The Drama found in Anglican Worship 1 – The Procession
This afternoon, Joy, my wife, and I were talking about various aspects of Anglican worship and what it means to me. For Anglicans the Eucharist is the very heart of the life and mission of the church. It is something that is celebrated every week in Anglican churches around the world. Yet how many people understand what this worship service is all about? In my next few blogs I want to reflect on what the various aspects of the Eucharist means to me. The word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek and it means “Thanksgiving”. It is used to refer to Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper. In 1 Corinthians 11: 23,24, Paul writes “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me'”. To understand the meaning and value of the Eucharist, we need to imagine the whole worship as a drama to help us connect with God and with each other
In this blog I would like to reflect on the procession that takes place in the Eucharist. To me the procession is a very important part of Anglican worship. There are Anglican churches that do not have processions and I think it’s a shame because the procession is part of this worship drama. For me, the idea of a procession is to act as a reminder that we have come from the world and we leave behind the distractions of the world to process into the sanctuary to worship God. The cross leads the procession which is a significant reminder that it’s because of the cross we can enter God’s presence in worship. Even though the congregation do not join in the procession, the procession is a reminder of the journey we are all taking in worship where we leave behind the distractions of the world to focus on God. At the end of the Eucharist, we process out with the cross leading the way to remind us that Christ leads us out into the world.
If the procession is planned and carried out well, it can be very meaningful. But if it is taken lightly and not done well, it can have an opposite effect. In churches where there is a choir or singers, they lead the procession into the sanctuary of God. Some churches have banners that are part of the procession. To me the procession can be the start of a great Eucharist.
Here are some verses that come to mind when I think of processions into God’s sanctuary .
“My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration!” (Psalm 42:4)
“Your procession has come into view, O God—the procession of my God and King as he goes into the sanctuary. Singers are in front, musicians behind, between them are young women playing tambourines.” (Psalm 68: 24-25)
“But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.” (2 Corinthians 2: 14)
I will end Patrick Malloy’s description of the procession in “Celebrating the Eucharist”. “The procession is an enacted symbol. Its allusions are many: the pilgrimage of the Christian life, movement from distraction to mindfulness, the journey to the kingdom, and other images that will naturally arise in the worshipers.” As we gather together as God’s people, my prayer is that the processions at the start and end of the Eucharist will be a reminder of the movement we make together as a body from the world to God in worship and then entering back into the world as God’s instruments of righteousness.