For The Commons first month of “Slowing Church Down” we chose two things to do as a repetition.
- We ended each gathering by singing Sleeping At Last by Atlas: Land.
- We recited the Sunday Evening Prayer together from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.
We’ve posted more info about the song we used all September here.
Slowing Church Down was an idea that we first posted on our blog back in the summer. We felt like taking the time slow down and repeat a practice for a month might help us to dig in deeper to our spiritual journey apposed to skimming the surface. Using the Sunday Evening Prayers from the Common Prayer book has been a great first experiment for this theory. Each Sunday in September we took time to read through this liturgy and prayer.
The liturgy starts with confession and a posture of kneeling, and leaves a short period of silence for reflection. Each week I felt a name of a person or a situation come to mind that I needed to bring to God and ask for forgiveness for my actions in the relationship or situation.
Next we stand and light a candle and read about God being light. As we come out of posture of confession we enter into the light of forgiveness. We read together “Walk in the light, the beautiful light. Come where the dew drops of mercy shine bright.” Two out of our three September Gatherings were held outside and just as the light began to fade we read “Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the evening light, we sing your praises.” We then sang the Doxology together, and recite the Nicene Creed (“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen…”).
Finally we sit and pray together. Someone will speak a prayer request or something they are thankful for and that becomes the prayer as we all answer in unison “Lord hear our prayer.” We then recite the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father who art in heaven…”) and recite a piece of scripture called the “Magnificat” or “Mary’s Song” found in Luke 1:46-55 (“My soul glorifies the Lord, My spirit rejoices in God my Savior. The Lord looks on me a lowly servant; henceforth all ages will call me blessed…”).
I thought after reading through this liturgy/prayer each week for a month that I would feel done with it at the end and ready for something new, but that is not the case. As I was reading through these old creeds and prayers for the third week in a row I found that they had even more meaning and depth then the first 2 weeks, and that there was a beauty in the repetition and a freedom in letting go of control of the content of our collective gathering. The words we were reading were old words, ancient thoughts about God and they were having meaning for us today.
Next month we will step into a different repetition segment that is more creative and an original expression of our community, something we have created ourselves (appossed to borrowing from the authors of Common Prayer and the Christian liturgical tradition they are curating). I thought after I spent a month on the same liturgy that I would be ready for something new, but I’m surprised to feel a loss and a sadness at not using the same Sunday Evening Prayer next week. I don’t think this sadness is a bad thing, I think it means that part of this Common Prayer exercise has seeped into my spiritual walk more deeply. I feel like I’m more OK with resting in the slower pace of repetition, and empowered to use my copy of Common Prayer and the Common Prayer website more often in both my personal journey and our community’s collective spiritual journey.
“There is different elements at play when I think about how the church should be shaped. One that I’ve flirted with quite a bit lately has been liturgical formation. Growing up as an evangelical the word ‘liturgy’ was not really part of our vocabulary and anything that looked of it was void of the Spirit. As I grow to understand the history of the church and the theology of our tradition I have seen that following liturgy is much more than a lazy man’s way out of doing the hard work of a church service. Rather it is allowing the richness of the church to run the service and refuse to allow it to be hijacked by modern attempts at being relevant. I don’t have to prepare for twenty hours before showing up on a Sunday to share what I have discovered and put together the week before, rather we as a community learn to embrace collective church wisdom across centuries. Why should that be put on one individual? How is that beneficial for the individual or the community?… Imagine church gatherings on Sunday were nothing more than the community gathering and whoever is present is able to run the service. Instead of needing a ‘leader’ that shows up two hours early, has spent 10 hours preparing a sermon, organizes the teaching series, makes sure the worship team shows up and the list of other things that people running churches seem to spend their time doing, what if the service was run by whoever shows up…” (read the full article here)
As I reflect on our experience of using Liturgy this last month I’m thankful that the folks at Common Prayer have helped curate wisdom from the Christian tradition in a way that resonates with Nathan’s description of a new kind of participatory dream. I feel like at The Commons we are moving more and more into this model of gathering and learning together.