What is 'liturgy'?

What is "liturgy"?

In the usual way the word 'liturgy' is used it just means an order of worship. There is a place for singing hymns and for the sermon, etc. The Anglican church tends to have a quite developed liturgy.    

The first thing many people will notice when they attend an Anglican church is that there is a service booket or a prayerbook that guides them through the service. "Liturgy" means the "work of the people", so liturgical worship is one that attempts to involve the congregation, rather than the priest saying everything and performing all the actions. The congregation isn't just to sit back and and watch the worship. No, they are to get involved.

In liturgical worship the congregation is invited to speak prayers, to stand, to sit, and to kneel. They are invited to walk forward as an act of faith to receive the bread and wine, and by doing so we believe we are encountering Jesus Christ in an intimate way. There are numerous symbols to engage the senses and call us into a deep reflection.

Our worship service uses ancient words. Many are found in the Bible, some are prayers of saints. This reminds us that we participate in something much bigger and older than us. Mysteriously we are participating and being drawn into worship that started long before we were born and which will continue long after we have died.  

The form of our service has very ancient roots that reach back to synagogue worship in the first century and even back to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem. We use these ancient forms because they help us to remember that we are a part of a bigger group of people that stretches back thousands of years. The liturgical form we use is also used all over the world in a number of denominations. This gives us a sense of solidarity with those who are worshipping in different languages. 

We do not, however, hold onto these forms in a legalistic way. As if doing each action and saying each word properly is some kind of guarantee of God accepting our worship. No, we may carry forms of the past so long as they help us to love God and our neighbor. We also are a people who belong to a modern culture in a particular place in the world and our worship should reflect that too. As Christians we are continuously building bridges between the ancient world and the modern world.

 Our liturgy can be viewed in two parts- The “Word”, and the “Eucharist”. During the “Word” we are nourished through hearing and meditating on the words of the Bible as they are read and explained. During the Eucharist we are nourished through the presence of Jesus in the sacrament (bread and wine). Both parts are important to each other and cant really be separated. Both are conduits of God’s presence and grace to us.