Thursday, 30 May 2019

Worship reflections: Prayers, Scripture, Hymns, Liturgy

originally journaled March 13, 2018

How do you worship?

For the past couple of years, I've been attending traditional Anglican services, where we use the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. At home I've been following The Divine Hours (P. Tickle) and Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (S. Claiborne), and I've tried using centering prayer.

And I am feeling that back in the day, in the "tradition" I was raised in, we missed outto some degree, on the possibilities of prayer, though we prayed a lot.

We prayed a lot. At home we had prayer before meals, daily family worship, individual devotions, bedtime prayers, scripture memorization, and prayer whenever circumstances called for it, like someone sick, setting out on a road trip, praying before guests left, financial needs, or upcoming events.

At church, we had a fairly lengthy prayer (by the minister, usually) in each service, opening prayer for every special event or service, and weekly prayer meeting, when everybody could pray. All were extemporaneous (created on the spot) other than the Lord's Prayer.

Even at school, we all repeated the Lord's Prayer and listened to scripture reading each morning (until it was phased out during my high school years).

But the thing is, the emphasis was mostly on personal requests—for health, safety, finances, guidance, and so on. We didn't often use Scripture as a prayer itself or as a prayer pattern, other than the Lord's Prayer (though I suppose we did cover "Scriptural praise" through hymns and choruses). There was a very simple "liturgy" of prayers for communion, all repeated by the minister, that I remember from my early years, but that was mostly phased out in favour of, I think, being "creative" and "personal" and "non-traditional" and "modern."

We didn't, so far as I remember, draw much upon traditional prayers passed down through the church ages, nor did we use any of the church "creeds." I did learn the Apostle's Creed in our church's children's club in order to earn a badge—but with no context, no knowledge of where it came from or its significance. There seemed to be a great caution—fear even—of anything that smacked of "tradition," and we prided ourselves on being "non-liturgical" even though the weekly Sunday service bulletin proved we certainly followed a distinct pattern that was rarely deviated from and was, dare I say, religiously followed. A liturgy of our own, unrecognized as such?

Our church hymn book had a few simple liturgical passages in the back, which I don't ever remember being used, and a section of "responsive" readings from the Psalms which were used on rare occasions.

So in a sense, the hymns were our "congregational prayers" I guess. And worthy ones, at that. Happy and joyous, deep and repentant ... I think the hymn book was our "liturgy," and maybe when we gave up hymns, replacing them with "worship choruses" (which seem to me, on reflection, to be much more focused on "I" while the hymns were generally more focused on God and scripture), we lost an important part of our worship.

I still have a copy of one of the hymnbooks we used. Of "The Role of a Hymnal" it says:

"The faith and life of the church have always found expression and reinforcement through its hymnody....  The hymnal teaches and inspires. It expresses faith, hope, and love. It voices our experience and aspiration. It is a way to share. It is a rich source of biblical theology. It is where we join with the saints of other centuries in a common expression of joy, praise, and worship. It is a force for unity. It is a stimulus to Christian action and evangelism. It leads to God and to men. The combination of lyric and melody fastens truth upon the inner man."

All fine and good—and sounds very much like a description of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, doesn't it? So ... why have we so often cast aside the "deep things" of our common congregational worship? And is that casting aside of the long "traditions" of the church in liturgy, scripture reading, common prayers—and yes, hymns—a cause of so many people (including myself for a long time) drifting away from the church (and its Founder and Centre)? What do you think?

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