Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A growing liturgical tradition

UUA President William Sinkford addresses the question of worship here in a recent entry to the UU world online. He points out several elements of the worship that seem to becoming more common in UU worship. He probably knows because I doubt that there is anyone who attends more UU worship services in different settings every year than him. Wouldn't it be great to get his absolutely candid evaluation of every UU service he attends all year long, with pictures, quotes and audio recordings? I mean with all the loving and generous brutality of Peacebang discussing inappropriate footware. I earnestly suggest that President Sinkford blog his worship experiences of his final year in office; it would be as great a gift as any inspirational words he might compose for those occasions. But I digress.....

Rev. Sinkford sees as our hopeful signs: more singing, more chalice lightings, and
Sermons about real-life issues are becoming more common, appealing not just to our minds but also calling us to be our best selves as we go back out into the world and face another week. People are coming to church to be part of a community that affirms their humanity and value, to get their spirits nurtured;


I have to admit that not so long ago, I would have greeted these words with some cynicism. After all, the First Church I Serve (Second Parish) offers up a chunkier liturgical broth every week: candlelightings, covenants, doxologies, three prayers, readings both scriptural and contemporary etc. etc. (Did you hear about the church, let's call it the Church of What's Happening Now that is so current that they replaced their old double-barreled reading (the Ancient Reading and the Modern Reading) with a Trifecta: The Pre-Modern, The Modern and the Post-Modern Readings) But I digress.....

Be that as it may, I have come to accept the fact that we are where we are. Churches and congregations are building and developing their worship traditions as they go along. Ministers are responding to the expressed needs of their congregants in languages and ritual forms that meet them where they are.

What are the needs being expressed in the worship developments that Rev. Sinkford sees:

I think that the flaming chalice is mostly about identification. Yes, the chalice lighting does serve as a moment of group concentration that focuses the attention of the group. (We get the same effect from a candle lighting, which is actually harder to do in our circumstances, so everyone holds their breath through the little ritual/ordeal.) But the Chalice is really about us being "US".

More singing is more singing -- more sense of community, more active participation.

I am struck by the "called to be our best selves as we go out into the world and face another week." There is a whole world view expressed in that phrase and a whole lot of questions hiding in it: why are we not our best selves?, is the world harder to face for us than for others?, why do we accept the notion that the world is "out there" and what we are doing in worship is a refuge from it? Is that an implicit admission that nothing really happens in worship?

When I say that we are a Lively Tradition, I mean that there is something alive going on, and we should pay attention.

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