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Worship Rules?

I recently attended a workshop to improve photography. The presenter worked through a list of photography rules:

I regularly make a parallel between worship (or liturgy) and grammar – trying to stress that liturgy “rules” are more descriptive than prescriptive (sure, there’s a prescriptive component – but that’s another story…)

Now I have a new analogy: liturgy is like photography. [The danger about the analogy of liturgy with grammar is that people so quickly think of liturgy as words, words, words – and bringing up grammar as a model simply reinforces the liturgy=words perception*]. No one thinks of “the rule of thirds” as being prescriptive – it is a great, simple principle for producing a good photograph. The “rules” and principles of liturgy are, similarly, great, simple principles for producing good communal worship.

So, to give just one example, when we have a liturgical rule: ‘At The Peace, the presider extends the hands wide and then says, “The peace of Christ be always with you.”‘ – this isn’t if you don’t extend your hands, the bishop will take away your licence; this isn’t if you don’t extend your hands, the Eucharist will not be valid; this is akin to if you place the horizon at the top third line of your rectangular photograph it will look more pleasing, the photograph will work better…

We need to practice the rules until they become second nature.

My (free, online) book, Celebrating Eucharist, is a great place to start to get to know the rules of liturgy.

*Postscript: I was at Night Prayer following A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa. In this Night Prayer, we prayed the antiphon for the Nunc Dimittis

Preserve us, O God, while waking, 
and guard us while sleeping, 
that awake we may watch with Christ, 
and asleep may rest in your peace.

page 179

but the leader had us skip over the actual Nunc Dimittis! Clearly, for the leader, Night Prayer is a lovely collection of words from which we make a [arbitrary] selection.

I was at a Eucharist, and the leader did not use a collect.

In both of these examples, the service was “valid”; the choices by the leaders were allowable (this is, after all, the Anglican Church of Or). But the leader just saw liturgy as a collection of lovely words. There was little to no understanding of liturgical grammar, of the liturgical rules of photography. The photograph had such better potential if only the one taking the photograph had known and followed the rules of photography…

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