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Liturgy Notes

Liturgical Notes on Incense and Bells

Healing Prayers

We know through the gospel stories that one of the primary ministries of Jesus was one of healing. This ministry of healing—the laying on of hands, anointing with oil, and praying—is deeply rooted in the tradition of the Episcopal Church. And so, on Sunday, November 5 Prayers for Healing will be offered at the 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. services during communion at a station at the back of the nave. Anyone wishing for healing prayers—whether for yourself or for another or for our hurting world—is invited to come to a prayer station after receiving communion. You need only say as much as you wish, and anything said will be held in confidence. If you have questions, please contact the Rev. Valerie Hayes. Read more about Healing Ministries in The Episcopal Church.

Liturgy Notes for Holy Week

Holy Week almost collapses under the weight of the significance of the story of Jesus and our associated liturgies. There are as many traditions aligned with the three holy days (Triduum) of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter, as there need for participants to help bring the sacred story alive. As such, I wanted to make a few notes about certain aspects of our worship this week.

Every liturgy sets a kind of mood. This might not be evident to us each week, especially in the long season following Pentecost. Holy Week is generally the exception, as each liturgy serves to focus our attention on words and actions of Jesus that the Church considers central to our faith and life.

On Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the “big” themes of our walk with Jesus are teased out. From the humility of washing feet and the startling connection Jesus makes between a meal and his own life (blessed, broken, and shared), to the pain of betrayal, the humiliation of a farcical trial, and the agony of crucifixion.  The festive mood of eating with friends on one day completely deteriorates, and by the afternoon on Good Friday, the words that capture things include desertion, denial, and death.

This year on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, we will lean into those difficult themes of desertion, denial, and death. This might be particularly noticeable on Good Friday. As one tradition of the Church has it, liturgies on Good Friday that take place after the time of crucifixion (around 3p) do not include communion from that reserved on Maundy Thursday. Doing so does not lesson our worship. If anything, it signals Christ’s entry into death when, until the mystery of resurrection, we do not feast for we do not yet share in the divine life of grace.

Likewise, as we end the liturgy on Good Friday, we will, like the disciples before us, scatter rather and process in some orderly manner. The idea is this: we have lost the plot in light of Jesus’ death, and though we may not actively deny Jesus, collectively, we do not leave that night with a settled faith. Yes, we will gather for Easter, but not until we, like the disciples, experience the weight of our desertion and denial.

As you participate this Holy Week, I invite you to consider not only what is printed in the bulletin, performed by the choir, or spoken and sung by the clergy.  In addition to these things, take a moment to feel the gravity of what all of these things are showing and telling us. Take a few minutes, in other words, to connect with the mood of what’s going on, and what it represents. 

February 27, 2017

Lent and Alleluias

During Lent, our liturgy changes to reflect a more penitential mood: the color changes to purple, flowers are absent, the music changes in tone and message, and we stop saying “Alleluia.”  Normally, the congregation responds with “Alleluia” after the fraction of the host at Holy Eucharist, but during Lent, the “Alleluia” is omitted. The same is true for the dismissal at the end of the service. These changes help us to remember “the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith” (BCP 265).  At the Easter Vigil, the Alleluias return: with song, joy, and ringing bells! 

Facing East at the Creed

You may have noticed that after the sermon we recite the Nicene Creed; our statement of belief. At this moment in the service we stand, making a shift in our body language, to participate in the recitation to say, "I'm ready." In addition, we also make sure that we are facing forward. If you are seated in the pews you face forward towards the altar. For those on the chancel we face towards the main dove window. We are all facing East towards the rising Sun and symbolically towards Jerusalem. When we recite these words of great importance, physically engaging our bodies in worship, we are facing the seat of God, the place of resurrection. In doing so, we are making a conscious effort to not simply repeat words on a page but as our prayer book states, "that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives...."

February 20, 2017

Offering and Presentation Hymn

We have not been singing a Presentation Hymn at the conclusion of the Offertory in recent months. The purpose of this change is to clarify the meaning of the Offertory and how it relates to the Eucharistic Prayer that follows. The basic purpose of the Offertory is to prepare for the Eucharist; this preparation includes setting the table, and collecting and bringing forward the people’s alms. Although the Prayer Book allows a hymn or anthem to be sung during the Offertory, the purpose of music during that time is to cover the action of making preparation for the Eucharist. It is important to note that the text of the Eucharistic Prayer (the Great Thanksgiving) incorporates language about our oblation and thanksgiving; when we use a Presentation Hymn (in many congregations this is where “The Doxology” is sung), the Offertory itself takes on the character of thanksgiving, preempting that function within the Great Thanksgiving. By removing the Presentation Hymn, we are refocusing the purpose of the Offertory, and allowing the choir’s anthem to take its proper place as an accompaniment to the action of the Offertory.

Eucharistic Prayer in Lent

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, we will be using one of the Eucharistic Prayers from Enriching Our Worship, which is a collection of liturgical supplements from the Episcopal Church. The particular prayer, Prayer 2, offers some familiar themes (e.g. creation and redemption) with special emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. It is also worth noting the priority given to the language of relationship. Not only are we invited to remember God’s relationship to the world; we are also reminded how our relationships with each other, “of every tribe and language and people and nation”, figures into the gift of redemption we have in Jesus.