Since the publication of this post, I have updated the liturgy to include an original Collect as part of the closing section. The updated liturgy is the second document provided at the bottom of this post.

One of the beautiful things about liturgy is that it can be used to mark the highest highs and lowest lows of life. The joys of birth, baptism, marriage, and ordination are commemorated with individual rites; the sorrow of death has its own liturgy; we mark time by day, week, and year with various offices. 

Liturgy helps us answer the question, How then shall we pray?

As we face this global pandemic of COVID-19, many of us find ourselves full of anxiety. Through social-distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine, how are we to pray? Through states of emergency and government lockdowns, how are we to pray? As our daily lives are turned upside down with school closings, job uncertainties, and economic instability, how are we to pray? 

The answer is often, I don’t know. It is difficult to find concrete words to pray in circumstances for which most of us have no context. In an attempt to give us a common language of prayer during this time, I have written a liturgy specifically designed for use during this global pandemic.

In this liturgy, you will find a prayer of general confession devoted to fear, anxiety, and worry; included within the intercessions are prayers for those who are sick, for health workers, for churches, and for all of humanity; I have included the General Thanksgiving because all of prayer (and liturgy) is doxological; finally, I have included some prayers for specific times of the day. You can use this liturgy once or often throughout the day. It has been composed for both individual and family use. Lastly, I have written it in the hopes that it gives us a shared language with which we can approach Almighty God in prayer and supplication, praise and lament, sorrow and hope.

You can access the liturgy below:

UPDATED LITURGY:

A poem by Travis Wright

At evensong, the lifted book toward which we
wait, and bow, like birdsong
across a glassy top, or 
bodies driven by silence toward
combat and song. 

Only touch us, Lord,
and leprous praise will rise
once more.

Travis Wright lives with his wife Emily and their small daughter in Charlotte NC, where he studies at Gordon-Conwell and works in discipleship at All Saints. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Brooklyn Quarterly, Anthropocene, and the North American Anglican, among others. 

This was originally posted on Anglican Pastor. You can find the original post here.

It is likely that you’ll hear a variation of the following words at an Anglican Church on Sunday morning, “Please be seated to be instructed from the Word of God.” It’s clear that the Bible is going to be read aloud for the purpose of teaching and formation, but who assigns the lessons? Is it left up to the whims and fancies of the priest or is there some standard by which our lessons are selected?

Every Sunday, on the Lord’s Day, the church gathers together for the worship of almighty God through both Word and Sacrament. The Liturgy of the Word is comprised of the opening acclamation and collect(s), sung worship, the public reading of God’s word, canticles in response, the sermon, the Creed, the prayers of the people, and the confession. This ordo may vary based on higher or lower churchmanship, but the structure is going to be the same in the overwhelming majority of Anglican parishes.

The regular, sustained, and robust use of Scripture was a cornerstone of the English Reformation and remains to be central to Anglican worship and spirituality. The witness of John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Miles Coverdale and others is lasting proof that to be Anglican is to be heartily and fully committed to the Bible. Likewise, Thomas Cranmer famously penned a collect about Scripture, he wrote, that we may…hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.” The earliest liturgies of 1549 and 1552 both made provision for the reading of the Old Testament, Psalter, New Testament epistle, and the Gospels during worship. If Anglicans read four lessons every Sunday, how are these lessons chosen? Does it matter what is read? Yes and yes, it absolutely matters.

What is a Lectionary?

Simply put, a lectionary is resource (printed or electronic) that contains appointed Scripture readings for Sunday worship. Lectionaries can be devised according to different methods for different purposes, but the goal is always to produce something that can be used in the church, for the church, and to the glory of God. Cranmer composed a Sunday lectionary as part of the prayer book in order to help guide the English church through the entirety of Scripture on a regular basis.

In more modern times, the Revised Common Lectionary has been compiled as an ecumenical resource for Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and others who order their worship similarly. We could delve into the pros and cons of Cranmer’s lectionary versus the RCL versus other models, but that is another post for another time. The bottom line is that the use of a lectionary is both historic and authentically Anglican.

