The Theory and the Practice of Liturgy at Holy Trinity

This past Tuesday we held a Prayer Procession and Eucharist for the Feast pof St. Michael and All Angels. We called it Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones, and, looking at the bulletin I posted the other day, you might think it was a pretty formal affair.

It wasn’t.

It really wasn’t. Indeed, it ended up being so “informal” (some might even have called it “chaotic”) that I figure I need to say something here about the difference between the theory and the practice of liturgy at the Church of the Holy Trinity.

You see, when I am designing a liturgy, alone in my quiet office, I routinely forget that we are a small church in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. I routinely forget that not everyone speaks the way I do, and not everyone reads my big words and complex sentences as easily as I do—I after all, already know what it is that I’m trying to say! I routinely forget that straight lines aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. As a result of this routine negligence on my part (there I go again!), the written part—the theory—of our liturgies often looks quite different from the practice.

The practice of liturgy the other evening went like this:

  • We started out with four children and five adults (none of whom were related to the children). Two of the adults were unable to process, one due to fatigue and the other due to disability.  This left three adults with four children.
  • The children had come over to the church looking for Soup After School. When I told them that Soup After School doesn’t start until next Tuesday, they decided to participate in the service anyway.
  • When the three girls asked if they could take their turns reading the prayers (the boy was by far the youngest, and too young to be reading yet), I agreed, not really thinking through the fact that the language would be above their reading (and probably comprehension) level. We ended us with one of them reading with me following along and prompting where needed (about 1 in 3 words).
  • Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones turned out to be a good hymn choice, since when in doubt, you can just sing “Alleluia” really loud, over and over again.
  • Let’s just say that flinging holy water around was a big hit, and the priest might not have been the only one wielding the aspergillium (or fingers). . .
  • Halfway through the procession, the little boy decided he didn’t want to be with us, so I said he could do his own thing as long as he crossed the street with us. At one point he decided to push that boundary by sitting down in the middle of the sidewalk. His big sister had a word with him and eventually persuaded him to come along before I had to pick him up and carry him across the street, but it was a close thing!
  • Back at the church for Eucharist, the kids came up to acolyte—1 for the wine, 1 for the water, 1 for the handwashing, and 1 for the bells.  Lots of whispered instructions ensued.
  • We all hit the snack cabinet after mass was over and clean-up done. If you have donated juice and granola bars or other healthy snacks, this is what your donations are going towards!

In other words, this was an awful service from the standpoint of theoretical liturgy, since next to nothing went as planned. From the standpoint of practical and pastoral liturgy, however, this service was every inch a success!

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2 comments on “The Theory and the Practice of Liturgy at Holy Trinity

  1. […] she lived, I’m guessing that she saw us last September, when we went around on the feast of St. Michael and All Angels, blessing our neighbors and asking the angels to exercise God’s protection over them. In […]

  2. Dorothy says:

    Cool! That’s a clever way of lokinog at it!

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