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making liturgy invisible

Christchurch airportChristchurch has a new airport. It is very nice. Except for one thing. Those who designed the signs should get an international “fail” award. Go and talk to the information booths (as you will need to if you don’t know where you are going) and ask them: many, many people cannot find their way following the signs. , for example, can mean anything: straight ahead, or vertically above your head, or go up the stairs behind you (or possibly even go back the way you have come)! When I see ↖ I just have to give up.

The screens with departures and arrivals have text so small – obviously they do not want anyone over the age of 45 years to travel unaccompanied! And they appear to flick rapidly between options, so that the moment you have finally found a flight, it disappears. Advice: keep staring at the space you saw it disappear – it will reappear in that same spot soon.

An airport is not supposed to be about the signs. I have travelled a lot – the signage at an airport is there not to draw attention to itself. The signage is to unobtrusively guide you through from your arrival at the airport to your destination there.

Liturgy should be like that. The leader, the instructions, the resources, etc., should not draw attention to themselves. They should unobtrusively guide you through from your arrival into a sense of community in the presence of God and send you out transformed. Good liturgy, good leadership does this. Poorer liturgy, poorer leadership, results in a focus on the liturgy and the leadership.

Liturgy should be the means, not the goal. Liturgy should be invisible.

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7 Responses to making liturgy invisible

  1. Bosco,yourcomment on the Airport is spot-on! We arrived in from France last Tuesday, couldn’t find a single sign pointing to the Domestic Departures, and when we finally found someone who directed us to those silly booths found that we could’t get rid of our luggage (i.e. check it in) until an hour later. No seats, tired, frazzled. No guidance. What a contrast to the signage in The Way – scallop shells and arrows; no need even for language. Like silent, or at least understated, worship. Listening, watching for the unmistakeable sign that directs our path.

  2. I often tell our readers, chalice bearers, and acolytes that if the congregation goes home and cannot remember who served, the servers have done their work well.

    • One of the biggest weddings I ever officiated at, Mike, with horse and carriage, soloist, you name it – at the end someone said, “that was wonderful.” I said, “thanks, yes, I’m tired now.” The person looked perplexed and replied, “why, what did you do?” Blessings.

  3. Bosco,

    I was thinking of your older post and Vlog about the “Liturgy of Notices” today, when as I was speaking with a couple visiting from OZ they mentioned that their “Liturgy of Notices” was often 30 minutes long!!!

    It must be hard for that liturgist to be invisible after 30 minutes … that is if there is still anyone left in the church to listen after that long.

    Cheers,

    Andrew

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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