Matt's blog

The story of me, an American in Edinburgh, Scotland finding my place as a musician, a husband, a father and a Christian.

Yet Another Churchy Post

This short post probably belongs in the comments on the post from two days back, but I didn't want it to get lost back in the shuffle.

Nelle said:
Liturgy does nothing for me. (Probably because I've never heard it done right.) So it looks like we won't be sharing a hymnal anytime soon.

I want to do a quick term definition, or at least a clarification of how I use the term "liturgy." Liturgy is a loaded word which means different things to different people in different contexts. Often the word refers to the order and movements of the Roman Mass. It the protestant tradition it can refer to a set of prescribed prayers or instructions for administering the sacraments or for conducting weddings, funerals, or other services. The first three definitions on actually work really well for the way I use the word:

1. a form of public worship; ritual.
2. a collection of formularies for public worship.
3. a particular arrangement of services.

We usually think of only churches that worship in an old-fashioned way as being "liturgical," sometimes in a derogatory way. However, have you ever been to a contemporary service which week after week uses the same structure of themes in songs and prayers? Can you predict when scripture will be read or when the sermon will be preached? That too is liturgy, although perhaps unintentional. Liturgy is what gives structure to our worship together, it is what allows a group of differing people to do the work of worship together.

I admire churches that are intentionally liturgical in their worship. In conversation with me you might hear me use a term I coined, "dynamic liturgy." Dynamic liturgy describes the type of liturgy I saw during my time attending at various Messianic Synagogues, one in Los Angeles and one in Spokane. Messianic Judaism is a young movement with roots deep in Jewish culture and religion. Every service I attended was highly liturgical, meaning that there was a quite in depth and complex series of songs, prayers and actions that went into worship. When we went to the congregation in Spokane, we found that they used a different liturgy than the congregation in L.A.. When we went back to L.A. we found that they were then doing a different liturgy than they had a year ago. The Rabbi explained to me that they want to maintain the liturgical aspects of traditional Jewish worship, but they also wanted to be open and flexible, always able to worship in a new way. Because of that, their liturgy was always being thought about and re-imagined to better suit the changing worship needs of a dynamic community.

So that's wht I mean when I talk about liturgy. I mean intentionality in worship, regardless of style, which helps the diverse congregation worship together with one voice.

3 Responses to “Yet Another Churchy Post”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    good post.  

  2. # Blogger Matt


  3. # Blogger Miranda

    Good clarification. Even the most 'non-liturgical' services I've attended still have a generally followed order or praise singing, sermon, and altar call. I enjoy and appreciate the intentionality that goes into how a service flows, the transitions, what type of hymns/songs fit best with the other parts, etc. It helps ensure that God is the one being worshipped in spirit and truth, and not just our own preferences being pandered to.  

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