liturgical change (& an apology)

A Rector’s Notes weekly article, June 3, 2019

As part of our coming together as one worshipping community, I have the privilege of being the chief liturgist of the parish (well, apart from our Bishop), and the responsibility to guide our liturgical offerings with seriousness and intentionality. With this, you may have noticed that from time-to-time there are changes in our liturgies, whether seasonally or when compared to previous iterations or even permanent changes to the flow and structure of our liturgy.

One such change was made for Easter season, and now that we’ve all suffered through the awkwardness of the change, I realize I should have prefaced this change with some information and the intentionality behind the change. My apologies for not doing this sooner.

You may have noticed at the end of our service, we now go in the following order: postcommunion prayer, blessing, dismissal, closing hymn (recessional), postlude. This order shifts the dismissal from after the closing hymn to before.

There is a reason for this!

In the liturgy as laid out in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the postcommunion prayer, blessing (fun fact: the blessing was not supposed to be retained from the 1928 Prayer Book at this point in the service due to specific theological understandings, but it has persisted due to tradition), and dismissal are one liturgical act that flow through each other. In fact, there is not allowance made for a hymn in this part of the service (where in other parts hymns are explicitly suggested), and one could simply end the service at this point if so desired. I know that we all enjoy that closing hymn and it is nice to have the recessional component of the liturgy as well, so we place the closing hymn after the liturgical ending of the service as a way to celebrate our call to “go forth in the name of Christ.”

This does leave a short pause following the closing hymn as Katie switches over to the postlude, and we’re working on making it shorter (Katie has paused for dismissal for the past 20 years, so please grant us some patience as we all shift to this new practice).

This is a seemingly minor change but it is felt by everyone who is used to a certain flow and it likely seemed arbitrarily decided and implemented since no explanation was given. I apologize for that lack of foresight, and I encourage you to live into this new liturgical practice, understanding that we are doing so with an intentionality to connect our call to go out in mission with the meal we have just shared, and in so doing, we can begin that call in mission by singing out for the world to hear our joy in following the call!

This is one example of liturgical change that will naturally occur in our time together throughout the coming years. I hope that together we can embrace new expressions of our faith, with the congregation giving feedback when we feel too far afield and a commitment from me to be more proactive in explaining and announcing liturgical changes (for example, the new preaching location this past Sunday).

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