During weeks 5-7 of our Worship in the Parish Hall project at St George’s, our focus shifted from the Gathering to the Liturgy of the Word, and I focused on points of intentional community prayer. How could the Collect and the Prayers of Intercession become more real for the people in the pews?
Week 5 we spent on the Collect (known in earlier liturgies as the Collect of the Day). Technically, it’s the final element of the Gathering, but it was a great bridge point for our teachings. I taught on the basic format of the Collect and its use in Common Worship: a place for everyone to pray silently, with the priest then “collecting” the prayers of the congregation into a single prayer reflecting the season and intent of the liturgy. It’s so much more than just another place where the priest talks and the people listen. The congregation then took time to look through the collects from throughout the church year and share one with the group that spoke to them. Interesting to me that several (myself included) focused on collects during Lent. I plan to do some creative things with the Collect in the future, including occasional times when I will invite the congregation to pray aloud (rather than silently) their offerings of praise before I pray the Collect.
Weeks 6 and 7 we focused on the Prayers of Intercession. Like the Collect, there is a certain outline that we learned, but throughout our entire time in the Parish Hall we pretty much stuck with that outline rather than using the prayers written out. Of course, this was not done in a rejection of written prayers, but as a tool for learning by allowing the congregation to see and pray through this outline again and again. As with the Collect, I plan on some continued creative use of the Prayers of Intercession, an occasional return to using the outline to invite more actual participation, especially in Ordinary Time.
Obviously, the Liturgy of the Word is more than the Collect and Prayers of Intercession. Why not include focus on the Bible, or the preaching, or the Creed? On one level, I’ve already done that in other contexts. But really, this wasn’t time to get all academic about the nuances of the Nicene Creed or Bible-thumping about the nature of divine revelation (both of which I am more than willing to do!). As we invite people to rediscover the liturgy, let’s focus where people want to learn. I have a lot of parishioners who don’t care about Nicea or the formation of the Biblical canon, but they sure want to know how to pray.
Another thing I did during these three weeks was change the room set-up. People had begun to accept and appreciate what we were doing, and we were starting to get comfortable. I did not want us exchanging one rut for another. Change and an openness to change should become a more normal attitude, in the spirit of what Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School calls “traditioned innovation.” And we were on our way!