Sunday, 24 April 2011

Loose Liturgy

This is for you Anglo-Catholics and you Charismatics out there!

This is Easter Day, the culmination of the arduous journey of Lent, the steep climb of Holy Week, the pause for relief of Mothering Sunday, the agony of the Passion and the desolation of the Cross. Today is the day when we see Him rise. 

I sit here as a tired little curate, one who earned his pennies this last few weeks. The last twenty-four hours, in our church, have witnessed some extra-ordinary scenes, liturgically speaking. What we witnessed was lively liturgy, liturgy in the moment, worship of the second and of the people there - but I have discovered that it doesn't happen by accident.

Last night we had the great celebration of the Easter-eve Vigil, and with it twelve confirmations and eight baptisms. That meant that we had to re-arrange the church to accommodate what was to take place and those who would  come to witness it (a case for churches without pews, just there). Having such a large gathering comprising many who were strangers to our edifice meant that we were often at the mercy of circumstance, within a framework. I am fast learning that 'catholic' acts of worship are at their best if they compromise to the moment. A liturgy that is wrought-iron might look fabulous and is without doubt beautiful, but it offers no room to breathe. A loose liturgy knows where it is going, what needs to happen, and also what can be sacrificed if the need arose. For the gathering, we hope a healthy mix of the formal and the informal; for the priests, a considerable effort not unlike sailing a yacht close to the wind. Our liturgy was acrobatic, spontaneous catholic liturgy, and it worked. 

Today's celebration of Easter welcomed three little ones for baptism. It meant yet more welcome guests who were unsure of what they were doing. It meant, happily, a coach-load of visiting kids who felt comfortable in our Medieval Barn. Some parents worried that their children were too boisterous, but they weren't.

Knowing what is meant to happen when and where is important. It means that liturgy has structure, direction, flow and meaning. I am not one for excessive spontaneity for fear of getting to the end without having journeyed to all the places required, so I have learned the art of holding tight to the rope, while it hangs loose. To a casual observer, the Eucharist may have seemed chaotic, and perhaps in odd moments it was. I firmly believe that good liturgy tabs into order at given points, with times of fluidity interspersed between them. It is, I think, more tiring for we the leaders of the service, but that is the joy of our work. To be thanked by a visitor to our church with comments about how the formal and informal was helpful, made my day.

Happy Easter to you all. Christ is risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!


  1. He is risen indeed, alleluia!

    What you describe sounds above all like good liturgy, David, liturgy that works for the people there and that gives glory to God. That should surely be what all liturgy is about.

  2. I think that Perpetua is quite right.

    Our main service this morning, while containing all of the components required, was decidedly informal and spontaneous. A full church, needing welcoming and seating visitors and strangers. Great!

    A service full of joy and Allelluia! Jesus is risen, we now need to rise to the challenge that poses for our mission and outreach.

  3. Spontaneity doesn't just happen!

  4. Simmy - Quite! To parody Dolly Parton: it takes a lot of planning to let things happen this spontaneously!

    UK, I think that those of us of a more catholic disposition need to regard the delivery of our liturgy as part of our outreach too. While we must always work outside of our doors, we have a duty to ensure that the surface area of what happens inside our doors is sufficient that the most people can find a place to connect!

    Perpetua - Amen!

  5. When one starts bloging you discover how many Christian there are in the world. We are a mighty army a multitude.



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