In our times together as a community, we have been seeking to live into Paul's instructions in 1 Cor 14:26, "What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church." What we find though is that this does not come easily, even with the more Spirit-filled believers. We have been so used to allowing others to lead from the front that this is a huge change, and calls for a greater degree of security and intimacy (both with one another and with the Lord). This is where I believe that liturgy can really help us. After all, do we not even in our most informal simple church gatherings, still have a liturgy of sorts?
"Liturgy" carries the sense of the 'work of the people', the very thing we are seeking to encourage through corporate participation and contributions. We have begun the practice, beginning in the season of Advent, of putting together a short liturgical flow of prayers, readings and versicle/responses. We have been drawing from different liturgical sources (Common Worship, The Wee Worship Book, etc.) to keep it fresh and engaging, and have also sought to follow the lectionary readings for the day most of the time. We do allow ourselves to veer from this when appropriate, according to what we sense the Lord is saying to us as a community. Though we have some prescribed words, we also have open times for worship songs/prophecy, Scripture reflections (no sermons here) and more spontaneous prayers.
Here are some of the advantages I see from this approach;
- We all get used to hearing the sound of our own voices in a more intimate setting and this can help when it comes to the more spontaneous times
- We get the opportunity to draw from the witness of the whole Church and from some of the saints who have gone before us
- We are more balanced in our time together - including helping us to hear Scripture together from both old and new testament
- It helps keep us from honing in on favorite topics/ideas
- We get to connect with God's story by following the Church's calendar and celebrating the major festivals
- It gives us some vocabulary and concepts that help to feed the more spontaneous times
- We also have a sheet that we can take away and use during the week inour more private devotions should we wish