A Liturgical Rumble

By on May 31, 2024

Sometimes when I write an article I know exactly what I want to say, and then other times I start out with a plan, but it leads me down a different path. This is one of those times. At first, I was going to write about how our participation in the liturgy is almost robotic. To some degree, I think this is true, but as I reflected on it, I began to realize that maybe there is something deeper at work that cannot be seen and I that should not be so quick to judge, so please indulge me as I veer off the path.

There are many kinds of Anglicans. Some are cradle Anglicans and some come to Anglicanism later in life, perhaps from another denomination or from no faith background at all. I think what attracts many people is the liturgy. It is repetitive and familiar. However, when something is so familiar, it is easy to take it for granted and I wonder if it becomes meaningless. Two scenarios come to mind. Scenario 1: The priest delivers an energetic, “The Lord be with you” only to be met with a mumbled “and also with you”; or “Lift up your hearts!” followed by a monotone “We lift them to the Lord”. Scenario 2: We say the Creed and Lord’s Prayer every Sunday yet I see so many life-long Anglicans bury their faces in the printed page to read the words. As someone who has known these words “by heart” since childhood I don’t understand this. I use the term “by heart” because I never consciously set out to memorize the words. One day I just knew them. They are a part of me. There must be others like me so why do they read the words? I have always believed that if we take the risk of looking up from the printed page to say the words by heart they will be more meaningful.

That is how my thought process started… and then, one of my favourite poems came to mind – “Choose Something like a Star” by Robert Frost. In this poem, the speaker talks to a star trying to comprehend its reason for being, wanting facts and specifics; to which it responds, “I burn.” The speaker is confused (like me), but comes to realize that the star is more than what it appears to be:

…And steadfast as Keats’ Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

Liturgy to me is like Frost’s star. It is steadfast and does not ask anything of us, so maybe it isn’t important whether or not we say the words by heart or read them. And, even if there are times when we do take them for granted the liturgy is always there for us.

In conclusion, I leave you with a few quotes regarding liturgy (no identifiable author). They say things much better than I ever could.

  •  Liturgy assists us when we are weary in the spirit and worship seems difficult.
  •  Human actions and words can combine with the power of the spirit to create a true encounter with God that re-centres our lives around Christ.

The words of the liturgy, therefore, are something we can “stay our minds on and be staid.”



  • Norene Morrow

    Norene Morrow is the music director at St. George Anglican Church in Westbank, West Kelowna.

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