Special liturgies (Including HC, Funeral, Baptism, Special purpose hymns)
I think it was Andrew Greeley, author, storyteller and priest, who suggested in one of his many articles that liturgy as story was fundamental to celebrating. I have sought to follow that advice.
The first person to invite my interest in liturgy was Von Ogden Vogt - a former Congregational cum Unitarian preacher and liturgist in American - little known outside his country of birth. His Lowell Institute Lectures of 1927 and published in book form as Modern Liturgy (1927: Yale University Press) is still on my library shelves. This interest was added to by Henry N Wieman's 1929 book, Methods of Private Religious Living (1929: Macmillan Co). And I continue to read both, even now. Both invite me to shape liturgy/worship as a 'celebration of life'.
While my liturgies are fairly traditional in shape, I try to be careful about language, images suggested, and the flow or plot of the liturgy. It's style is a blending of traditional and contemporary. I call it 'contemporary liturgical'. It seeks to use contemporary language and Australian images in an inclusive way through metaphor and story. The involvement of others each week in the presiding at worship, with a printed liturgy, is essential. Colour, symbols, candles, inclusive language and story, all shape the liturgical experience. And by the way - at the end of each liturgy you will find a list of Resources used in shaping the content.
In short: the weaving of story (what we tell) and ritual (what we enact) are ways we make sense of our world. Liturgy is not about the past, but life in the present. Thus worship is about celebrating life in the continuing, creative presentness of the sacred we call God.
When invited to share some thoughts on a colleague's paper on "the Sunday morning experience", I wrote:
* Worship is a human activity, celebrated in the presentness of God/sacred. Rather than praise required of us by God/sacred.
* Must be broad enought to create a cooperative experience (rather than collective) - cognitively and emotionally. What Bernard Loomer calls 'size'.
* Be a celebration of the whole of life.
* Have form/shape. I have been influenced by the models offered by Von Ogden Vogt and Henry Nelson Wieman.
* Use of artistic media/symbols highlights the 'art' of worship.
* What is brought to the service can be as important as content.
* Be 'landscape' and 'intellectually' honest.
And the Goal of worship - to help us know/feel how we relate as individuals to ourselves, others, world, universe. To celebrate that relationship. To touch sources of creative transformation. To reinterpret our experiences. To reaffirm living in this world.
The form or shape of my liturgies usually offer six encounter points: