Why Millennials Long for Liturgy

America’s youth are leaving churches in droves. One in four young adults choose “unaffiliated” when asked about their religion, according to a 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll, and 55 percent of those unaffiliated youth once had a religious identification when they were younger. Yet amidst this exodus, some church leaders have identified another movement as cause for hope: rather than abandoning Christianity, some young people are joining more traditional, liturgical denominations—notably the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox branches of the faith. This trend is deeper than denominational waffling: it’s a search for meaning that goes to the heart of our postmodern age.

For Bart Gingerich, a fellow with the Institute on Religion and Democracy and a student at Reformed Episcopal Seminary, becoming Anglican was an intellectual journey steeped in the thought of ancient church fathers. He spent the first 15 years of his life in the United Methodist Church, where he felt he was taught a “Precious Moments” version of Christianity: watered down, polite, and unreal. His family joined a nondenominational evangelical church when Gingerich was 16. Some of the youth he met were serious about their faith, but others were apathetic, and many ended up leaving the church later on.

While attending Patrick Henry College in Virginia, Gingerich joined a reformed Baptist church in the nearby town of Guilford. Gingerich read St. Augustine and connected strongly with his thought—in class from Monday to Friday, Gingerich found himself arguing for ideas that clashed with his method of worship on Sunday. Protestantism began troubling him on a philosophical level. Could he really believe that the church “didn’t start getting it right” till the Reformation?

The final straw came when a chapel speaker at the college explained the beauty of the Eucharist in the Anglican service. Gingerich knew this was what he was looking for. Soon after, he joined the Anglican Church.

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