We did Songs of Praise last week.  There’s lots to think about: was it an act of worship when we sang the same hymn six times; were we a congregation when many of the people were from local choral societies, etc etc.

But the thing I’ve thought most about is this. Gordon Stuart, who was directing the singing, told lots of stories. One of them was about when he worked at a cathedral, and a Sunday School teacher challenged him about the spiritual growth and bible knowledge of the choir. Gordon grabbed a chorister, gave him a few words from a bible verse, and asked him to carry on the verse from memory. Most cathedral choristers could do this – they sing the Bible all the time (especially the Psalms). “Blessed be the God…’ gets me saying ‘…and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Which, according to his abundant mercy…’ and so on. I fuirst encountered 1 Peter 1 by singing it.

Then Gordon said to the Sunday School teacher that he was teaching the choristers prayers before they knew they needed them. That’s the phrase that got me. Most liturgy, it seems to me, is about the provision of prayers before we know we need them. Sometimes worship exactly expresses our mood and emotion and spiritual state. Most of the time liturgy offers a shape for belief, a container for emotion and intellect and will, offers us the commodities that will sustain us in all of life. Liturgy gives us prayers we will need, before we know we need them.

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