The Drama found in Anglican Worship 2 – The Gathering
In my earlier blog, I talked about how the procession is an important part of the Anglican worship as it visualises the journey we take from the world into the sanctuary of God and then at the end of worship we leave the sanctuary to enter into the world with the words “Go now to love and serve the Lord”. The procession is the one thing I have missed whilst pastoring a Baptist Church over the last eight years.
After the procession into God’s sanctuary, the liturgy begins with the preparation of God’s people to meet God, hear His Word and to partake of the communion. A liturgy is a prescribed format for public worship. The meaning of the word “liturgy” is “the people’s work” which is a reminder that worship is the service that we as God’s people give to God. Many churches ridicule liturgy because they see it as dead, repetitive observance and they claim to be non-liturgical. This is of course not true as every church and denomination have a format of worship which they follow. Their format could also become a dead, repetitive observance if they are not planned well.The Anglican liturgy is rich and meaningful because it is scripture-based, participatory, memorable, filled with music, prayers, Scripture and responses, and is full of rich traditions that unites us with fellow Christ-followers of all times and places. I never realised how much I have missed the richness of the Anglican worship till I started attending the Anglican worship over the last month.
The gathering on a Sunday for Eucharist is an important part of worship for Anglicans. Anglicans believe that the church is God’s people and the Sunday Eucharist is the gathering of God’s people for worship. This gathering for the Eucharist becomes a very important part of the life and mission of the Anglican Church. So in the first part of the Eucharist the focus is on gathering God’s people together to meet God.
At the end of the procession and before the formal welcome is given, people are invited to welcome one another as an acknowledgement that we do not meet God alone but with others around us. It is a great time to welcome new comers. The minister may explain key areas of focus for that Sunday and may give some instructions that would add meaning and purpose to the worship for the congregation.
In this part of the liturgy, the focus is on preparing our hearts to meet with God. There are 5 items that help us in this preparation:
- Collect of Purity – a prayer to prepare our hearts to love and worship God
- The Gloria – a hymn of praise that is sung. This hymn is steeped in history as it has been sung since the 4th century. (However this is not sung during seasons of lament and reflection like Advent and Lent)
- The summary of the Law – This is a reminder to God’s people the standard of righteousness that God has set and to help us recognise our need for grace and forgiveness. At times the Ten Commandments or the new commandment of love that Christ taught is used.
- The confession and absolution – Having heard God’s law, we spend time reflecting on our own lives and how we have fallen short of God’s standard and together as a community of faith, we prayer the prayer of confession. The minister than gives the absolution, based on God’s promise that He forgives sins of those who truly repent.
- The collect for the Sunday – The word ‘collect’ comes from the Latin meaning ‘to gather’. It is a time for the prayers and thoughts of the congregation to be bound together a common theme for that Sunday. The collects often follow a similar pattern – a statement of a particular attribute of God, which is then developed into a petition appropriate to the day and linked to the lessons for the day.
This part of the liturgy sets the stage for the next part of the Eucharist where the focus is on the Word of God. For me this part of the Eucharist prepares my heart and the hearts of God’s people gathering with me to hear what God has to say to them.