Friday, April 18, 2008

Constructing outstanding worship services

Tonight the Crusaders lost their first game of the Super 14 rugby series. They had been on a winning streak but they met a better team and they made more mistakes than the other team. They could not build a winning game from the the blocks of rugby (gaining the ball, moving the ball forward, distributing the ball, retaining the ball at the breakdown, etc). I mention this in case any reader think I am obsessed with constructing outstanding worship and nothing else ... I could talk about how to win a game of cricket, and an election too. But you probably do not want to hear from a non-expert.

Not that I am an expert at liturgy, but I know a thing or two. In particular, like you, I know what I like when I am the participant rather than the leader. In my present role I participate in more worship services than I lead. From that vantage point I see construction ... and deconstruction of worship services. (By deconstruction I am thinking of the things we do which distract us from meeting with God ... a late start for instance ... too much of one aspect ... screeches from the sound system, etc). Along the way I am developing some ideas about how to construct outstanding worship services.

Here is one. Work on all aspects of the church's life. Is great worship possible when harmonious fellowship is lacking? If silly things are happening Monday to Saturday and people are grumbling, ought we not to sort out the silly things and transform the grumbling before we think that Sunday's worship service will aspire to much. I have experienced some (considerable) dissatisfaction when the cheery lead from the front of church makes things to be rosy when I darn well know they are not!

Here is another. Deconstruct a great service and work out what made it a great service. One case in point is the service I grow to appreciate more and more as the years roll by, "page 404" in the (red) Anglican prayer book of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia. This is one of three eucharistic services. It is an excellent blend of ancient liturgical traditions (e.g. the Kyries, Gloria, Creed), Anglican peculiarities (does any other tradition pay as much attention to the Confession as we do?), and modern touches (such as the 'Open the Gate of Glory' post communion prayer), spread in perfect balance of the Ministry of the Word and the Ministry of the Sacrament. This service is readily deconstructed into its constituent parts and ready answers come to hand when we ask 'why is this there?'

More to come!

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