One of the critiques of the mainline liturgical tradition that I hang with is that the creeds, prayers, recitations, etc. are dead and lifeless, bereft of meaning. Again and again I hear folks from non-liturgical traditions suggest that saying written prayers or reciting creeds is not spontaneous and not from the heart.
Author’s note: I am using the term “liturgical” to refer to a particular style of worship, most often associated with the use of prayer books, hymnals, etc. and has the congregation read words in unison that express aspects of faith. All worship is “liturgical” in the sense that liturgy (Greek letourgia) is “the work of the people.” Even the most spontaneous worship experience develops, over time, an order, a form, which repeats and involves the congregation. To call a tradition “non-liturgical” is to identify a specific tradition of worship which avoids congregational responses and focuses more often than not on the ministry of the Word. (preaching) and the use of music as the primary expressions of worship.
I understand the critique, having grown up in a Word based Baptist tradition, moving to a music based semi-charismanic church, and then to a teaching based Free Methodist congregation before God’s leading me to the United Methodist Church. Certainly, for many folks in the pews of our mainline churches, the recitations and words become habit and little thought is given to what we are saying. If you were to ask folks in my congregation why we say certain prayers or why the precher drones on The Great Thanksgiving at the beginning of the communion ritual, few would be able to articulate what we are trying to do with those elements.
What I have been and am trying to do is to bring these traditions alive through teaching — both verbally and in the bulletin. The feedback that I have been getting so far is that folks are thinking about these things in new ways, opening up new places of worship for them.
What I am hoping to do with these “Liturgical Connections” posts is to do what Jonny Baker is doing with his “Worship Tricks” posts — to offer some examples of things we are doing to try and help folks connect with the power of liturgy, allowing them the opportunity to connect with a deeper and ancient tradition, connecting them to the mystery of God. I know that some of you out there are doing similar things, and so I invite you to send me your e-mails with suggestions and I will post them in your name.
Let’s see what we might be able to do with this in helping both emerging and mainline folks to connect to liturgical forms of worship.