For those of you familiar with the language of Thomas Cranmer, this is not a post extolling the virtues of bishops, though let me state plain here and now, I have no issues with the consecrated Order.
No this is a post about liturgy delivery.
I have had a part in two services so far today, as the rest of this part of the world melts in the heat of the day. The first was a funky fusion of an All-Age Patronal Festival, the second a baptism where we welcomed a church full of guests and strangers. Both felt like good services, and I certainly enjoyed them - as too did the punters. At both, someone came to me and commended my style of delivery - along the lines of 'you make it so ordinary'.
To begin with, I received them as cutting worlds of insult and what self-respecting Angry-Carflick wouldn't, but after some reflection over my steak-and-kidney pudding lunch, thought perhaps they were meant as compliments.
I seem blessed with a gift to take the extra-ordinary beauty of our liturgy and mould to the gathering. It is tiring, as I have commented before, but better my exhaustion that the boredom of guests and new acquaintances. At the baptism, as I launched into the first lines as written on the wipe-clean card, I pondered on how many had ever been in a church, let alone taken part in a service. I resolved that that number was very small. I am quite comfortable with having a little fin with our guests, even to the extent of pulling their legs, but I think the best tool that I have (maybe even the only one, who knows) is to be just ordinary.
It is easy to become lofty and take on the vicar-voice of Dick Emery but I think that, acoustics allowing, an ordinary tone and deportment in gatherings like that does so much good. Sadly for one of the Godfathers, his mobile went off mid-anointing and rather than tutting and making the gathered throng feel like they had pooed on my bed, I made light of it. In fact, I pulled the geezer's leg and that did much to diffuse the implicit tension that accompanies unfamiliar crowds.
Talking in the ordinary, having a little fun where appropriate, humour in its place, warmth towards the children, warmth with the adults there under duress, sympathy with their discomfort - these things mean that I can take the Holiness of what I am there to do for God and them, and do it well. No-one would ever quibble about the quality of my liturgy (I don't think), but I deliver it humanly and I hope, with generosity for the newcomer, the young, and the un-believer.
Some would chase de-loused and un-washed (or something like that) men around with a butterfly net to get them into church. Just treat them as equals and every one else. Treat like as you find them. I believe very strongly in the extra-ordinary value of the ordinary in liturgy, in that it is the means of communicating the most profound Grace and Holiness in most situations.