two bones to pick; the second bone: liturgy

Out of much reading and many conversations over time,
it seems more important than ever to stress that
we all, as members of a congregation—
we all have a liturgy.
And etymology can actually be helpful here.
It’s not always as helpful as preachers
and English teachers (or Latin teachers) seem to think,
but here it actually is because
the word “liturgy” comes to us from two Greek roots
meaning “the work of the people”—
not the particular kind of work of the people—
just the work of the people.

So note the learning curve on which we all place ourselves—
whether we number among those who speak of liturgy derogatorily
and tend to be thinking of high liturgy—
what church historians call “the Charleston tradition,”
or whether we number ourselves among those
who dismiss churches as non-liturgical
who tend to be thinking of simpler liturgy—
what some call “the Sandy Creek tradition.”

Every congregation has its own work.
Even in the Quaker liturgy that emphasizes the work of God,
it’s the gathering, silent, waiting work of the people
that facilitates the work of God.

The liturgy of any congregation is simply
the work of fulfilling the local expectations of worship.

So before you use the term “liturgical” next time,
whether proudly or dismissively,
consider, what is a liturgical church?
It’s a working church—a functional church.
And what is a non-liturgical church?
A non-working church—a non-functional congregation.
That’s all.

Now if a church’s work isn’t made manifest
in its love of righteousness,
its working for justice,
and its walking humbly with God—
well, that’s another bone to pick!


One thought on “two bones to pick; the second bone: liturgy

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