What is Liturgy?
Worship at Holy Communion is liturgical. Liturgy translates literally as “work done in public.” In church that public work is public prayer. When we talk about “a liturgy,” in the singular (or liturgies plural), we are usually speaking about a particular church service. (A service of Eucharist or Morning Prayer, for example).
To be a liturgical Christian is to know you walk a particularly well-worn path. The words and gestures used in church have been passed down through the ages. The psalms themselves are the earliest prayer book we have. Most liturgy makes use of the psalms. We pray words together that have been prayed for thousands of years. We stand with the saints who have gone before us.
The Tradition of “Common Prayer”
In the Anglican/Episcopalian Tradition we put the liturgies we pray together most often in a book called “The Book of Common Prayer.” There are other books of liturgy as well, like the Book of Occasional Services (which, unsurprisingly, you only need occasionally), and Enriching Our Worship, a collection of traditional services with more gender-inclusive language, which also is used at Holy Communion.
In some ways liturgical Christianity is a bit like a “Life-hacks” article on Buzzfeed. The Book of Common Prayer is a compilation of “prayer-hacks” or “worship-hacks.” Over the years people have figured out what words and motions help people to connect with God together. When we open to the page of a particular liturgy, we pray in a particular historical rhythm.
Ancient Liturgy for Modern People
At Holy Communion, we seek to adapt the ancient liturgy for modern people. When we hold the tension well, liturgy comes alive. The ancient speaks to the present, and the wisdom of the ages helps us to sense our connection to God. Liturgy is an invitation to participate in a different world, a different sense of time.
That different sense of time means that liturgy changes from season to season. Special feast days feature specific observances. We try and blend the historic and the contemporary with a sense of fun and engagement, like this procession from Palm Sunday, in a New Orleans style “Second Line:”