Digging up theoretical works around worship

A couple of blog posts about worship before we dive into General Assembly. If you’re attending in Providence, perhaps we can meet?

The problem. There are at least two basic problems when you meet a liturgical text:

  1. if there are directions (rubrics), deciding how you make the right decisions among various choices, and
  2. understanding the intent of the liturgy-creator when you want to add in extra resources or make a substitution.

Without this understanding, it’s easy to get into a rut, confusing to make exceptions for special occasions, hard to correct eccentricies — those useages that have crept into worship that feel wrong, but you can’t put your finger on why — and almost impossible to add something new. Or, just as bad, hard to justify removing something that fills an emotional need for some, but just doesn’t work well in worship.  (I’m looking at you, Joys and Concerns.)

And, without knowing what the purpose of the words, actions and artifacts of worship are, it almost surely means the depth of worship is left undelved.

Also, what may work for a congregation of 20, may not work for a congregation of 64, which may not work for a congregation of 147. (These are the real, reported 10th percentile, 50th percentile and 80th percentile for United States Unitarian Universalist congregations.) Worship needs to be flexible enought to grow and shrink in scale, to reflect the capacity of the congregation.

It’s a daunting task if you have an education in worship, and must seem wickedly arcane and arbitrary if you don’t. And there’s a shortage of explanatory and theoretical material. So I try to surface what I can.

(I have some Von Ogen Vogt that I need to digest; that’ll be first.)

2 Replies to “Digging up theoretical works around worship”

  1. And then there’s Skinner: who as a young man began his essay on worship with a call to overturn everything, and then, in his later, more experienced years, published a companion essay admitting he had been wrong.

  2. Elz, can you give links to Skinner’s thoughts on worship?

    Emerson, of course, said he was getting more out of watching the snow fall through the sanctuary window than the actual worship service.

    Scott, why Von Ogden Vogt rather than Ken Patton?

    Prairie Mary

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