My best friend is a member of the United Church of Christ. Some 30 years ago–this would be 1975 (I feel old) as a teen I went to her church as a member of our school choir (we used to go there, to the Catholic church, to the Episcopal church, and to the Methodist church–those were our “big four”.
Now granted it’s a few years back but I actually saved some of the church bulletins from then (I am such a pack rat) and since I moved recently I had been going through the “memory pile”.
Also, about 5 years ago when I was having my faith crisis, I sang regularly in the SAME United Church’s choir, two years straight.
So. . .here’s a protestant church which I attended 30 years ago and 3 years ago.
Any difference in the services?
Surprisingly, yes. Now remember, 1975 was only 6 years after the 1969 “change” so I still remembered the Latin Mass fairly well, AND the very earliest changes of the new mass.
The 1975 UCC service felt VERY different from the Catholic service. The whole format, the “call to worship”, much more “give-and-take”, only one communion Sunday per month, and the prayers themselves were shorter and much more “extemporaneous”.
Fast forward to 2000. I’ve had 25 years of Catholic masses starting with folk masses in 1975, the birth of hand holding, everyone around the altar after the great amen (everyone singing the doxology), gender inclusive language, the sign of peace --high five–apt, because it often took at least 5 minutes for everybody to roam the church and hug and kiss everybody else–, lots and lots of women and fewer and fewer men except the priest “on the altar”, communion in the hand, and yes, several years of “communion bread” recipes and even little wine cup individual servings in the late 70s at college.
And off I go to the UCC. But now. . .their readings in the lectionary are the same as ours. The sign of peace–even in the same spot during worship. Bread and wine. The prayers are much more “uniform”. The creed is the same, and, weirdest of all, they are actually singing hymns by the great masters including Palestrina in four part harmony with organ, while back at the Catholic Church we have a “keyboardist” who turns everything into Barry Manilow style music, including the obligatory “chord change” after the second verse and the glissando to end every single piece of music whether it is a hymn, the sanctus, or the “music to watch father elevate the host by”, and anywhere from 3 to 5 women who wander up and “sing along”, in unison, out of tune and often out of time.
PLEASE forgive me if any of this is uncharitable. I do not mean it to be. I am trying to be both accurate (sometimes the truth hurts) yet charitable, and I know the majority of these people are probably far holier than I, and certainly kinder. But I must try to convey as accurately as possible the things I experienced. Again, mea culpa if anything is mean or hurtful.
Suddenly, that UCC service seems far more similar to a Catholic mass of today than it did 30 years ago.
And while I have not been in the Episcopal church in town quite so often, and while the KJV type readings seemed more “old style” than our NAB, again, its service, especially in the prayer format, from the Kyrie to the Lamb of God, seems more similar too.
So, while I don’t know about the Mass being “protestantized”, I know that at least where I am (VT) and when (2005), the Mass in the towns I have lived is more similar to protestant services than I would have dreamed years ago.
Of course, some of this may be due to changes the protestants are making. Several of the ministers I know are surprisingly knowledgeable of the “old” Catholic faith and some of them (UCC churches are VERY individual, some of them are liberal and some would be quite comfortable in many ways at a Latin Mass) seem to be both receptive to and appreciative of the Catholic Mass.
Who can tell?