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Keep it simple

eucharistCluttering liturgy is a common problem. We inherited a cluttered rite – and there is a human tendency to re-clutter as soon as clean lines and good flow are produced. Leaders add their favourite little prayers, and just another gesture, and just this other nice bit they saw so-and-so do; “may use” becomes “must use”…

Regular commenter Jesse is always worth a read (you all are, of course!). Recently he described a weekday Eucharist as he experiences it [I note it is a weekday Eucharist, hence two readings, rather than three-plus-psalm]:

Before the service: announcements by the coordinator that week; music director rehearses any unfamiliar or difficult music.

Silent reflection
Bell rung, all stand
Opening greeting (The Grace of our Lord…)
Opening hymn
Collect (intoned by presider)
Epistle, all sit
(one minute of silent reflection, begun and ended with a bell)
Responsorial Psalm (cantor with congregational refrain)
Gradual Hymn, all stand
Gospel Acclamation (cantor with congregational refrain, using one of four familiar Alleluias)
Acclamation reprise
Homily, all sit
(one minute of silent reflection, begun and ended with a bell)
Prayers of the People (sung with familiar congregational response, all standing)
Exchange of Peace
Offertory hymn (preparation of the table, procession of bread and wine)
Prayer over the gifts (presider)
Eucharistic prayer (intoned in full by presider, both before and after the congregational Sanctus)
Lord’s Prayer (sung by all to an invariable tune)
Fraction sentence and response
Song at breaking of the bread (one of five possibilities, all known by heart)
Reception of communion
All remain standing until all have received
Two minutes of silent reflection (begun and ended with a bell)
Post-communion Prayer (standing)

I add to this my suggestion of applying simplification principles in your own context (I do not think that cloning is the best way forward…) by having something like a card. This means a standard format, with seasonal variety.

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11 thoughts on “Keep it simple”

  1. We recently had a review of our liturgy and what each person in the altar party does. It was really an attempt to de-clutter the liturgy. As we did this I considered the following:

    – What is each person doing and why?
    – Is there a unifying flow to what we are doing?
    – What is functionally necessary and is there a way to minimize calling attention to it?
    – What is symbolically important and is there a way to emphasize and heighten its role?
    – What directs attention to the ministers and what points to God and God’s presence among the people.

    It was sort of like cleaning out closets. You don’t realize how much stuff you have until you pull it all out and look at it!

    Thanks for the post and good reminder, Bosco.


    1. Thanks, Mike (and people – please check out Mike’s blog if you haven’t previously – always of value). Your questions are very helpful, and I hope people use them. With my primary ministry being with teenagers, flow and lack of clutter are essential. Cf. Taizé. Blessings.

    1. As I understand it, Dorothy, that is correct. Have you read my book, Celebrating Eucharist, that reflects on these points. Does the cross absolve us – or do we need to be absolved to be worthy of the cross? Is the Eucharistic Prayer our Shema or is the creed this? Blessings.

    2. Correct. The BAS would seem to favour a return to the ancient discipline of excommunication and public penance for notorious sinners, or at least private auricular confession and absolution in advance of Communion. 🙂

      As the discredited evangelical comedian Mike Warnke used to put it, “Do you have to get clean to take a bath?” That point of view, however, needs careful balance. John Keble famously complained that “justification by faith” was twisted to mean that one who has sinned and is sorry for it is as if he has not sinned, and that every man may be his own absolver. The way we “casually trip up to Communion week after week” (Michael Ramsey’s assessment) suggests that few people really see the Eucharist as the necessary cure for their sins.

      As for the Creed, it is of course a very late addition to the liturgy (it was not added to the Roman Mass till the eleventh century).

      1. Thanks, Jesse. In my book Celebrating Eucharist: “The use of the Nicene Creed at the Eucharist is a comparatively late development. A creed is an integral part of a baptism service and is used more naturally there. Within the Eucharist, however, the early church regarded the eucharistic prayer as adequately professing the church’s faith. The eucharistic prayer abounds in credal affirmations. It does not seem coincidental that the people’s proclamation of the creed entered the liturgy when the eucharistic prayer ceased to be a vocal proclamation and began to be quietly said far removed from the congregation. Now that the eucharistic prayers are once again strong proclamations of the church’s belief it can be seen that the creed is not an indispensable part of the eucharistic service. The creed may in fact interrupt the flow of the service.” Further, of course, this is a weekday Eucharist, but in NZ the creed is a requirement only at baptism, confirmation, or ordination. Blessings.

  2. No, I have read bits, but I am not a clergyperson. Is that a good excuse? I suppose that should not stop me from reading it….

  3. De-clutter-ing is all about priority: what do we need to keep, day in day out, what is optional and can go…maybe be borrowed on occasion….

    The Lord’s Prayer is my own particular irritation: if we are going to include it in every church service why should it be mumbled as fast as possible with no emotional or spiritual meaning?

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