The Whole Witness

One of the problems with needs-based, thematic sermons is that it places the onus of Scripture selection and content solely on the preacher. In our individualistic, consumerist culture this is not a problem. It is common—even preferred—in many western churches for the preacher to be the authority over Scripture rather than the other way around. Thankfully, the use of a lectionary places a necessary safeguard over such a model as it lets Scripture dictate content and preaching.

Likewise, the use of a lectionary in its entirety guarantees that the pilgrim people of God will be fed fully from the full witness of Scripture. Far too many churches focus exclusively on the New Testament or even the gospels alone as if the rest of Scripture didn’t matter. “We’re New Testament Christians,” they claim, or, “We’re Christ alone people.” I’m a New Testament and Jesus person as much as anyone, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Tanakh became part of the Church’s Scripture and thus the Old Testament is not simply a place to “find” Jesus but is part of our collective memory and story. The lectionary makes sure that we are being honest to our identity as the people of God.

How Does it Work?

The lectionary helps orient the church calendar; or rather, it works with seasons and themes already prescribed throughout church history. You’ll find that the readings during Advent have to do with the first coming of Christ, Epiphany season readings have to do with the revelation of God in Christ, so forth and so on. It’s quite simple really: readings on Sunday should match the Church’s journey through the life of Christ.

As an example, the RCL has a three-year cycle: Years A, B, and C. During Ordinary Time each year focuses on one of the synoptic Gospels while the Gospel of John is reserved for holy days and Lent(among others). Likewise, the Old Testament selection during Ordinary Time offers two tracks. The lectionary readings will often flow in harmony with the Collect for the Day, thus providing a thematic wholeness for the sermon and the celebration of the Eucharist.

The goal is to provide the gathered people of God with a steady diet of God’s Word, a diet that makes sense and treats the Bible as one consistent and contiguous whole rather than as a confederation of individual and unrelated episodes. When used properly, a parish will read almost every word of Scripture in three years.

Using the Lectionary as a Church

Here are some thoughts for using the lectionary in a local church:

  1. If you elect to use a lectionary then please recognize it is not a suggestion but a standard to be followed. To “use” the lectionary and alter it based on your own whims or fancies is just the same as not using it at all.
  2. Always, always preach on the sections that are bracketed off. Don’t avoid them, lean into them!
  3. Begin reading from the whole lectionary if you aren’t doing so already.
  4. When selecting a track for Ordinary Time stick with it! Don’t jump between Track 1 and Track 2 because the lessons get tough—stay on your track and help the people of God learn from a consistent witness.

The fruit of such labor is multi-faceted: individuals learn how to read the Bible well; a parish joins millions of Christians around the world in reading the same thing; a parish is formed by God’s word in a holistic sense.

Postscript: There will soon be a post highlighting the unique offering of a traditional, one year lectionary as an alternative to the 3 year cycle.

This post was first published on June 24, 2017 for my former blog, The Liturgical Theologian, on Patheos.

There’s no good way of classifying those who are liturgical snobs by virtue of being low liturgy or low(er) church. I do not have in view those belonging to churches who lack a historical liturgy or connectivity. This is not an anti-liturgy, contra-liturgy, or alternative-liturgy list (that might be another blog post for another time). I know a significant number of people who are Low Liturgy and who deeply appreciate the liturgical tradition of the Church even if they hold said tradition in a less-than-high regard and draw different conclusions.

This list is predominantly based on my personal experience as an Anglican, although certain substitutes can be made (Calvin’s Institutes in place of the 39 Articles, etc.). Do not be fooled, friends, those who are low church and low liturgy are every bit as snobby as those from my list from yesterday. Their views are held with as much fervor and information as Liturgy Snobs.

