Friday, November 13, 2009

Introducing Liturgy

I really enjoy reading the blog and website of Rev. Bosco Peters of Liturgy New Zealand. This week he wrote a quite incredibly helpful post about how to introduce liturgy into non-liturgical worship (of which term he says is an oxymoron -- all worship is liturgical by definition).

Here are a few excerpts (You may read the entire post here: Introducing Liturgy):
There are those who look at thriving, fruitful, vibrant worshipping communities, see they are not “using liturgy” and suggest comments like, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”, or “introducing liturgy will destroy this – you will be on a hiding to nothing.”

I disagree.

First let’s clarify. Liturgy, by definition, is doing worship together. Each of those words is important.

doing – liturgy is an activity. People too quickly associate liturgy with set words, books, etc. Liturgy is action – often accompanied by interpretive words, yes, but liturgy is action – “the work of the people”.
worship – is an active verb. It is not passive. Liturgy is not a spectator sport. We are a gathered congregation, an active assembly – not spectators or an audience. It is not watching an orchestra – it is being the orchestra.
together – liturgy is a community event. It is not individualism. Not even congregationalism. Most liturgical texts are plural, “we confess… we believe… Our Father…”

People sometimes use the term non-liturgical worship. Generally that is an oxymoron. Like saying a non-marriage wedding. Liturgy is doing worship together. Non-liturgical worship might be worshipping alone – but even when we worship alone that is done as part of the church, the body of Christ, with Jesus – even alone we can still pray “Our Father…”

Where might be some places to start? Well if there is some dialogue between leader and assembly, for example as the service starts, that might be energetically channelled through some biblical greeting and response. The deep sense of prayer might be enriched by the leader, early in the service, suggesting a general point for prayer and the whole community praying for a good period in deepening silence, and then the leader collecting this gathering silent prayer by proclaiming a collect to which the now-fully-gathered community responds heartily with the biblical “Amen....” Some communities will be stretched as they risk just listening to a reading, God’s Word, “neat” – without every text being filtered through the leader’s interpretation....
Glimmerings of a more traditional/ancient worship service materialize from time to time in our evangelical church. Once in a while we sing "The Doxology." Occasionally we do responsive readings of Scripture. Less often a pastor or worship leader reads a selection of Scripture "neat," although it often seems that the only Scripture reading we get is during the sermon ... often only a partial reading of the passage. A good, rousing hymn is welcome. And time for silent prayer and even confessional prayer once in a great while. Glimmerings. Sometimes a bit more.

As I've said in the past, I have come to appreciate Anglican liturgy because it is 90% straight Scripture and the other 10% is based on Scripture. And it is almost all "neat" -- without exegesis -- simply God's Word washing over me, through me. Psalms, Old Testament, Epistles, Gospels ... all are part of every single service. I love that. I love the ancient feel of the prayers, prayers that have been prayed through the centuries by thousands of Christians all over the world, pilgrims who have trod the pathway hard with their footsteps along the "straight and narrow." A path I am attempting to walk in His strength because I have none of my own.

But a little liturgy helps.

"Doing worship together" helps.

Anglican liturgy, evangelical liturgy -- it doesn't matter. The living, breathing Word is the important thing -- it transforms our lives one syllable at a time. We thirst, for it, hunger for it -- for Him. For a Word from Him, a Word just for us... from Him.

And we receive that Word in liturgy. In "doing worship together."

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