February 19, 2015

Liturgy for Lent: Introduction Pt.1

Jason: Mike and I have been friends for a long time. Today, we both work in The Episcopal Church. Mike is a lifelong Episcopalian and is ordained as a priest. I grew up in various evangelical churches and am now a part of the Episcopal Church. Throughout our relationship, there has been an ongoing dialog about Christian liturgies–a healthy “push and pull” between informal and sacramental expressions. We decided to share a bit of that conversation through both of our blogs. Through Lent this year we are going to post twice a week in a conversational introduction to liturgy. In this first post, we introduce ourselves and ask “Why talk about Liturgy for Lent?”

Mike: A few months ago we found ourselves talking about liturgy in a minivan. We were getting ready for the weekly Eucharist at the University of Maryland, College Park. I was filling in as priest that week, as Jason was in the midst of a search for a new campus minister. (Jason oversees campus ministry in the Diocese of Washington.) I had asked Jason whether he was okay with making changes to the order of service. Jason asked, “can you do that?”

We’d come a long way. I remember awkward moments when I first started coming to house church at Jason’s when we lived in San Diego. He would read a bit from First Corinthians and then pass around a tortilla and some wine and say “the body and blood of Christ.” As I received the bread and wine I thought, “can you do that?” I’d grown up in The Episcopal Church. My mom is a priest. I already had my first degree in theology. This informal evangelical approach was foreign to me. It broke the rules. I later lived with Jason and his family while on a summer break from seminary, and the Bishop came to visit us for house church. I asked Jason not to pass around the tortilla that night.

Now Jason works for a Bishop. He’s come professionally into my liturgical world, and he was asking if I was breaking the rules by changing the prayers for the liturgy. Jason had a lot of questions. As I pointed out page numbers in the Book of Common Prayer 1979 and the changeable parts of the service, I realized I had questions as well. I mostly knew the structure of The Episcopal Church’s worship through decades of practice, and I had taken as many classes in liturgical theology as I could in seminary. But suddenly I had a new set of questions centered around one question: “How do I explain what this all means to an outsider?”

Jason: Over a decade ago, I started fumbling around with the Book of Common Prayer and the Revised Common Lectionary. Like many evangelicals, my tradition provided lots of gimmicks for discipleship and worship but I needed something else. We were now more connected with the global community than ever before. While technically savvy, there was a growing fascination with ancient religious practices. In such a context, there’s something winsome about an old tradition that guides you in reading the same Bible passages, or praying the same prayers, as people around the world. While I respected these tools, I was not prepared for the reverence shown them upon entering the Episcopal Church. That reverence made it difficult for me to find anyone able to explain to me why these books are used the way they are in worship.

Mike: Jason asked if I could point him to an introduction to the liturgy for newly liturgical Christians. I couldn’t really. There are fantastic books and posts about the ideas of liturgy and theology, but not much by way of a practical how to guide. We decided this Lent to do a series of co-written cross postings, a crash course in liturgy.

Jason: Every Tuesday and Thursday during Lent, Mike will introduce an idea in liturgy, and I will try to make sure that we keep this as pedestrian as possible. I’ll offer critique and pose questions. Mike will look up–or make up–answers. We hope you will find our mash-up of informal and sacramental approaches to liturgy valuable. We think these two approaches can compliment each other.

Mike: We’ll both post our conversation using the following outline.

  • Introduction: What are we doing and what do we mean by liturgy?
    • Thursday Feb 19
    • Tuesday Feb 24
  • Daily Prayer: The prayer rhythm of the hours especially in their simplification as morning and evening prayer, and how to make it work for you as an individual or in a small family or community group.
    • Thursday Feb 26
    • Tuesday Mar 3
    • Thursday Mar 5
  • Eucharist: The weekly pattern of worship at the Lord’s Table, its parts and pieces, how to plan for a communion service.
    • Tuesday Mar 10
    • Thursday Mar 12
    • Tuesday Mar 17
  • Proper Liturgies for Special Days: Looking at feasts, fasts, and celebrations in life.
    • Thursday Mar 19
    • Tuesday Mar 24
    • Thursday Mar 26

We hope you’ll join us on this journey into liturgy during Lent.

The Series: Introduction Pt.1 | Introduction Pt. 2 | The Daily Office | Praying Through Scripture | The Daily Office Cont. | Explaining the Pieces | Eucharist, an Introduction | Too Much Structure? | 8 Essential Actions | Moments of Transition | Saints and Sanctified Time

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