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Yes I know – it’s either very early to plan your stuff for next year, or far too late to do this year’s….but while it was in my mind, here’s a couple of resources you might not know about.

They Shall Grow Not Old compiles about every Remembrance liturgy and prayer you could ever need (and the music for the Last Post and Reveille).It’s by my old chum Brian Elliott, who has been an Army Chaplain for ages, and whose Labarum site is now hosted by Oremus. Loads of millitary stuff – invaluable in certain quarters.  TSGNO is a one stop shop for this time of year.

For wider resources for remembering and commemorating, look at Beyond Our Tears. It’s a Churches Together publication, with sample liturgies (eg the one after the Dunblane tragedy), and all sorts of prayers, poems and writing.

And one practical thing. Lots of places use the hymn O Valiant Hearts. Lots try not to, because it’s theology gets a bit difficult in saying that the death of those in war is a ‘little calvary’, but you can have quite a job dissuading your local British Legion from singing it. But…it’s not in many hymn books. Click here and scroll down the page and you’ll find it, with the music. Good luck.

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Another thing from Carolyn Headley, in Liturgy and Spiritual Formation (Grove, Worship Series 143)

I’ve used this in every liturgical talk I’ve done since I first read it. It’s a quote from someone called Ostdiek. It sums it up for me. If liturgy is about little rules and fussing about then it’s not for me. But if it’s about the living encounter between God and the church then sign me up.

Spot the shape of the Eucharist in here:

Liturgy is not a thing. It is the act of a people who gather with the Risen Lord to keep covenant with God – to hear God’s word, to pray, to offer thanks and praise for the marvellous thing God has done for us in Christ Jesus, and to leave with a mission. It is a moment in which we lift up the outward deeds and inner movements of our daily lives to allow them to be enlightened with a Gospel word and to be signed with a gesture of dying and rising. Liturgy is a verb, filled with people’s celebrating and living.

G Ostdiek, Catechesis for Liturgy p. 3

I owe this to Carolyn Headley, and her Grove Book on Liturgy and Spiritual Formation (Worship Series 143).

She notes that if you put together the things that Paul prays for at the beginning of each of his letters you get an amazing description of what a mature Christian might look like. It challenges me to pray for those in my care (and for myself) that God will help us grow like this.

Just have a read…and be amazed!

Paul prays for those who believe…

that Christ: would dwell in their hearts and his power would fulfil in them every good purpose.

that God: would fill them with knowledge of his will;
give spiritual wisdom and understanding;
sanctify them through and through;
encourage their hearts; give them a spirit of unity;
strengthen them in every good deed and word;
be glorified in them and them glorified in God;
and keep them blameless at the coming of Christ.

that they: would be brought to perfection;
be filled with the spirit of wisdom and revelation;
have their hearts enlightened to know the hope to which they are called and the riches of God’s grace;
have strength in the inner being;
know God better;
be rooted and grounded in love;
know the love of God;
live a life worthy of their calling;
bear fruit both in work and in knowledge;
be strengthened with power;
have endurance and patience;
overflow with hope;
be filled with joy and peace in believing;
and joyfully give thanks to the Father.

 

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.

I was going to call this blog Confessions of a Recovering Liturgist, but chickened out, as it needs explanation. I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the last decade or so writing liturgy (on the Liturgical Commission) and enacting it in a very specialised context. Now I’m to be found in a parish with five buildings and a Fresh Expression, trying to make sure that our worship and our mission and ministry match up, and doing the day job in a situation much more recognisable to the majority of Christians.

So…I’ll try to record what we do, and whether it works, and what I think the principles are and should be. I’d be grateful for your comments and help. We need each other to get it right.