Thursday, February 03, 2011

Being Anglican in the Evangelical Church

I was asked by my DS what it was like being an evangelical at an Anglican seminary. My response: "A lot easier than being an Anglican serving an Evangelical Church."
We both chuckled.

More seriously though. We talk about liturgy around here quite a lot. The love of liturgy and sacraments is what gives us unity. But we often talk (at least I do) in the realm of idealism. What about the world of reality? I have been working to introduce some liturgy to my congregation. We have moved to weekly Eucharist. I wear an alb and stole. We do corporate written prayers and read the Psalms responsively. But it is starting to feel like I bit off more than my people can chew.

So my question is this: what might liturgical / sacramental worship realistically look like is a small, evangelical, holiness church? My only stipulations are these:

1) Four-fold shape
2) The Eucharistic liturgy remain largely in tact
3) The liturgy ought to be the same each week

What would such a service need to look like to capture the essence of liturgy and to be accepted by a "typical" Nazarene congregation?


BThomas said...


When you say the liturgy ought to be the same each week specifically what are you referring to? The Eucharistic liturgy or the liturgy of the entire worship service?

The struggle I have experienced has not been with a fourfold approach that seems pretty easily adopted, more caught than taught.

A move to a weekly Eucharist has even been accepted but slowly over a long period of time.

But the idea that the liturgy needs to be the same every week has been a challenge for many. Formalism = quenching the Spirit in many circles.

Even though most Nazarene Churches do have a pretty structured liturgy if they stopped to think about it.

I am probably missing something but I think the beauty of the fourfold pattern is that you do have some freedom in your liturgy while still having a structure to work from.

What am I missing?


Eric + said...

I think the value in the litugy is the power of a small drip over time eroding a great mountain. What I mean by "the same" refers to the order of service. For instance:

Gathering (call to worship, opening hymn, invocation)

Word (OT, psalm, NT, Gospel, Sermon)

Table (Creed, Prayers, Offering, Communion)

Sending (Announcements, Sending, Blessing, closing hymn)

I know this is overly simplified, but the point is whatever pattern is chosen it ought to be consistent from week to week. Does that makes sense?

J.B. Chapman said...


I agree, most of this is caught, more than taught. Some of those who were not keen (thought it was to Catholic)to the four-fold pattern and the reading of multiple scripture lessons (how dare we), are in love with it now. I didn't do much "teaching," as more of allowing it to percolate into their lives. Also, I pick one or two areas (John's influence here) to work on each year, either by adding, deleting, or modifying.

Eric + said...


I think you have identified my problem. I equate liturgical with formal. What I am having a hard time conceiving of is informal liturgy. Perhaps that is more in line with my question: What does informal liturgy look like? What is included? What is intentionally excluded? What does an informal Eucharistic liturgy look like while being faithful to the historic pattern?

Thank you for helping me clarify the question. I look forward to thinking on this more...

Brannon Hancock said...

Eric (et al): I would say at Xenia Naz we do an "informal liturgy." The basic structure varies little, and what guides us is less a historical understanding of the essential elements of Christian worship, but the elements that seem essential *to us* for our local context (I'm not saying this is unproblematic). So our service looks basically like this:

"We Gather for Worship"
Song (Call to Worship)
Welcome / Announcements
Passing the Peace
"We Sing Our Faith"
Worship set (3-4 songs)
"We Draw Near to God"
Pastoral Prayer & Communion
"We Offer Our Gifts Back to the Giver"
Offering / Offertory
"We Receive the Word"
"We Respond to the Word"
"We are Sent Out to be Christ's Body in the World"

sometimes the offering/offertory doesn't come before the sermon because we conceive of it as the "response." sometimes we have a shorter worship set on the front end because our "response" is to celebrate and sing more after the sermon. sometimes we don't make communion available during the pastoral prayer time the way we ordinarily do because the response to the word is going to be communion. Sometimes when we receive new members or have a baptism or baby dedication, that changes the service order more dramatically.

These are just a few of the changes that might occur week to week. This is not accounting for other service elements like testimonies, videos, special announcements (e.g. Missions reports, ministry/event promos, etc), which may "slot-in" wherever it seems the best, which is usually to say, the least disruptive.

How we "do" the congregational singing ("worship set") is probably the most fluid from week to week, because the amount of time we have for music is impacted by all the other service elements, and how we organize the singing is often dictated by the sermon and the desired response to the sermon/word.

I hope that gives some glimpse into how a fairly contemporary church does a fairly informal liturgy. In fact, I would say that few if any of our people would perceive what we do as having a liturgy, although those of us in leadership know otherwise.

Brannon Hancock said...

Additionally, I know a good argument could be made for that being problematic - Eric, your thesis seems to be that if the liturgy is in some way explicit and formal, it's perhaps ineffectual - and I might have felt this way a few years ago when I was a little more hard-line on some of these issues. But now, I think I could make a pretty strong case for how and why this works, at least for our context. There is no way an alb and stole would be accepted at my church. There is no way written prayers would be accepted on a regular basis.

