WHAT IS WORSHIP
Worship is about more than an event that we attend. It’s not a place. It’s not a thing. It’s an attitude. In reality, worship is something that we should do at all times in all places because it is a posture towards God and His glory.
One thing we value is corporate worship. This is where we will join our voices together and worship our God. Our corporate worship experience is patterned after both a biblical (Nehemiah 8) and the historical church model (the Book of Common Prayer which is built on liturgies that have been used since the early church).
Our worship expression is what many people call liturgical. Want to know what liturgical or liturgy is?
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WHAT IS LITURGY
Christ Church Anglican worships in a way that many would identify as liturgical. This means that we intentionally follow a pattern in our worship services and believe that the ancient patterns actually form us as Christians. The liturgy enables us to encounter God and helps us grow as disciples and to be witnesses of God’s transforming power.
The word liturgy actually means “a work of the people” and that’s what happens when we gather as a community—everyone has a part to play. We strongly believe that worship is not a small show with a few key players but a community act where all present participate.
The liturgy is not a repetitious, vain activity where we say the same things over and over without emotion. Rather, it is an order that moves us into life and beauty through the power of the Holy Spirit. It has a basic shape but is flexible and responsive. Most importantly, our liturgy is built on the basis of scripture with the sole purpose of moving us into God exalting worship.
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LITURGY IS BIBLICAL
The most important reason we use liturgy in our worship is because liturgy is biblical.
In the Old Testament, there was a clear sequence of three offerings found in worship. With the coming of Jesus meant most of the OT worship rituals (altars and animal sacrifices and burnt offering) have been abrogated but the basic pattern is still there – which is cleansing, consecration and communion.
Covenant: We are in covenant with God, just like our forefathers were. But now [Jesus] has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.(Hebrews 8:6)
Cleansing/Confession: God still expects us to confess sin before approaching him in worship. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:6-9)
Consecration: God commands us to set ourselves apart for his purposes. Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
Communion: Experiential communion with God – the renewing, refreshing experience of his presence and power– is still the ideal for gathered worship. And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)
God calls his people together to cleanse us of our sins, remind us of our covenant obligations, renew our fellowship with him, and send us back into his world as his representatives. And this order matters.
LITURGY IS HISTORICAL
In historic Christianity, liturgy was a given. Christian worship was scripted according to a definite form.
If you study church history, you’ll notice that every generation held the same few elements as “properly basic” for Christian discipleship: the Ten Commandments. The Lord’s Prayer. The Apostles’ Creed. The Great Commission. The Shema. Where did our forefathers learn these things? In the liturgy!
Ask yourself: do you know all ten of the Commandments? Can you recite the Lord’s Prayer from memory? Is the Apostles’ Creed second nature to you? If not, it’s probably because you grew up in a church that didn’t practice liturgy. In fact, chances are that your non-literate Christian ancestors knew the Bible better than you do – simply because of the liturgical rhythms they were immersed in.
Benedictine monks sing through the entire book of Psalms not once, but three times each year. After doing that for forty years, don’t you think you’d have most of them memorized?
Because we want to embrace our rich connection with the people of God throughout history, we use liturgy in our worship gatherings.
LITURGY IS FORMATIVE
The liturgy of Christian worship is a subversive counter-measure against the shaping influence of culture. By using liturgy in worship, we are seeking to re-form or re-shape people according to the gospel. Rather than being defined by the world, we want them to take on the values of the kingdom of God. This formation takes place on a number of levels:
Theological Formation. Theological convictions are formed not just through teaching and study, but through singing, confession, creeds, and catechisms. A church’s theology can be “felt” in how it prays and how it sings and how it treats the Lord’s Supper. We want the sovereignty of God and the sinfulness of man to be consistently portrayed in our rhythms. We want the redemptive drama of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation to be felt and experienced regularly in every aspect of our worship.
Spiritual Formation. What we do in worship shapes the way we approach God in private. By reading Scripture aloud each week, by confessing our sin each week, by hearing the promises of the gospel spoken each week, by celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection in communion each week, we are forming our souls in a certain “cadence” or rhythm of worship.
Gospel Formation. If it’s true that we never outgrow the gospel (Col. 1:6, Romans 1:16), then we need our hearts to be shaped more and more by the reality of that good news. In Christian worship we are celebrating the gospel story. We are reminding ourselves of the truth of who we are and whose we are. We are “learning the language” of the gospel – becoming fluent in speaking it to ourselves and to others. A gospel-infused liturgy shapes us more fully into a gospel-centered people.
LITURGY IS MISSIONAL
Anyone who has ever felt distant or “lost” at a Catholic funeral or an Anglican Eucharist celebration will likely question this point. Isn’t liturgy a profound obstacle to mission? Doesn’t it naturally exclude anyone who’s not an “insider” – who doesn’t already know the language and the expectations?
By no means! The problem is not in the liturgy itself, but in the way it’s conducted. Poor leadership can make even the richest liturgy feel stale, dry, detached, and inhospitable. But good, gospel-shaped leaders will use liturgy to extend a welcoming, hospitable arm to strangers and sojourners.
The word liturgy comes from a Greek term that means “a public service.” Liturgy is designed to make Christian worship public – that is, accessible to outsiders! When it is properly explained and warmly engaged, liturgy creates an accessible “flow” that beckons outsiders in. Like a table of contents or a map, it makes unfamiliar territory familiar.