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.