Picture this — a procession of clergy enters a small church building. They slowly step down the aisle, with the congregation in rows of chairs on both sides. This church does not have stained glass windows or pews. Indeed, it is rather minimalist. The only decoration that can be seen is a cross above the altar, at the end of the aisle.
As the procession approaches the altar, a small choir, divided into two, flank them on both sides. They sing a short introit, a capella, in the vernacular. Vestments are not worn by the clergy or the choir. Everyone dresses as usual — modest, but by no means formal.
When the procession reaches the altar, they not not bow, and sit on the front row. The president of the service remains standing, turns to the congregation, and welcomes them once the introit ends. S/he reminds them that this service is a Eucharist, a worshipful remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice paid on the cross for the redeemed’s sins.
The procession is a formality that cannot be ignored. Many evangelical denominations still employ it at the start of every service. The purpose is not to highlight the clergy, or to elevate them above the congregation. It is simply there to alert the congregation that the service has started, and that it is a serious affair. God’s people are preparing to meet with him in sung and said prayer, as well as partaking in the biblically ordained sacrament of communion. Solemness is most called for.
Regarding pews, most churches have no need of them. Indeed, many get rid of them since they restrict the use of space. They may have been useful in the past as a method of fitting a crowd into church, but movable chairs nowadays are by far more convenient and shall remain superior.
Needless to say, most churches built within the last fifty years or so are not heavily decorated, unless they are built for a denomination with liturgical worship practices. Emphasis on a visual stimulus in churches which provokes worship is often ignored. Yet, despite this, there is a certain beauty to the modern minimalist outlook (or, at least, a less decorated appearance). Unless a church can afford extensive refurbishment, there would be not need to install stained glass windows, carvings, or anything of the sort.
The disappearance of the choral worship in the modern evangelical church is happening swiftly. Contemporary Christian worship (CCM) is favoured by most as a modern alternative, yet this genre does not have the same beauty as choral music. This is not just a personal opinion; ontologically, it is impossible for it to be aesthetically superior. CCM is designed to be easy to sing, easy to play, and easy to understand. Given these restrictions, its literary and musical development is heavily curbed, rendering it to be often repetitive and unoriginal. Of course, the fact that it is not difficult means that almost anyone anywhere can sing and play it. Active participation in worship is the expected norm. But, perhaps, we have grown to ignore the value of heard worship. We need not be musically active in our services all the time, every time.
Vestments are not often seen in an evangelical setting, and it is unlikely that they would make a come back. It probably takes as much effort for the modern Christian to wear smart casual as it was for the parish priest to put on his vestments a hundred years ago. If choice of clothing be a sign of seriousness, simply modesty will do.
Bowing and genuflecting are almost never seen in evangelicalism. It is an obvious mark of respect towards God, made evident physically. Perhaps because it is so obvious, many find it to be excessive. The procession, the choir, and the formal tone of the service ought to be sufficient to convey a sense of solemness. The congregation probably gets the gist.
The Eucharist continues…