronic music replaces the organ; 3) the pulpit is removed; 4) the pastor becomes an entertainer; and 5) office bearers dress casually. This column was also published in affiliated Afrikaans newspapers Die Burger and Volksblad, which provoked massive reaction in letters to the newspapers. This article reports on the reaction from writers under the following headings: 1) feelings of discomfort and estrangement from the church; 2) feelings of lost holiness; 3) concerns that a sacred space has been violated; 4) anger because symbols as powerful expressions of faith connecting one to God, have been removed from the church; 5) ageing church-goers are being blamed for keeping the church from renewing; 6) accusations that liturgy pointing to the Word of God is being changed; 7) warnings that the church exists by virtue of being different from the world. The article concludes by situating the trauma presented by the letter writers in the tension between tradition and modernity, a tension that is reportedly experienced at present at high levels in Afrikaans Reformed Churches.
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