Here it is: you might be a Low Liturgy Snob if…

  1. Use the 39 Articles as your guide for liturgical and sacramental theology.
  2. Believe the 1662 Book of Common Prayer to be the only prayer book. Extra points if you’ve uttered, “We don’t use an epiclesis because 1662 doesn’t.”
  3. Consciously—and perhaps even with pen in your prayer book—you replace the word “priest” with “presbyter.” Bonus points if your title is Sr. Pastor instead of Rector. Extra points if you avoid being called “Father” because no one can be called Father but God the Father.
  4. Translate High Church as Catholic and Anglo-Catholic as Anglo-Papalist.
  5. Differentiation between sacraments and sacramental rites is of the utmost importance to you.
  6. Who needs liturgy when you have the Solas?
  7. Think that 1552 was Cranmer’s first prayer book. A snobbier position would be in thinking that 1552 reflects his mature theology and is therefore more complete and authentic than 1549.
  8. Wear your preaching tabs or academic hood more often than your collar. Extra points for referring to your collar as a “dog collar” or “flea and tick collar.”
  9. Reject the Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday believing it to be superstitious or works-based.
  10. You insist upon using a Table rather than an Altar for Communion (you definitely don’t call it Mass or even Holy Eucharist).

If you’ve made it to the end of this list and are guilty of the majority of these points, then you are likely a Low Liturgy Snob. You draw your positions on the sacraments, liturgy, and more from the documents and theological milieu of the 16th century Reformations. Low Liturgy Snobs are highly informed and well-read; their positions come from thoughtful study and reflection. Even as I write this list in jest, please be assured that I think you are a valuable part of the Anglican family. I may not agree with you on all points, but then again I don’t agree with anyone on every point.

Here’s the secret to differentiating between Liturgy and Low Liturgy Snobs:

Liturgy Snobs will likely believe that the law of praying shapes the law of belief. They may believe in a two-way street as well.

Low liturgy snobs will definitely believe that the law of belief (doctrine and theology) shapes the law of praying.

This post was first published on June 23, 2017 for my former blog, The Liturgical Theologian, on Patheos.

Here is a bit of levity for you on Friday. Snobbery can affect any category of people: food snobs, wine snobs, sports snobs, shoe snobs, book snobs, etc. etc. ad infinitum. One group of people not often mentioned but highly afflicted is that of the Liturgical Snob. Liturgical snobbery is not necessarily a bad thing. As you’ll see from my list, most points are actually good and well-informed. It becomes an issue, however, based on how you use your snobbery. Snobbery for snobbery’s sake is annoying and unhelpful. Also, lighten up and have some fun.

Disclaimer: I am a liturgical snob myself. This is fun and jest. I shouldn’t have to state this but there will be those who are too buttoned up and rigid to realize what I’m doing.

You might be a liturgical snob if…

  1. You own a copy of Ritual Notes. Extra points if you treat it as holy writ.
  2. Complain regularly about the use of “just” in prayers. (This type of complaint is grating on my nerves. You can expect a post about it soon.)
  3. Debate versus populum and ad orientem.
  4. Properly translate and interpret Prosper of Aquitaine. Hint: he didn’t say lex orandi, lex credendi.
  5. Have strong opinions about Hippolytus and Dom Gregory Dix.
  6. Sacrosanctum Concilium is a well-read part of your library.
  7. You have a thing for liturgical lace. Are well versed in the various forms of liturgical chanting (Gregorian, Saint Dunstan’s Plainsong, etc.)
  8. When asked to pick between incense and asperges your answer is, “Yes.”
  9. You treat the faculty of Notre Dame’s Liturgical Studies Department as celebrities or the Dream Team.
  10. You know the lineage and pedigree of your favorite Prayer Book and often refer to it as the Prayer Book.

Now, read through the list once more and if you are able to understand all 10 points and/or are guilty of the majority then you are officially a Liturgical Snob. Welcome to the club! Don’t take yourself too seriously, though. That’s where the problems set in. Go and enjoy yourself today: pray with a different liturgy, refrain from correcting someone on Facebook (you know you do it!), try using the word “just” in a prayer. Cheers!