Answering the question What is a liturgical Church? blogger John Shore writes:
“‘Liturgy’ comes from the Greek word meaning, ‘Work of the people.’ And if you’ve ever been to the Sunday service of a liturgical church, then you understand the sense in which worshippers at those churches do work. Liturgical churches are pretty darn participatory: everyone’s always standing up, sitting down, or kneeling; the congregation prays together out loud; everyone comes up to the front rail to receive communion.”
He’s exactly right. Liturgical worship is participatory worship in which the whole church participates. Not everybody does these same thing. The priest has his part. The people have their part. The servers and the choir have their part. But the parts come together to form one whole act of the worshiping community.
In the Anglican Way
In the Anglican tradition our Sunday liturgy is ordered by three books: the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Hymnal.
In the Anglican tradition, the Bible is primary. In the words of our catechism, “Holy Scripture is ‘God’s Word written’ (Articles of Religion, 20), given by the Holy Spirit through prophets and apostles as the revelation of God and his acts in human history, and is therefore the Church’s final authority in all matters of faith and practice. (2 Timothy 3:16).
The first major part of the Liturgy is called “The Word of God” or “The Liturgy of the Word.” In this part of our worship we offer several prayers and hear four readings from the Bible. We hear a reading from the Old Testament book, we pray a Psalm, hear a portion of a New Testament letter, and finally hear from one of the Gospels.
The Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer, often shortened to BCP or “the prayer book,” is a comprehensive system of Christian devotion.
In 1549, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s first prayer book was officially published. It was intended to translate and simplify Christian worship so that everyone could use it, not just monks and priests that knew Latin. Thus the word common in the Book of Common Prayer.
The Prayer Book has a long history and has gone through several revisions. At St. Mark’s we use a version as recent as 1979, but many of the prayers it contains have roots in Christian antiquity.
The music for our congregational singing is taken from the 1982 Hymnal. This is a solid and expansive collection of service music and traditional hymns that inform our minds as they move our hearts, inspiring our intellect and rooting our hearts in truth.
If you are new to liturgical worship, you might enjoy this helpful article entitled Visiting an Anglican Church: People Moving Around.
Cultivated in Texas Soil
Sometimes worship in the liturgical tradition can appear cold and lifeless to those new to this expression, especially in Texas.
We prepare for the service in silence. So our ushers normally speak softly and the people in the Church don’t speak at all before the service.
Here’s the idea: before worship prepare to listen to God; during worship we listen to God and speak to God; after worship we speak to each other.
At St. Mark’s we cultivate both reverence and warmth, reverence for worship and warmth for our greetings and conversations afterward.