real liturgy

I regularly come into contact with people who seem to have a problem with ‘liturgy’. I think the complaint is mainly that saying a set of words each day seems a naff way of connecting with God. I have always found this view interesting as most of these people come from churches that sing the same or similar songs each week – so maybe the problem is with words without music … but I don’t know.

One of the complaints that I can go with, though, is that a lot of the language used in Common Worship does not resonate with many of us. It is very wordy and the vocabulary does not always aid worship or assist our imaginations as we worship God.

I have been following this Hold This Space for a while now which Jonny has mentioned a few times – the ‘liturgy’ used here is both relevant, challenging and often quite beautiful. Today’s post from Cheryl called ‘welcome to the world’ is another great example of how liturgy can be real for people.

Ordinary sacredness

I know this has been a bit of a theme for me over the last year or so. I love this written by Cheryl (who I first found via Jonny’s blog) who writes a lot of rich and beautiful words. This made me stall and wonder this morning.

It takes little faith to see the sacred in the extraordinary.

to have faith the sacred is in the ordinary, though,
takes courage to believe the mundane can be enough;
that grace can emerge
even through the dull,
the slightly disappointing,
the not quite right,
not quite as we intended,
not really what we hoped…
the clumsy,
the awkward,
and the imperfect.

let your act of faith be to let what you do be enough.

let what you do be enough…

Bringing and receiving hope

Today I led the prayer meeting for the Waltham Forest YFC team. I always enjoy meeting up with this team and it is a privilege to join them each term to pray. Over the last year I have been conscious how the team has changed and been under pressure as well as experiencing the agony of seeing young people involved in gun and knife crime. It’s been a tough year, but in places like Waltham, every year is a tough year.

I felt strongly that I wanted to encourage this team and remind them of the hope that they have in God, and the hope that we can breathe into the lives of those that we work with ‘who do not know where to go and are like sheep without a shepherd’ (Matthew 9: 35-38).

I used an idea from Ben Edson at the OPM day recently who told the story of Pandora’s Box. After opening and shutting the box (which let out all the evils into the world) the only thing left in the box was hope. In the box that hope was symbolised by bread and wine which I brought out for us to share. We also joined in this liturgy which I wrote for the occasion:

In their reality of broken and hurting families
Lord; help us bring your hope.

In their fear of being an individual
Lord; help us bring your hope.

In their experience of violence and gang culture
Lord; help us bring your hope.

In their feelings of hopelessness
Lord; help us bring your hope.

In our conflicting pressures at home and work
Lord; give us your hope.

In our frustrations of being misunderstood
Lord; give us your hope.

In our tears over lack of care and resources
Lord; give us your hope.

In our fear of stepping out and being rejected
Lord; give us your hope.

This week
May we be agents of hope
Breathing in your hope for our lives
And breathing out your hope for the lives of others


Interesting facts about eucharist

My Eucharist reading goes on.
I found out today that at the first Eucharist’s in Uganda the bishop gave banana bread and banana beer as these were the normal everyday food items and (wheat) bread and wine were unavailable.

It also strikes me that if we are supposed to join in with this meal then we need to use the everyday that is with us and that we are used to. If we have to import stuff (as the Ugandans would have to have done) then that kind of makes the event quite foreign and open to more misinterpretation by others. Surely, the everyday earths that God is with us.

I was also surprised to learn while flicking through the 39 articles (as you do when bored and screaming children are around) that Articles 24 and 34 are quite interesting:

XXIV. Of Speaking in the Congregation in such a Tongue as the people understandeth
It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church to have public Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments, in a tongue not understanded of the people.

XXXIV. Of the Traditions of the Church.

It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the Traditions and Ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren.

Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, Ceremonies or Rites of the Church ordained only by man’s authority, so that all things be done to edifying.

In other words – the traditional ‘laws’ of our church say that everything should happen in a language that all can understand and also that one size does not actually fit all – quote: ‘they may be changed’!

So – why so much fuss about changing stuff?

Now that I have looked at the 39 articles I feel particularly holy, and in personal shock, so feel I need to go to bed. I am believing that lack of sleep in the first place caused me to look at the 39 articles as I cannot think why else I found myself there. Severe lack of sleep would seem to be causing me to quote from the said articles. I am in personal disbelief of my actions and am just about to pinch myself.

To my friends that are in shock too – please accept my heartfelt and most warm apologies! Do not worry – I am not being Anglicanised!

silence pt 2 … you want reality …. remove the masks!

The silence has continued. Throughout the rest of the day I chose to do a little reading but mainly sit and listen while repeating the Jesus prayer as a mantra. As distractions came I acknowledged them, as Abbot Jamison suggested, and then returned to my mantra.

I the silence, the still small whisper of God became barely audible
I was reminded of what one of the retreat leaders had said earlier in the day.

God loves the real me.
The real thing!
The me that no one else sees.
The me I keep locked away in secrecy.
The me I conceal from others.
The me I hide from myself.
The me I run away from.
The me I wish wasn’t me.
The me no-one knows.
The me I don’t know.

In the silence
God made me aware
of the many masks
that I wear

The mask for family
the mask for church
the mask for friends
the mask for work
the mask for God
the mask for me

Multiple masks
Multiple identities
Multiple actions and reactions
for so long that now
I have to ask
‘will the real me step forward’

In the silence
The voice…
to discover your true self
to find your true identity
the real you
the real you that I know and love
you need to take courage
you need to remove the masks
and be the person I have created
the creature I gave birth to
your true self

The thought scares me, but I think this is a long process that God is calling me into. I feel God has spoken to me in the silence and through ‘Finding Sanctuary’.I look back and can see that I have copied identities that I see around me, popular ways of doing things, not unlike teenagers at school all wearing the same brand trainers to ‘look cool’ and thinking they are individuals expressing their creativity and right to choose. I don’t wish to look cool (can you look cool at 41?!) but I can acknowledge the same process happening. Instead of really tapping into my personal, God ordained creative life, I look to others. I guess we all do to an extent.

Thomas Merton said : ‘Many poets are not poets for the same reason that many religious people are not saints: they never succeed in being themselves. They never get round to being the particular poet or the particular monk that they are intended to be by God’ Jamison goes on to say ‘People fail to be themselves because it is easier to be somebody else’.

I think this ties in my (not) resolution to shine like stars.

Silence pt 1 … the unforgettable tune

12 hours of silence and I feel strangely refreshed.
I’m rediscovering the old mantra
There was a terrible wind,
but God was not in the wind.
Then came an earthquake,
but God was not in the earthquake.
Then there was a ferocious fire,
But God was not in the fire.
Then there was a still small whisper …

I am finding God in the still small whisper
after only 12 hours
immersed suggests I’m powerless
saturated feels like an advert for low fat spread
this is different
this is like coming home
resting in passion
not just in presence

the coils of my DNA seem to resonate
with not a new song
not a forgotten song
a song that I have just realised
I have not sung for a little while

a song whose melodies
i enjoy
know deep down
understand little
but love massively

It’s like hearing a tune from school days on the radio
you know, that song you loved
but had forgotten.
you hear the tune
and before you know where you are
you are singing along with the words
word perfect

So perfect that
when driving
through a tunnel
and the radio loses the signal
you keep singing
and you smile
when you emerge
that you kept in perfect time.

Such an unforgettable knowledge
is not learnt in lectures, books, talks
it is buried in the heart
and apparantly
it only needs a few notes
before it is awoken.

Films for sacred spaces

I’ve mentioned Work of the People before and St Marks has recently taken a subscription. It’s a new month so there is a new free video. Glad to see they have started a WOTP blog too.