However, if you saw my son's baptism video - that was probably the highest "liturgical act" that my church has ever seen. It was accepted, and I received many positive comments about how lovely it was. But we couldn't do this level of formality on a regular basis. I've also done more a formal liturgical "lead-up" to communion (going through the anaphora from memory, basically), and that has been well-received. But not everyone on our staff can pull that off.

I'm rambling now, but again, I hope this gives some insight into how this can work in at least one context - in our case, a church of about 600 in morning worship that does contemporary (or blended-leaning contemporary) worship.

I often wonder if the introduction of liturgical elements is easier in a more traditional church, or a more contemporary church - what do you all think?

Eric + said...


Thanks for the imagery. I hope you didn't hear me say "informal = ineffectual." What I was hoping to say is "I have no experience with informal."

The most noticeable difference I see between "formal" and "informal" worship is the degree to which worshipper is participating. Formal worship requires a much higher degree of participation. For example, formal worship Not only requires congregational singing, but also congregational prayer -- which requires written prayer whether in collect form or litany form.

To make prayer informal, then we have to gut it of its liturgical value.

Another example is communion. "Formal" communion requires participation through the various components. To make it "informal" we take all the "good stuff out" so the people just listen.

Anyway, now it is I who is rambling.

I guess my real struggle in the who thing is the "I surrender" post...

Eric + said...

... been thinking more.

Liturgy = work of the people.

The more work the people have to do (the greater the liturgy), the more formal a service is perceived to be. The less work the people have to do (the lesser the liturgy), the more informal a service is perceived to be.

So on the one hand is a RC mass, or EC or even Lutheran. All scripted. All highly participatory. All highly formal. All highly liturgical.

On the other hand is seeker sensitive, non-denominational, Vineyard, Willow Creek, et al. Very little scripted. Very little participation (aside from the singing it is sitting back and watching). Very informal. Very non-liturgical.

Is this fair?

Brannon Hancock said...


couple thoughts -

1) I think your comment (about the difference between formal and informal being the degree to which the worshiper participates) belies your bias toward scripted, historic liturgy - not that I'm taking issue with that; it's where you're coming from. But to say that "formal liturgy requires a much higher degree of participation" assumes a lot. For one thing, I'm hesitant to denigrate "listening" and/or "watching" to the level of non-participation. I don't think this is necessarily true. Especially when you're dealing with a congregation that doesn't know or understand liturgical worship, it might be the best thing for them to simply listen and watch and learn and take it in.

2) I don't think prayer has to be scripted to be participatory - again, I think it depends on how you understand/define participation, what expectations you have for it, etc. We involve lay people (individuals, granted) to pray the invocation each week, and sometimes the benediction as well. At "pastoral prayer"/open altar time, many in the congregation come forward to receive communion and/or kneel at the altar to pray; many simply pray from their seats. It is not "coordinated" or focused prayer because it is not scripted, but I am not sure I accept that it is not in some expression "common prayer" - not in the traditional, liturgical sense, but it is very much an ecclesial body turning their hearts toward God together, in common, and crying out to Him. The flip side is, I'd argue it's just as easy to "not participate" (i.e. not say the response; sit their silently) in a liturgical service, and "let the liturgy do the work for you," as it is in a non- or less-liturgical worship service. (But even here I find myself uneasy with the distinction - not entirely unaccepting of your premise, just not really happy with or entirely convinced by it.)

3) In the end, I do think you have a very valid point about the "demand" placed on the worshiper/attendee when you examine a liturgical worship service and compare it to a more seeker-sensitive service. I have always felt that one reason I became so "swept up" in liturgical worship was the demand it placed on me to be an "actor" in the service and not just a "spectator" - so I absolutely concede this to you. Yet in both forms of worship (and everything in between), as I just stated a moment ago, one could easily just sit through and "do nothing" - not participate. Now, I would say that one who sits still and silent through a liturgical service is quite obviously "not participating" in the communal act of worshiping God, while such non-participation might be less obvious during a more typical evangelical/seeker-sensitive service, because the contrast is less noticeable.

In sum, I think your last comment is fair. I guess I'm just left with the question as to whether this is necessarily so, or if that's really all there is to it. I can conceive of a highly participatory worship experience, equal to or greater than the "high church" services I've experienced, that does not have to feel "formal." But then, I've not had many opportunities to experiment with these forms.

Eric + said...

Thanks for the discussion Brannon. A concession, of course I am speaking in sweeping generalities. Of course one could go through a formally liturgical service and do nothing. And one could also go through an informal non-liturgical service and do much. To this I agree. I was thinking more in terms of "the body" than of any individual member. I think there is a significant difference between a layperson praying the invocation and the church praying together the invocation, for example.

You close by saying you can conceive of a more participatory liturgy than high-church worship that is much less formal, but you haven't had the opportunity to experiment with these forms.

I guess I would like to say I can conceive of such forms, except that I've never experienced them.

At the root of my original post was this precise question. How do I craft a liturgy that is deeply historic, theological and participatory that is NOT so formal? So it seems we are ending at the same place... we'd love to see such a worship, but haven't yet.

Thanks again. God bless your Lordsday worship today!