liturgy

Too often I get the impression that when people think of, hear, or use the word ‘liturgy’, what springs to mind are: lavish processions, a robed choir, incense, reciting texts together from a book (or a screen). So you end up with people saying, “Our church is not very liturgical.” Or, “We don’t use liturgy a lot in our worship.” Etc.

But what if we realise that ‘liturgy’ is the word for ‘worshipping together’. Where two or more pray – that’s liturgy.

When one person prays aloud, and another person, or a group of persons say “Amen” to that prayer, making it their own – that’s liturgy.

When we, together, sing a song or hymn, someone else has put together the words we make our own, someone else has chosen that we sing that song. That’s liturgy.

When you pick up your Bible, even by yourself, and read, meditate, and pray with it, someone else has written down those words, someone else has bound that text into the Bible. That’s liturgy.

Liturgy is the work of God’s people, and the work for the people.

When ‘liturgy’ is ripped from the ordinary worship that people take for granted, then it’s obviously going to be difficult to make liturgy worshipful again!

I sometimes come across a photo taken in a tiny, rural church building and the vicar has proudly battled the congregation and has finally got his way with a small group of faithful followers prepared to dress up as a robed choir, in cassock and surplice, so that he and they can mimic cathedral worship. The impression may be that cathedral worship is pure, correct, ideal liturgy, and we must cookie-cutter and clone that wherever we are, without any regard for our specific context.

That, to me, is the very opposite of liturgy.

Liturgy is about real worship that the actual community does in its own specific, actual context.

To have a fully-vested bishop in chasuble, mitre, and holding a crozier, leading a home communion service in a living room, with the bishop seated on a sofa with a deacon in a dalmatic on the left, and a few others in the room – this image may be what some people may image as good liturgy. To me it is not.

Liturgy is just as much a couple of us praying morning prayer together, quite informally, as it is the lavish canonisation rite in St Peter’s, Rome.

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