Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Extra-Ordinary Value of The Ordinary

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. 

Just saying...


  1. Bravo. People get up and come to church, and we ought to give them the best that we can no matter how tired we are (why is it so hard to sleep on Saturday nights?). And that best means good liturgy and good preaching and good personality delivered honestly and warmly, with gratitude and respect for those who are there whom we know to be our brothers and sisters in Christ.

  2. Excellent post. If our Lord came to earth as an "ordinary" man then surely we should strive to be just that. I don't know about you, but those people I admire the most, are the ones who "seek no reward save that of doing god's will", rather than those who sing from the rooftops of what they do and when they do it and to whom!!!

  3. Well done, David. This is a gift to be cherished. A bit like the time I was told that someone liked my sermons because "you begin where we are and take us with you". I consider that one of the biggest compliments I've received in my years of ministry.

  4. Only you I think, would ever describe your particular presentation/performance as ordinary.
    Just as only you would even consider eating steak and kidney pudding on a day when the temperatures were in the high twenties.
    Ordinary? Compared with what, or do I mean whom?

  5. You're in such great company! Jesus was adept at doing likewise. Come to think of it, when we all become as little children, the ordinary is always extraordinary (and fun).

  6. I'm with Ray.

    Ordinary? You'll be thinking of yourself as 'normal' next!

    Steak & kidney pudding indeed.



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