Back to the Liturgy Theses

Thesis 6: Liturgy forms—and it is both vehicle and content. Our liturgy doesn’t “inform” or theology or vice-versa; liturgy is kinetic theology.

  • To go a step further I’ll repeat a comment I made over at Bob+’s place, “Fuzzy liturgy implies fuzzy theology and fuzzy theology damn sure incarnates fuzzy liturgy.”

Thesis 7: Following on 6, any change in liturgy is also a change in the public theology of the gathered local community.

  • Yes, it does matter if the offering plates get put on the altar or on the credence or if they’re whisked away to the sacristy at the offering. Each decision makes some kind of statement about the whole and that’s a point I want to highlight for a moment. I fully recognize that human motion tends to be multivalent. A movement can mean several different things and individual movements can even be interpreted in contradictory ways. That’s why context is always an important factor in interpretation. For instance, some might say that placing the offering plates on the altar demonstrates that the congregation is truly offering the fruits of its labor and those things that matter most to secular society to God; alternatively, the plates may be whisked away to maintain an uncluttered sanctuary space that communicates a  “noble simplicity” and a focus on full attention to the divine. Neither one necessarily invalidates the other—and indeed the same action in two places may communicate two different things (if not more…).
  • It is precisely because of this multivalence, though, that the worship leaders of the parish—lay as well as clerical—should be able to articulate the theology incarnate in the liturgy and to articulate it at regular intervals to the congregation (preferably in educational settings rather than the liturgy-turned-didactic of an “instructed Eucharist.”)
  • I seem to remember Vicki+ talking about educating her parish by walking through the Eucharistic prayers and discussing the contents thereof; go and do likewise!

Thesis 8: Thus, the authorized liturgies of the Books of Common Prayer offer a complex and interconnected way of being that are intended to mystically unite us to the Triune God in the sacraments, spiritually lead us into the mind of Christ, and pedagogically form us in the faith of the Church

  • I want to especially highlight the phrase “complex and interconnected.” Christian theology and practice are woven in a complex web. Changing something in one place often logically and practically requires changes elsewhere—often unintentional but logically necessary changes that we may not see at the time of the initial change. When major changes are made in the liturgy, it takes a great deal of time and active work to understand all of the implications on Christian belief and practice. Naturally, the best time to do this work is before any change is made.

3 thoughts on “Back to the Liturgy Theses

  1. Joe Rawls

    Are there 95 of these things? I seem to remember you started out as a Lutheran. Number 8 really resonates with me; when I take part in the Eucharist I try to focus consciously on how the liturgy is helping me connect with Jesus mystically.

    Do I smell a possible book somewhere down the line?

  2. Vicki McGrath


    Glad you thought my Eucharistic prayer education sessions were a worthwhile idea. I also do the same thing with parents and godparents at the pre-baptismal sessions (discussing the meanings and allusions of the Baptismal rite – esp. all the water images and their Biblical sources). And with marriage prep, the couple and I do the same thing with the wedding liturgy. In addition, at weddings (between the prelude and the procession) I briefly address the congregation – welcome, please turn of cell phones, no congregational photos, etc. and I tell them that the wedding is a service of worship, that they are an integral part of the service as witnesses to the marriage, and that their are parts for them to say and sing in the service and I expect them to participate – and what page the service starts on! Perhaps a little heavy handed, but I’ve found that’s the only way to get largely secular congregations to focus at a wedding and not treat it like a spectator sport!

    Sorry to hear about the lay-off. It stinks!


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