Wednesday, September 9, 2009

“Worshipping in Spirit and Truth” - Nine O’Clock in the Morning at Christ Church Cathedral

This is the text of the bulletin insert about the new 9 o'clock worship from this coming Sunday.

“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers
will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23

Like the early church on the Day of Pentecost, we are doing a new thing and singing a new song at 9 o’clock in the morning at Christ Church Cathedral. Your experience of worship this morning is part of an ongoing process of seeking to worship in spirit and truth. Seeking to communicate both the spirit of our living God and the truth of who that God calls us to be as the Body of Christ at this Cathedral.

This morning’s worship is guided by five principles this congregation has said represent the life of Christ at this Cathedral that we want this service to communicate:

1) Unifying –physically and spiritually bringing us together as a community around Christ’s presence in word and sacrament.
2) Inclusive –accessible and engaging for all ages, races and sorts & conditions of people
3) Participatory – encouraging active participation from the entire congregation and engagement of all the senses.
3) Traditional, not traditionalistic -- grounded in the deep roots of our Anglican tradition to feed the growth of something new and appropriate for the present world.
4) Evangelistic – an experience of God in community we’re excited about sharing.

Every aspect of the liturgy has been carefully crafted to communicate these principles and provide an opportunity for God’s people to worship in spirit and truth. For example:

SPACE – We are using an altar that is closer to the people and have removed the front kneelers as a way of breaking down barriers between worship leaders and congregation.

MUSIC – We have a team of music leaders that uses the varied musical gifts of the congregation. We have moved away from the organ, which provides a grand, powerful, transcendent experience of the divine more suited to the traditional “Anglican Cathedral worship” of the 11:15 service, to instruments like guitar and piano, which create a greater sense of God’s immanence.

LANGUAGE – We are using Enriching Our Worship as our liturgical text because of its emphasis on expansive (non-sexist) language.

ENGAGING THE SENSES - We bring our whole selves to worship – not just our minds and hearts. Drawing on our Anglo-Catholic tradition of sensual worship, we asperge (“sprinkle”) the congregation with water at the absolution as a reminder of our baptism. We use an extremely light offering of incense as a visual reminder of our prayers ascending to God and the fragrance of our praise to our creator.

In addition, here are some other aspects of this morning’s liturgy you might notice:

PROCESSION – Everyone who has a role in leading worship is invited to take part in the procession as a way of communicating the communal aspect of worship leadership.

PRAYERS – Times of silence are provided during the prayers of the people, during which you are encouraged to add your own prayers, either silently or aloud. In addition, note cards and crayons are offered when you enter for people of all ages to write or draw prayers, which will be collected at the offertory and presented at the altar with the other gifts.

THE EUCHARIST – Much like the early church, we celebrate Eucharist as our “family meal.” Members of the congregation assist in setting the table. We invite children to gather around the altar during the Eucharistic prayer because we have learned that being up close helps draw our youngest members in and lets them know they are a part of what is happening there. We use home-baked bread from parishioners as a further way of communicating that we are offering “our selves, our souls and bodies” at Christ’s table. We receive communion in a circle around the table to communicate physically that Eucharist is a communal action of gathering around and receiving the presence of Christ and not merely an act of individual piety.

Doubtless, there will be other things you will notice about this morning’s liturgy that will be different for you. Some aspects may immediately feed your spirit. Other aspects may leave you disquieted. Such is the case with anything new. That is why we are clear this is a work in progress—an adventurous work of God’s Spirit moving through this community. The liturgy you will help create this morning is but a stage in that process.

This liturgy is in every sense the “work of the people” that liturgy is supposed to be, as at every level it has been the people of Christ Church Cathedral that have designed and will continue to design it. In mid-November, after we have lived with it for a while, we will have an opportunity to reflect on it and make decisions for the future.

In the meantime, we invite you to worship with us in spirit and truth. We pray your time at Christ Church Cathedral this morning will be a true celebration of Eucharist, that you will come to Christ’s table knowing that as you have truly given yourself, so you have truly received Christ’s life anew. We pray that your experience of worship this morning will lead you more deeply into the heart of Christ … more deeply into loving relationship with your sister and brother next to you and across from you at Christ’s table … and more deeply into loving relationship with the world into which Christ sends us all.

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