Monday, October 17, 2011

Transitions are more important than you think

If I were Robbie Deans and (another big "if"), if it was timely to have a review with the Australian players this morning about how the game went last night - I can imagine they just want to get on the plane and go home - then I would talk about 'transitions' in the game. For instance, the transition at the beginning, from nothing happening to the first interaction between players and the ball: Quade Cooper kicked off in the first second and got it wrong because he kicked the ball out on the full, handing the initiative over to the All Blacks.

But we can say similar things about liturgy, in which 'transitions' are crucial to the flow of the service.

The obvious transitions in the eucharist are at the beginning, the Peace and at the end. The less obvious transitions are from sermon to intercessions, and from breaking of the bread to the post-communion.

Rather than me say how I think these transitions should go, I encourage constant review of how transitions in your services are going. In particular, I note that some transitions are handled the same way, week after week after week, so that the transitions become embedded traditions in the liturgical life of the parish. If the transitions are, in fact, not done well, then it can become quite difficult to improve them because , like any tradition, such transitions can be all but impossible to change.

Here are some review questions:

Do the transitions serve visitors and strangers in our midst well? Transitions can be moments for 'in house' stuff (chat, jokes, notices with first names of people to see after the service) which may be brilliant for the regulars and unnerving for visitors.

Do the transitions serve God and our worship of God well? Transitions can be (so to speak) secular moments in a sacred space. For example, a notice about how to receive communion may intrude into the moment prior to receiving communion as the culmination of the grand narrative of salvation recited in the Great Thanksgiving.

Do the transitions serve the dynamics of the service well? A long transition, for instance, can destroy the flow of the service, especially if the next movement in the service does not 'pick up' the service.

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