Thinking allowed

An apology

It’s been a while since I pos­ted here. That’s because life is busy, and time to write detailed art­icles is lim­ited. Rather than wait any longer I’m going to sketch out anoth­er piece, and at some future point I will add more detail.


Liturgy Matters

Does liturgy matter?

I recently par­ti­cip­ated in a ‘course’ inten­ded for those con­sid­er­ing for the first time ques­tions of spir­itu­al­ity and reli­gion. (I won’t name names, but it prob­ably isn’t a course you’ve heard of.) I wasn’t able to be involved in very many of the ses­sions, but what struck me was that the con­tent was about me — what I think, what I believe. Maybe that is a good way to try and approach people with little or no exper­i­ence of Christianity.

But it is quite a long way from what Chris­tian­ity is. Although much is made of what Chris­ti­ans should or should not believe, at its heart Chris­tian­ity is about what we do.

In that phrase both the pro­noun and the verb are import­ant: the ‘we’ and the ‘do’.

We intend through this blog to explore the ‘we’ and the ‘do’ in the con­text of liturgy — not because liturgy is neces­sar­ily the most import­ant thing that we do, but because it is part of what we do.

And we shall con­sider liturgy in the con­text of how we as Chris­ti­ans live our lives. That’s a col­lect­ive thing, as our wor­ship trans­forms the com­munity in which we belong — and also as our com­munity trans­forms our wor­ship. We shall con­sider the view that we are engaged in a pub­lic theo­logy, that is, debate and engage­ment in the pub­lic space with those who are inside the Church, those who are on the fringes — and those, if they care to join us, who con­sider them­selves as out­side. In tak­ing this view we are fol­low­ing the example of Jesus, for whom pub­lic min­istry and pub­lic theo­logy were at the heart of all that he pro­claimed. Liv­ing as a pub­lic fig­ure, and dying the death of a pub­lic crim­in­al, a primary form of his min­istry was at the table. For Jesus, this rad­ic­al table min­istry became the means by which he not only preached but also lived and exem­pli­fied the king­dom of God. And ulti­mately — as Robert Kar­ris wrote — ‘Jesus got him­self cru­ci­fied by the way he ate’. 

It is per­haps para­dox­ic­al, at first sight, that the con­tinu­ation of Jesus’s table min­istry lies at the heart of our wor­ship. The Euchar­ist is in many places an act of great mir­acle, great sym­bol­ism and doc­trin­al sig­ni­fic­ance, and great per­son­al devo­tion. Yet when we break bread togeth­er at the Euchar­ist, we are shar­ing that table fel­low­ship which he began and which has been con­tin­ued by his fol­low­ers. Over­laid with oth­er mean­ings and theo­lo­gies though it may be, this is cent­ral to our litur­gic­al life. Because when we break bread togeth­er in this way, we recog­nize the pres­ence of the ris­en Christ among us, once again.

There are lots of sub­tleties and theo­lo­gic­al ideas to con­sider in among all that — and we intend to look at some of them in this blog — but fun­da­ment­ally we intend to explore the con­tinu­ing rel­ev­ance of that table min­istry in the Church today, how it relates to our euchar­ist­ic wor­ship, how it relates to our mis­sion to the world, how it meets (or doesn’t meet) people’s spir­itu­al needs and how it relates to the pro­clam­a­tion of the king­dom of God, with its call for mutu­al recon­cili­ation and for social justice.

In addi­tion, liturgy should be worthy of offer­ing to God; and it should inspire and ful­fil us, refresh and enthuse us, and help form us and oth­ers to live that life in all its full­ness which Jesus preached. We will look at all that too.

We shall try not to be overly con­cerned about doc­trine and dogma. Doc­trine and dogma have their place; but here we want to think about what we say and what we do, and how by say­ing and doing, both in wor­ship and in life, we pro­claim and live where God’s king­dom is at hand.

Yes, liturgy matters.


Introducing Thinking Liturgy

A dec­ade or so ago we began Think­ing Anglic­ans with the express inten­tion of proclaiming

a tol­er­ant, pro­gress­ive and com­pas­sion­ate Chris­ti­an spir­itu­al­ity, in which justice is cent­ral to the pro­clam­a­tion of the good news of the king­dom of God. Our spir­itu­al­ity must engage with the world, and be con­sist­ent with the sci­entif­ic and philo­soph­ic­al under­stand­ing on which our mod­ern world is based. It must address the changes which sci­ence and tech­no­logy have brought into our lives.

Impli­cit in that was a con­nec­tion between what we do in Church and what we do in the world. We seek to share our food with the hungry, we seek justice for the oppressed and the cap­tive, we seek a new start for all and recog­nize the wrongs that we and oth­ers have done to indi­vidu­als and groups, as well as to oth­er creatures and the phys­ic­al world. 

These things are intim­ately linked with what we do in Church. We gath­er around lectern and table to hear and receive the Word of God; we share for­give­ness and peace with our neigh­bours, and eat with them, recog­niz­ing the pres­ence of Christ as we do so. We are the body of Christ, not just in Church, but in the world. Our table fel­low­ship is not just a sym­bol­ic table fel­low­ship exist­ing only with­in the con­fines of the church build­ing; rather, all these things are one.

This close rela­tion­ship was redis­covered both by the Evan­gel­ic­al reviv­al and by the Oxford Move­ment. It was fun­da­ment­al to the rise of Chris­ti­an Social­ism and lay at the heart of the Par­ish Com­mu­nion movement.

And so in this new blog we shall look at the link and explore how our wor­ship can reflect the social justice that we have pro­claimed, and at the con­tinu­ing rel­ev­ance of this in the second dec­ade of the twenty-first cen­tury. The title ‘Think­ing Liturgy’ con­nects this blog to the par­ent ‘Think­ing Anglic­ans’ and also indic­ates the inten­tion to think about liturgy and pro­mote liturgy that is thought­ful. We shall cov­er a range of litur­gic­al top­ics and news, and try not to be con­fined to any par­tic­u­lar theo­lo­gic­al or doc­trin­al stance or ‘church­man­ship’, though our focus will be largely Anglic­an and Eng­lish. We shall con­sider too how our wor­ship, our liturgy, impacts on our mis­sion. We intend to pro­mote and share good litur­gic­al prac­tice, among both laity and clergy, and we shall explore litur­gic­al pres­id­ency. We may provide sample mater­i­al, and news of syn­od­ic­al author­iz­a­tion and com­mend­a­tion. We intend to review books and also ser­vices and build­ings, and we will cov­er related blogs and oth­er mater­i­al on the inter­net. We expect to have a num­ber of guest con­trib­ut­ors and we wel­come spir­ited litur­gic­al discussion.