In faith-based circles, there seem to be two responses to the word liturgy. In the words of spiritual direction guru Ruth Haley Barton, it either leads to consolation or desolation. You may hear it and think of one of those church services where you receive a bulletin with lots of words, some with bold font indicating where everyone speaks and some with normal script for those in leadership. In such cases, the liturgy is understood to be what is written and followed with little or great enthusiasm, depending on your view of it. In truth, the idea behind the word liturgy is public work. I have heard it called, “the work of the people.” In a corporate worship setting, it’s how we participate.
If I am honest, there are times in church where I find all the sitting, standing, and kneeling tedious. What rubs against my spirit it coerced public work, or enforced liturgy. I find that the prescribed methods of work in worship do not always sit well with me. They can be more distracting than anything. As a worship director, this may be surprising to hear from me of all people. My point is not to rant, but express that we do not always feel the freedom to liturgize creatively. While I have come to appreciate the beauty and meaning behind the choreography of the corporate gathering, we cannot limit our expressions so narrowly. For the record, I love kneeling for confession. If I could, I would take it a step further and give everyone a pillow to cry into and a journal to pour out to as ways to enhance this act. Additionally, I love that there is a place where we don’t have to justify singing together, and can belt it out whether we can hold a pitch or not. I love the idea of raising holy hands but, between you and me, prefer to do it in private on a hiking trail with no one else around. These are just a few examples of this public work performed by folks who hang in churches on Sundays. These are good things.
In contrast to this model, the liturgy that I want to be about with this website is what happens after I leave the door of a church and before I enter it the next week. When I use the term living liturgy, is has to do with my own process of working out my faith in tangible ways. What does it mean to live into spiritual public service? While some may relegate such thinking to clergy, I believe we need models of what this looks like from lay people. So living liturgy is simply my attempt to share an account of trying to live as a person of hope and restoration in this world. Sometimes the work will look like chewing on a section of scripture for all to see, and letting my stupid questions hang out. As a musician, maybe it will look like posting a tune in progress or sharing some lyrics. As a former children’s librarian, it could play out in the form of a book review. As a wife and mother of two, maybe it will be an account of kingdom insight gleaned from a moment with my family. I consider all of this to be my public work, or my living liturgy.
In closing, I have to give a shout out to a woman whom I have never met named Elouise Renich Fraser. In fact, I don’t even remember how I came upon her blog “Telling the Truth.” What I can say is that she has inspired me to write and share thoughts with those who care to read them. She is in an entirely different season of life from my own, but her posts make me feel like I have a spiritual friend out there. Blogs have the potential to do just that. My hope is that, like Elouise, as I share honestly what living liturgy looks and feels like in my life, a few readers might resonate and become inspired to do likewise.