The Touch of Liturgy

A couple of years ago, a group of recent graduates from Virginia Theological Seminary, who now are priests all over the country, created a Facebook page where we could ask questions of one another, share our successes and failures, or just share things that strike us both in the church but also in the world.  While not a frequent contributor to this online community I have been the recipient of many an interesting point of view, thought or article that the members of the group post.

This past week this blog entry made its way into the group’s conversation.  I will let you read the blog entry, but I was struck by how the author–a former Baptist pastor–was moved by the beauty of our Episcopal liturgy…the way that the Episcopal church DOES church on Sunday mornings.

I am not sure exactly when it was that I fell in love with the liturgy of the Episcopal Church.  I think it may have been my senior year of college when I started going to church  again regularly after being rather absent the first three years of my undergraduate career.    And although I did not burst into tears that first Sunday back in church I do remember feeling as if I was partaking in something beautiful, mystical, and truly holy.  I remember feeling challenged by the words of the sermon and felt my spirit soar with the superb music.  But most of all I felt at home.  I did not know a soul in the church but I felt welcomed…welcomed back by the whole worship experience that the liturgy crafted and enabled.

Reading the blog post that my fellow graduates and friends had posted on Facebook made me wonder where it is that God touches us here at St. Alban’s in the way that the author was touched during his experience in the Episcopal church he and his family attended.  Each Episcopal church is different in how it approaches the liturgy, often adding its own unique flavor and feel to the services found in our Book of Common Prayer.  Within this diocese one can find liturgy that even the Roman Catholic Church looks at and says, “Yeah, that’s a little too ‘antique’ even for us!” and churches that are pushing the envelope of new and sometimes “interesting” ways of worshipping God within the Episcopal tradition.  But it seems that for each style of liturgy there is a moment where symbol and action, word come together and make that moment REAL, make that moment come truly alive.

Every week for me, that moment happens at the fraction, when the priest breaks the consecrated bread, the body of Christ.  Christ is sacrificed for us, and even in Lent I always add the ending “Alleluia,” in my head and heart.

The other moment in the service when our liturgy all comes together, and every now and again, gives me goosebumps is the opening acclamation used on Easter Day through the Day of Pentecost:

Celebrant     Alleluia.  Christ is risen.

People         The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia.

I will admit to getting a little excited from time to time and have the “Alleluia.” come out more like “ALLELUIA!”

What is the moment in our Episcopal liturgy where you are moved?  Where is that moment when you feel most connected to God in our common worship?  Take a moment and respond to this post, I would love to see where God touches the hearts of this congregation in worship.


About matthewhanisian

Associate Rector at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.
This entry was posted in The Rev. Matthew R. Hanisian and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Touch of Liturgy

  1. Linda Wilson says:

    It’s usually the hymns sung during communion that touch me most, especially when they are familiar enough that you see people singing as they approach the altar. That’s when I feel the working of the Spirit in and amongst all of us.

  2. Kathy Culpin says:

    Sometimes it’s a piece of music that literally has me holding my breath at the beauty of the composition and melody but most often the incredible sense of peace and calm that follows immediately after Holy Communion.

  3. Dennis Jones says:

    Consistently, it is the taking of Communion, and the blending of bread and wine in my mouth.

  4. John Daniel Reaves says:

    It is usually the gospel portion that is read in the aisle and the processions to and from the gospel reading station. Also the choral music.

  5. Ashley Cooper Hair says:

    For me there are several places–and there are times when I am brought to tears. The Collect of the Day said in unison and the Confession, particularly “and by what we have left undone” are particularly meaningful to me. The music has welled inside me wanting to burst out. But for me, what touches my heart the most and always brings me to joyful tears are our baptisms. Welcoming babies, and adults, into our Christian family and church community is so very powerful.

  6. John Daniel Reaves says:

    Addendum: I can say what doesn’t move me: the readings yesterday and today in the Daily Office from Revelation. Yesterday people were being tortured for 5 months by horse-size scorpions and today the killing of a third of mankind. It makes me angry to even read these, and I find them and much of Revelations DISGUSTING. I understand that the book’s inclusion in the NT was was highly controversial. I can certainly see why. I understand Calvin said of the Book, “There is no Christ in it.”

  7. Linda V says:

    Thanks, Matthew, for pointing us to that wonderful blog piece! For me, I can never predict when I might be moved during the service. It is sometimes the wonderful music, or the gospel or sermon, the prayers, or just looking at the faces of my fellow St. Albanites.

  8. Jo says:

    Liturgically, I inhale the post-communion prayer, when I am reminded that we are “very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs, through hope, of thy everlasting kingdom. ” And the baptismal prayer knocks me out: “Give an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. ” God lives in those words. As God does in the sermons and music… and as Linda says, the people.

  9. Anton Vanterpool II says:

    Sometimes it’s the upteenth time we’ve sung “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” Other times it’s the turn of the phrase in a prayer, “calm strength and patient wisdom” in the “Those who care for Children” prayer. I cherished every time I had the worship role when I participated in EfM sessions. I liked picking a person or persons from “Lesser Feasts and Fasts” or working with the Daily Office readings. I usually added a touch of music from non Hymnal sources: showtunes, contemporary christian music to fit the worship setting..

  10. Penny says:

    There are many moments in different services that take my breath away. One such occurred Sunday a week ago. I needed to leave just after taking communion so that I could arrive in the Catechesis of Good Shepherd Atrium before the children, but as I was walking down the aisle, the hymn “I am the bread of life…” began. I reversed direction in step and went back to my pew to join in singing. I could hardly speak, much less sing, the words.

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