Posted by: AJ the Irish Lass | June 18, 2007

Confessions of a Liturgical Snob

Yes, I’m one of those Episcopalians e-mail jokes are written about. I like to stick verrrry closely to the Book of Common Prayer, generally prefer the traditional hymns, and, when unable to attend an Episcopal church, feel more comfortable attending a Roman Catholic church than a Protestant one. I’ve always felt intimidated by churches where everyone seems to know what’s going on-except anyone who’s visiting. I’ve always appreciated the Episcopal service because everything’s done decently and in good order, yet you can still feel the flow of the Spirit. I’d heard of seekers’ services before, but basically thought that, since they were designed for the unchurched, someone who’s already a churchgoer wouldn’t appreciate them that much. Well, I was wrong.

One of the Congregationalist churches in the New England town I grew up in started offering an informal, contemporary service one Saturday a month that had quite a turn-out. The Episcopal church that I attended had also started offering a special service once a month that followed the liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer, but was especially designed for younger people and the unchurched. The service was written in contemporary language, and featured a skit for the Gospel lesson, an interactive interpretation by the rector and congregation, and intercessory prayers read in turn by members of the congregation. This service caused some parishioners to attend the earlier Rite I service, but I appreciated it.

Shortly after this, I moved to Texas. My mom and I found a nice Episcopal church that offers two services on Sunday: a traditional Rite II service and a contemporary service with a praise band. Since “I’d always done it that way”, I naturally started attending the earlier service. After the first service we attended, we talked to the rector and learned a little more about the parish and the contemporary service. A lot of people said we’d probably like to check out the contemporary service sometime. So, we decided to go to the later service one Sunday.

The contemporary service (called The Gathering), is held in the parish hall, and instead of having hymnals or the Prayer Book, the service and music are on a screen at the front (silly me, I had no idea what PowerPoint was FOR until then ). Our rector had explained that a lot of people who haven’t attended church much are uncomfortable with the traditional setting or using a book. Two or three songs are sung at the beginning of the service, then a prayer is said. Lessons from the Old Testament and Epistles are read, and the Gospel and sermon follow. A statement of faith based on the Nicene Creed is used, and a period of intercession follows.

The intercessory prayers are one of the things that really appealed to me at that service. Prayers are offered for the Church, the world, and the congregation. Then, prayer teams made up of two people go to the back of the parish hall and are there for anyone who wishes to pray privately with them. The prayer partners will hold hands with the person asking prayer and pray for them. The requests are kept confidential. There truly is value in praying with one or two other people, and I’ve been blessed by this.

The offertory follows with more music and those who wish to can make an offering. Then, the communion follows, using a Eucharistic prayer similar to the ones found in the BCP. Just before the breaking of the bread, everyone holds hands to sing the Lord’s Prayer. Songs are sung during communion, then the blessing is said, a final song is sung, and the Peace is exchanged.

I’ve been back to The Gathering several times since. I guess I’m not such a liturgical snob after all. Christians worship in a variety of ways, and it shouldn’t matter if it’s a solemn high Mass, a prayer and praise service, or a Quaker meeting, as long as the object of worship is Jesus Christ. As St. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, we are the Body of Christ, and the Body is made up of different parts. Each of us has something to offer to our Lord. And our worship of Him should be a matter of diversity, not division.

Originally written in 2001.

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