A Narrative Service of the Liturgy

I’ve scanned in the entire bulletin from our church service this past Sunday. At our church we follow a liturgy, which is a specific order of worship. There are a few different variations (they change with the church seasons and communion is only part of the service on the second and forth Sundays each month), but it is always structured and there are few enough variations that it is easy to memorize many of the “usual” prayers and responses and songs that we sing (if you go often enough). I scanned the whole thing in because usually we follow the service along in the Lutheran service book (which has the various layouts of worship in the first part of the book and all the hymns fill the rest). The bulletin typically has an abbreviated order of service (like an outline). But last Sunday the whole thing was printed up in along with italicized notes about WHY we do each little “part” of the service. I thought it was really interesting and wanted to share:

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I always regard our church as taking a sort of academic approach to understanding Christ (and the Bible).  The bulletin is quite plain. Black text on plain white paper. A simple design on the cover. I love how it is so simple and unadorned. To me, the words, the messages and the meanings become the very clear focus. Focusing on Bible passages (at least for me) takes a lot of concentration. People have entire discussions (or write entire volumes!) on mere verses. The words are not like the sentences I’m hammering out here. They’re God-breathed. It really is a “living” work and every verse is a chance for an amazing encounter- direct (!) –with God. But it takes focus and concentration. Clapping or crying or waving my hands would not facilitate the concentration, I personally, need to grasp the messages of the Bible. Not saying I don’t sometimes cry/have an emotional response as a result of a deeper spiritual understanding—I just like taking this sort of “academic” approach first.

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(back of bulletin)

(back of bulletin)

It’s never too difficult to catch which part of the Bible is being studied during service (even when accompanied by Babyzilla). The verses are always printed on the back of the bulletin!

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The hymns have lovely old syntax and multisyllabic vocabulary words that sometimes stretch on for measures. Truth be told, I don’t really know what a measure is in music-speak. But I enjoy the opportunity of the hymns to hear AND see the notes, even if I can’t technically “read” sheet music. (Side note: the hymns from the service were not printed in this handout: we sang them out of the book). Maybe I’ll borrow a hymnal for some more “scanning in” next week!

Perhaps you’ve scrolled to the end of this post and haven’t actually read a word of any of the pages (I so painstakingly scanned in)? The following are some questions I considered during/after this service and I think sharing these questions may reveal why I find this so interesting. Perhaps after considering all of these questions maybe you can scroll back up through the pages and at least check out some of the italicized blurbs and see what you think in relation to how you worship or praise or understand the notion of “church”. I won’t directly answer things I consider in attempting to answer these questions below (this is an essay, not a book!), but if you leave a comment I will be happy to continue the discussion!

If a church has lots of “bells and whistles” (i.e. a “band”, more “contemporary” music, colorful logos, video components, etc): Do you think these things are distracting to the messages?

What about the church service as a “stage” (literally and figuratively) to share our God-given talents? Art, music, design? What place (if any) do these things have in a church service?

Is there anything wrong with using such “bells and whistles” if the main goal is to attract more people (because obviously the churches with the “bells and whistles” certainly DO attract LOADS of people)?

What do you think of the idea of the “perfect prayer” (The Lord’s Prayer: the prayer Jesus tells us to pray in Matthew 6:9-13)? Do you say this prayer at church?

How significant is syntax and diction when it comes to the language used in a church service? (an example of this would be “The Lord bless you and keep you” instead of “May the Lord bless you…”

What are the benefits of eliciting an emotional response during a church service?

The theater can elicit a very emotional response, but going to a show is not the same as attending church; how are they different?

How do you think attending a church service should differ from attending a “show”?

Do you feel like an active participant when you attend church or an audience member?

Do you think using sheet music (as in a traditional hymnal) is significant in singing songs in church? (At least for me it sure is educational and has that “academic” feel I’m drawn to)

What are the benefits of following a consistent order of service?

Do you think there are any negatives to following a “strict” order of service (a liturgy)?

What about social media (streaming church services/virtual bible classes, etc.) and not participating live (in person)? Is that church?

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Please discuss among yourselves. Or here. And I do hope, Internet, God is among us at Spy Garden website. Perhaps it doesn’t qualify as “church” but it’s still a sort of gathering…or is it?

4 thoughts on “A Narrative Service of the Liturgy

  1. narf77

    It would take me a month of sundays to answer all of those questions! First, BOY does your church give you a lot of backup text! My humble little church gave you a hymn book when you entered and you just had to listen to what was going on up the front (if you could stay awake) if you wanted to know the order of the service that day ;). I like your churches approach better. I love the organised ritual and structure of church services but if you repeat the same or a very similar structure every week, you run the risk of parishoners just homing out of what is going on…they know when to sing and what to expect and often don’t really listen because heck, we did this last week, I can think about what I need to get in my shopping list…I think that there is room for the parishoners and congregation to share and to give their talents back to the church so that everyone benefits but I don’t think you need loud bells and whistles constantly because there are people in those pews who came to hear something, not just “a joyous noise unto the lord” but something meaninful to cut through humanities collective need to pile bampf over God’s simple truths and to find meaning and direction in their lives. Sometimes it is just easier to hear God when you are outside, on your own, sitting on a mossy rock in the wilderness somewhere :). It is 5.40am and my (bad) duck is calling me to bring her some bread…not yet light and the duck alarm is going off! There is a lesson in stewardship there. Cheers God. Another little quiet lesson that I need to learn :)

    1. Spy Garden Post author

      I knew I could count on you for some good comments;) Yeah, it would take a BOOK to answer all of those questions, I guess my point was that this service with all the extra notes and explanations RAISED all these questions. I definitely relate to zoning out when the service is always the same (also I am always accompanied by young children which makes concentration difficult sometimes ;) but have recently started thinking more about each part of the service–this “special” service with all the extras included in print was really cooL! Thanks as always for such thoughtful comments. Hope the (bad) duck had a lovely day (and you too!!)

      1. narf77

        The bad duck ate her fill of buttered bread and then hightailed it off into the shrubbery where she has been laying eggs and thinks that she is about to become a mummy duck. The problem is…she is the ONLY duck that we have here on Serendipity Farm…nuff said! The best bit about getting all of those extra’s is that you can take them home and think about them and look up anything that you weren’t really clear about when it was being mentioned in church. The problem with long services is that half the time you have completely forgotten what you were going to check out when you get home by the end of the service. Notes, or at least a bit of a synopsis would be a great thing indeed. I do my best thinking when I am alone with no other distractions around. Just God and me communing :) One day he is going to say “Ahem!” out loud and I am going to fall off my chair ;)

      2. Spy Garden Post author

        Our service is always around 1 hour, which I think is an ideal length. But yes, nice to have some notes to jog one’s memory after you’ve left!

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