During my sabbatical I decided that worship would be something both helpful and fun to write about. Trinity Lutheran, Nampa is a bit more intentionally liturgical than the vast majority of worshiping communities in Nampa. That is neither good or bad, it is simply the truth. It is good for me because that intentionality is my comfort-zone. But sometimes I worry about our guests who have questions about liturgy, our furniture, other props that take up space, our language, or the way the leadership dresses in robes. I will always remember the time I showed our sanctuary to someone who had come in to ask about using our fellowship hall, “Why do you have so many candles?” Wow! I had never thought about how many candles we have.
Of course, it is not only strangers who have questions about worship itself or the worship space. One of the best Sunday Adult Forum series we did at Trinity was when the group made a list on the white board of all the stuff they had questions about and we simply took on one topic each Sunday morning during class. Our most excellent Worship, Music and Altar Guild (WAGM) team made a similar list, though it was limited to worship space, and I wrote a newsletter column on each topic. (Truth be told, I mostly took the information, with citations, from the ELCA Worship FAQ page). We have a guiding principle, in our WAGM meetings, that if our group does not know the purpose of a part of the liturgy or something in our worship space, it is time to either explain it again to the entire congregation or think about discarding it. This principle has helped us explain so many aspects of worship.
So, while my head was just a litter freer on sabbatical, I think when Joy and I were doing all that hiking across Connemara, I came up with a list of Worship Stuff that I hope to write about. Some of the topics are strictly related to Sunday worship and some are related to other worship services or taking Sunday worship beyond the sanctuary. Here is my beginning list (topics and questions): Why do the colors of church paraments change, why/how do we take Communion to people in hospitals and their homes, all the different prayers Sunday morning, personal prayers, why have a Christian funeral, exchanging the peace, silence, what is essential, and yes, what about all of those candles. Stay tuned for me to take on some of these subjects and please suggest other topics in the comments to this post.
I would recommend Gordon Lathrop, Saving Images: The Presence of the Bible in Christian Liturgy. He not only makes a cogent argument for using Scripture in worship, he also brings up-to-date interpretations to the texts, and as a result, he makes an argument for revising our worship to reflect contemporary exegesis. Lothar Pietz