Liturgy: Because Someone Has To Think Of These Things

Today was the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, as I write this, and I found myself rather bemused by the fact that I frequently find myself involved in some fashion in matters of liturgy, whether because I am involved in services in some fashion, or because I have a rather orderly mind and like things to be clearly understood and flow smoothly. I find personally that liturgy tends to be one of those issues that is not considered to be important by many people when they are talking about their preferences, but when things go wrong with it, it is definitely something that people are bothered by.

So, as it happens, the last three times I have been to services, the liturgy has been slightly different, and those slight differences can cause some issues. On the First Day of Unleavened Bread, I was a bit busy as far as things were concerned. During the hymns, I was playing in the hymn ensemble. The afternoon before Passover services I had been told by one of our local elders that our pastor would be taking care of the offertory message in the announcements period so I edited my sermonette accordingly to make it no longer an offering message. This had some aftereffects with regards to liturgy that were not immediately or carefully understood. When it came time for our pastor to finish the announcements, he not only had offertory music to announce but also special music immediately after that. Only the special music was announced, even though both of the announcements had been given to him, but we went around and had the offertory given, and during the offertory those of us in the small choir lined up to sing immediately after it was done, which we then did.

For the weekly Sabbath, I was the songleader, and the liturgy was a normal one. There were the usual three hymns, an opening prayer, a sermonette, another song, the announcements, another song (since there was no special music), a sermon, and then another hymn before the closing prayer. All of this is the way that things normally go and it was not the cause for anyone to ponder changes, but even here there was attention being drawn to the liturgy in that I was asked if I had prepared a song between the announcements and sermon as there was time for it, as of course I had. In most areas, such a thing would not have even drawn comment, it would simply have been announced that the songleader was coming up to lead another song and no one would have thought anything about it.

For today, we had the format that I had originally planned for the First Day of Unleavened Bread but that did not end up happening. One of my friends had songleading duties today and I was in the hymn ensemble for the first three hymns. After that a close friend had the sermonette that then transitioned into an offertory. This was followed by offering music–where I was filling in for a deacon who was out of time in helping collect the offering–and then another hymn and then announcements from one of our local elders, special music–a vocal solo from another friend of mine–after which there was a sermon by one of our retired pastors, followed by a closing hymn and a closing prayer by the same local elder who gave the announcements.

One of the more underrated aspects of liturgy that makes it so important–but also so frequently unrecognized–is that it generally provides a sense of stability to one’s religious observances. There are in generally two groups of people, those who enjoy novelty and those who like things to be regular and orderly, and liturgy is usually mostly the interest of those who (like me) are in the second category of people. When the liturgy is in order people know where they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to be doing. Is it a time to stand up and sing, or time to sit quietly and take notes about what a speaker is saying? In a world where so much is in such an advanced state of chaos and disorder, liturgy is a comforting element of stability, so long as there are people who keep these things in order and make sure that when there are changes, those changes occur within an existing stable order that does not make people feel out of place or uncertain of what is going on.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church of God, Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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