I’m not a traditional kind of person. At all. I think this stems from my lack of interest in history or really, anything dealing with whatever happened before I was born. That probably sounds a little egocentric (and completely ignorant), but it just doesn’t mean a lot to me. Please, somebody tell me that I’m doomed to repeat it. I dare you.

That said, a recent encounter of mine has me doubting my “forward-thinking, novelty-driven” mindset. I’ve been developing a relationship with a congregation that employs liturgy in their services. Before this, the closest I’d gotten to any kind of ecclesiastical formalities like this was midnight mass on Christmas Eve, when I was so punch-drunk tired that I giggled at every little mistake I made. If you ask the pastor at the church I’ve been attending on Sundays, he’d tell you that this behavior hasn’t changed. Perhaps fatigue isn’t a good excuse for immaturity.

I have to admit, I’ve had my doubts about reading words off a piece of paper. The honest truth is that something like this could easily become perfunctory. Mouth, take over- brain and heart, take a nap. You deserve it. The church I came from had this attitude in regard to tradition as well. I was taught that it didn’t engage the inner man but gave the appearance of participation. But, I have to say, that as I’ve been reading the words aloud, I’ve been focusing on believing them. I speak as if the Almighty were standing right in front of me, listening to every word that proceeded from my mouth (If I did that more often, I probably wouldn’t be so flippant in my speech– I might use fewer four-letter words, too). So far, I feel engaged in all of it. But the experience is still a novelty…

But I keep worrying that it’s simply that- something new and entertaining, so I’ve been hoping to discover some sort of evidence that would support a liturgy-driven church and the impact it has on one’s faith. I found it in the testimony of a woman from this congregation. She said,

“There are always words, because God provided them.”

As a writer and a man who never shuts up, the thought of running out of words terrifies me. Any other bloggers  know how awful it is when you actually have to drum something up to write about- our premises and stories should flow from our own living and really ought not to be forced. The only thing scarier than writer’s block is a silence in relation to my faith. Even if it means reading words off a page, I must to participate in an ongoing conversation with my God, community and theology. And I may have found a new avenue for this conversation in words written by men who died a long time ago.

What’s your experience with liturgy?

Filed under: church

  1. I don't have much experience with liturgy but one thing I appreciate about tradition is that it can remind us of the reverence we should feel when we enter worship. Coming from non-traditional churches (both as an attendee and as a vocation) its easy for us to become familiar. Of course, one who participates in traditional methods can also easily see them as routine and duty, but for me its a great reminder to fear God. For instance, when The other day I had a video shoot in a cathedral and upone entering and seeing extravagance I wasreminded that God deserves our most opulent worship and undivided attention. Certianly my non-traditional experiences shape my traditional experiences, but maybe what we all need is to shake it up on a regular basis :)
    • jake
      Marcus, I think it's good to shake it up. There are ways to do that without leaving a church, for example, but hey, sometimes that's even a necessity. Now that I've accepted these practices as not empty-headed, my next step is to figure out where they came from and what exactly the intent is for each. I suspect that it'll be a fun adventure. And yes, liturgy does bring about some sense of reverence, even when I mess it up and make a fool out of myself.
  2. Sean
    Great post. This conversation will require a visit to the brewforia in Eagle, my friend. I look forward to talking about what you are learning, and sharing what I have learned along the way. Word has it they open next Monday. I think we should have go there and say a blessing over the place! Many good things will come from conversations there over the coming months and years, of this I am sure. See you soon, Jake.
    • jake
      "...and say a blessing over the place." YES. Sean, we have a mutual friend at Holy Trinity, I forget her name though. She's a sweetheart and I enjoy talking with her after church. Also, I think you'd love to meet Dave, the pastor. He'll sit down over beer and talk theology and the man is brilliant. You two would get along. Let's look at next week sometime, with or without other friends, yesh?
  3. I love that you're always examining your motives and your heart. Regardless of how you approach God's word, the heart should be involved. You always make me think, Jake.
    • jake
      I'm glad that I can make someone think. It's always my goal. And I have to examine my heart because of a lack of confidence in my ability to make decisions, which is unfortunate. :)
  4. I believe done right, liturgy is a powerful way to connect us to centuries of believers and take our faith out of the childish, Jesus is my best friend (clap, clap, clap) to a much deeper, much more meaningful faith. I have this habit of what I call redeeming traditions - I find old, sometimes worn out traditions in the church as a whole, research the background and reason why that tradition started, and change it up to fit in my life today. It's why I practice Lent and Advent, or my redeemed versions of those traditions. They help me deepen my faith and hear God more clearly.
    • jake
      I feel like lent has become trendy. At least, my hipster Christians are participating in it. I'm not sure if my church does this or not... I'm guessing it does. But you're right, people have had a lot of time to get things right (and wrong) so why reinvent the wheel, or take the time trying?