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.



So I’m writing an essay on A Service of the Word, and the whole Patterns for Worship thing. A bit like email and the iPod it seems as if ASOTW has been around for ever, and, liturgically at least, it’s been a similar kind of game-changer.

It would be great to know what you do with yours…have you used its provisions for a special service, your daily office, an all-age service, something seasonal? Has it worked for you? Might it do other stuff?

Did it change your life?

Let me know by commenting here, or sending me an email: jeremy@jjfletcher.co.uk

Thanks 🙂

Allowed myself a wry smile when I read in today’s Church Times http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=101107 that Stuart Townend’s In Christ Alone is in the top 5 most popular hymns.

Two reasons: last week’s Songs of Praise saw me singing it meaningfully in full close up (and cope); and…we weren’t allowed to sing it in York Minster because the Archbishop was conscious of the difficult line “on the cross where Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied”.

Various people would request it though, and I emailed Stuart Townend to ask whether he would allow any of the changes people make – eg “the love of God was magnified”. An excellent conversation ensued – the short version being “no dice. The satisfaction of the wrath of God is not outside Scripture.”  Indeed, it’s also right there in one of the “historic formularies” of the Church of England, the Communion Service in the Book of Common Prayer. I pray every week about Jesus Christ making “satisfaction…for the sins of the whole world.”

It’s vital to get our theology right. A great tune can mask some appalling doctrine. Some denominations spend ages on their hymnals to ensure that we don’t sing stuff which will lead us astray. It’s always interested me that the C of E, which spends ages on its liturgy for the same reason, doesn’t do so with its hymnody. I’m not going to go into the whole penal substitution thing, except to say that I agree with Stuart Townend that it’s not outside Scripture, and is one of the images of atonement which have susatained the Church through the ages.

But it’s only one of them, and, if you like, it’s at the extreme edge of the spectrum. So let’s hope someone can write something as catchy and profound as In Christ Alone which can encapsulate some of the other images of salvation: of the lost being found, the price paid, the debtor redeemed, the slave set free, the broken healed, creation restored. There’s lots of that already, and there is room for more as long as there are worshippers in earth and heaven.

Just for fun – uselful though if you want to make a point about the way liturgical language changes. I don’t know where it came from …you can sing it to any traditional chant

A Modern Psalm 23 – Pointed for Traditional Chant.

1. The Lord and I are in a /shepherd – / sheep situation,
and I am in a pos / ition of / negative need.

2. He prostrates me in a / green belt /grazing area;
he conducts me directionally parallel to non-torr / ential / aqueous liquid.

3. He returns to original satisfaction levels my psycho / logi * cal / make-up;
He switches me on to a positive behavioural format  for maximal prest / ige of his i / dentity.

4. It should indeed be said that  not-withstanding the fact that I make ambulatory progress through the umbrageous inter- / hill mortality slot,
terror sensations will not be instantiated within me   due to / para / ethi * cal phe / nomena.

2nd part

5. Your pastoral walking aid    and quadruped pickup unit introduce me into a pleasur / ific / mood-state:
You design and produce a nutrient-bearing furniture-type structure   in the context of  / non-co-/ opera * tive / elements.

6. You act out a head-related folk ritual    employing / vege / table / extract;
my beverage utensil ex /periences * a / volume / crisis.

7. It is an ongoing deductible fact    that your inter-relational empathetical and non-vengeance capabilities will retain me as their target focus for the duration of my / non-death / period;

and I will possess tenant rights in the housing unit of the lord on a permanently / open- / ended / time basis.

Let an honourable, exalted and prosperous state of notoriety be attributed to the male parent figure accruing also to His immediate descendant in the / male / line:

and to the sanctified non-cor / pore *al person * al /entity.

In such manner as was circumstantial at the initialisation,

is contemporaneous with our terrestrial experience period,

and is due to con / tinue  * in / terminably;

cessation of the totality of trans-temporal existence
/ being * unfore / seen. Ag / reed!

So I get a call from a mum of a baby I baptised last year. Two of the Godparents have decided, after the event, that they don’t believe in all this stuff and that they can’t do the job. Pretty commendable, if belated, I suppose. Anyway, the question is: can two other people become Godparents?

In many ways I could see no problem. If a Godparent decided that they could not fulfil the role in the child’s life, them surely someone else could be drafted in to do it? The new couple involved were keen to help, and promised to pray for the child, etc etc.

And yet, as far as I can make out, it is theologically impossible to declare that they are officially the Godparents, because one of the key roles of a Godparent is to witness to the faith of the baptised at the time of the baptism. It derives from the role of the ‘sponsor’ at the baptism of an adult in times of Christian persecution, where spies and informers were infiltrating the Christian faith. Just as a biological parent is alwys the parent of a child, whether they have contact or not, so a Godparent in witnessing the baptism is always a Godparent.

The parenting analogy breaks down there, however, because there is no rite in which a Godparent can ‘adopt’ a child, even if they can fulfil the role.

So: a newly baptised baby is abandoned by two Godparents. Two others are willing to replace them. The mum is keen that they should do it, for all the right reasons.

What I did was to affirm that the child’s baptismal faith had been witnessed by parents and Godparents, and invited the new couple to ‘act as’ the child Godparents. That’s actually what is says on the cards we give out. It seemed the pastoral thing to do – I’d rather the child had ‘Godparents’ who did the job, and I wasn’t going to get all theological. But was it the right thing to do?

The prayers (which I used at the (empty) font) are these.

Eternal and loving God,
you have promised that those who seek will find you;
we pray for your blessing on M and her familyfollowing her baptism.
May they may walk together in the Way of Christ.
By your grace, may M take her place within the community of your Church,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A and B, you have been asked to nurture M as she grows in faith, and to act as her Godparents.
At her baptism M’s parents and Godparents affirmed M’s baptismal faith and undertook to walk with her in the way of faith.
As you now take your place in order to act as her Godparents we pray that you will be strengthened to support M in her life in Christ.

May God bring you joy as you hold her in his love,
and walk with her on the Way of Christ.
May you be a blessing to M and her family,
and may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

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.