Evolution in Liturgy

A 'Forest Station' from Lincoln Cathedral

The way I understand it “liturgy” is a collective noun for the prayers, actions, songs etc that make up an act of worship. But it also seems to be used as a noun in the singular, with people referring to a specific prayer as a piece of liturgy.

‘Common Worship’ has been developed for the CofE as a breadth of material that gives those that lead worship flexibility to respond to themes in the lectionary, the directed topics chosen by church leaders, or the need of specific day or congregation. It has given ‘permission’ to be creative within a set of losely defined boundaries (which depend on the type of service).

But for me, liturgy (both collective and singular) is also an organic thing, with a piece of liturgy being able to evolve from use in one situation, to another and another. This seems to be rather an Iona-ish thing to do, and perhaps I have gained something from my forays into their styles of worship.

Here’s an example of what I mean, from stuff I’ve found, used, adapted, and finally re-created. Whether any of it is any good is for you to decide.

This piece of liturgy started life (with me) as a Creed – Costa Rica (click the title to download), that was handed out by Fleur Dorrell (Head of Mothers’ Union’s Faith and Policy Unit) at a meeting I attended several years ago. I liked it and filed it, its obvious roots in liberation theology speaking into services I might one day create on the theme of justice. That was before I thought of training as a Reader/Lay Minister, but I think it was the year of MakePovertyHistory and Micah 6:8 was becoming the most used verse in the Old Testament.

Then in my first training module I chose an assignment that was an order of service for Christian Aid Week. Out came the file, and used it was. Next I seem to remember it struck me that it could be adapted and used to create responsive intercessions, and so it was used in the format below.

Finally, for a family service one day I wanted to create a creed-like sequence of slides that all-ages could understand, and so was became this Simple Visual Affirmation of Faith (.ppt 5629KB). At the time it was criticised for not including a reference to Jesus’ death and resurrection, so that has been added in since it was last used.

Over these iterations I believe it has lost something – the original asks more questions of us than does the visual – but both were no doubt created with a specific purpose in mind, and hopefully met the need.

Responsive Intercessions adapted from Costa Rican Creed:
(insert your own intercessions at *)

We believe in God the Father, who created the world for us.

We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s own son, sent into our world to mend relationships and to proclaim peace.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, who works in and through everyone who accepts God as part of their lives.

We believe that as part of one church among many worldwide, we are called by God and inspired by the Holy Spirit, to serve all people whatever their need.*

We believe war, terrorism, racism and the slavery of one group of people by another through fear and the misuse of money, laws and privileges is wrong.

We believe that Jesus taught us to respect human rights, comfort and help those who suffer and confront what is evil and wrong in the world without using violence.*

We believe that the whole world is our home, and that what we do and how we live here has an impact not only in our community but around the world.

We believe that we can set an example in our own community by seeking to stop injustice, to help our neighbour and to share our faith.*

We believe that we should show the love og God who brings healing and comfort and who in Jesus, opened his arms on the cross to embrace everyone.

We believe that death is not the end, but that God will draw those who die in faith to be with him for ever.*

We believe that whatever our circumstances we can take steps to change our actions so that we do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God each day.



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