Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Doing Liturgy Anew

This coming Sunday, you, the worshiper will see a few things different when you walk into the church sanctuary. This being the close of our summer worship, I still have a couple of Sundays before Gathering Sunday on September 21 to try some experimentation.

One of those experiments will look familiar. After we installed our new carpet, we moved the pews back to their original places. As of yesterday, the pews have been spaced further apart, turned inwards, and allowed for well, more space in the sanctuary.

Another change will be the projector screen you'll see as you walk in. We will be using a PowerPoint presentation during the service to help folks "look up" during the service rather than keeping one's head buried in our lengthy liturgical Order of Worship. That same Order of Worship will be shown on the projector screen.

We will make use of the projector with two additional elements not present before in the Service: a countdown to the start of worship (to help us begin our worship "on time") and we'll have a brief movie (2 minutes) during the sermon to help illustrate it.

Finally, this being communion Sunday, we will include a new function: prayer. Once you receive the communion elements, I will be offering you an opportunity to pray, led by either Jack Rickly or myself. This will be a short prayer or blessing. If you have a need you'd like prayed for, this is a time for that to happen. We will still have our Prayers of the People following our Pastoral Prayer later in the service.

You may ask: Why the change? Why the additions? It is my belief that one challenge we all face is learning to keep our faith and practice "fresh". This isn't to say that the old ways of doing things are necessarily bad but new ways of doing familiar things can remind us of what we're doing. It is also a chance to keep us from being stale or boring, doing liturgy without thinking about what it means, or drifting in worship whereby our thoughts move and leave the worship experience. Being fresh means we try new things to enliven our faith traditions and perhaps even start new traditions...or not. Being fresh means we try new things and keep what we like and discard what we don't.

The challenge to being fresh is a challenge that affects our sensibilities. Should we embrace technology? Should we be simpler? Do we only practice the basics of our tradition or ought we do delve into our tradition more deeply? These are questions the Church has been asking for two thousand years.

J.R.R. Tolkien offers an interesting thought on how the Church is to function.

The 'Protestant' search backwards for 'simplicity' and directness - which, of course, though it contains some good or at least intelligible motives, is mistaken and indeed vain. Because 'primitive Christianity' is now and in spite of all 'research' will ever remain largely unknown; because 'primitiveness' is no guarantee of value, and is, and was in great a reflection of ignorance. Grave abuses were as much an element in Christian liturgical behavior from the beginning as now. (St Paul's strictures on Eucharistic behavior are sufficient to show this!) Still more because 'my church' was not intended by Our Lord to be static or remain in perpetual childhood; but to be a living organism (likened to a plant), which develops and changes in externals by the interaction of its bequeathed divine life and history - the particular circumstances of the world into which it is set. There is no resemblance between the 'mustard-seed' and the full-grown tree. For those living in the days of its branching growth, the Tree is the thing, for the history of a living thing is part of its life, and the history of a divine thing is sacred. The wise may know that it began with a seed, but it is vain to try and dig it up, for it no longer exists, and the virtue and powers that it had now reside in the Tree. Very good: but in husbandry the authorities, the keepers of the Tree, must look after it, according to such wisdom as they possess, prune it, remove cankers, rid it of parasites and so forth. (With trepidation, knowing how little their knowledge of growth is!) But they will certainly do harm if they are obsessed with the desire of going back to the seed or even to the first youth when it was (as they imagine) pretty and unafflicted by evils. The other motive (now so confused with the primitivist one, even in the mind with any one of the reformers): aggiornamento: bringing up to date: that has its own grave dangers, as has been apparent throughout history. With this, 'ecumenicalness' has also become confused. (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no. 306.)

How we go about embracing our future or integrating it into the life of our traditions is one function of worship. And, being your pastor, it is one of my responsibilities to you: making worship a practical and spiritual blessing for you and our God.

Join me this coming Sunday for a new experience. I am confident you'll be glad you did. See you Sunday!

h/t to Everyday Liturgy

1 comment:

Thom said...

I am glad the Tolkien quote was inspirational for you and your church.