Monday, April 16, 2007


I know that all churches are liturgical. We all end up with our patterns of doing things. My own morning congregation of Trendlewood is pretty informal and relaxed but we have a three part pattern of worship, word and wesponse (sorry) most weeks so we are liturgical.

By and large we don't use much written liturgy but we do have something most weeks, often confession, creed or intercessory prayer which we say congregationally. We also have a bit of simple communion liturgy which involves repetition so the children get it even if they can't read yet. Next week we will have a baptism and we will use a set form of service for that, albeit punctuated by charisma and wit from the minister - well I like to think so anyway.

Sometimes I have heard services which use a lot of versicles and responses described as 'high church.' I think I ought to send people using such descriptions to a proper anglo-catholic shrine so they know the difference. In fact I wonder if we ought to add to our increasing catalogue of special Sundays a 'Go somewhere else and experience it' Sunday. We'd have to do it over two weeks or there would be no regulars to welcome the newcomers.

Still, what I wanted to say was that yesterday I led two services at a local church which prides itself on doing 'proper anglicanism' and so does everything by the book, including seasonal extras and all.

I presided and spoke at a spoken 8.30 a.m. communion, (order two in contemporary language) and at an order one evening communion. For this I dusted off my robes and borrowed a stole. These two services were from the Church of England's official contemporary prayer book Common Worship.

I have been reflecting on this. I have been a member of the Church of England since well before Common Worship was introduced and in that time have preached and led worship at a vast number of services around the country. This was the first time I have done that at a service where every member of the congregation had a copy of Common Worship in their hands. I am an intelligent man (stop sniggering) but I had to really stop and think as I made my way through the various seasonal variations, tried to remember what I had been told about when the choir would be singing responses rather than us all saying them and kept in mind the faces of the people in the congregation I had been told would want wafers not bread.

How on earth would it feel to be a stranger/newcomer/unchurched at this? In fact the 27 early communicants all looked more familiar with the material than myself and in the evening the score was ministers 2, congregation 8, choir 10. Was it wrong of me to pray, 'Please Lord let no-one new arrive?'

I wanted to invite everyone back to mine for a drink afterwards although the 8 congregants had managed to avoid sitting in each other's sight lines so well I suspected that they might not be at home sharing a lounge with other carbon-based life forms.

I did manage not to snigger (at least until later) at the Bible reader including the 'good news of Jesus' resignation' and Asia being pronounced to rhyme with Hezekiah. Well done me.

I quite enjoyed it. As a way of using private worship time I would have been content. But public worship? Would it have been understanded of the people? This liturgical ship is sinking isn't it? Whadderwedo?


Mike Peatman said...

Makes you almost notalgic for the relative simplicity of the ASB or even Series 3, doesn't it? Too many options spoil the broth.

Kathryn said...

Sounds like St m's when left to themselves...The congregation seem to believe that any sort of helpful guidance as to what is going on is an affront to their collective intelligence. Thankfully, we have at least persuaded them to use service cards that have the words we use and only the words we sneaky catholic insertions...but even so, I often long to add a commentary - and I'm someone who LOVES liturgy .
Bizarrely, visitors do seem to enjoy it and even to return, so somewhere along the way presumably God is allowed a look in despite our best efforts.
Apologies for looooong comment...this pressed my buttons!

St said...

Comment as long as you want Kathryn. Always a delight to hear you.

Ali Campbell said...

am i glad i'm not having to do this stuff . . .