Scot McKnight – Why Be Anglican: Worship


I am doing a series on the blog about why I became Anglican, and last week I looked at the church calendar, and this week I want to dip into “worship,” by which I mean Sunday morning worship service. (I do not equate worship with Sunday morning worship, but Sunday morning worship is worship.)

If the church calendar shapes the church themes, the church liturgy for Holy Eucharist is shaped by a customary set of elements of the worship service. Each of these is needed, each is integrated into the other, and each is formative for Christian discipleship. To repeat from last week’s blog post, I don’t idealize or idolize Anglican worship, but I believe it is a mature, wise, and deeply theological tradition at work.

I have taken for my text this morning last week’s worship guide, or bulletin. Here are the elements of our worship and eucharist celebration: processional hymn, a call to worship, the Word of God, the proclamation of the Word of God, the Nicene Creed, prayers of the people, confession of sin, passing the peace, and then we move into Eucharist beginning with an offering, doxology, the great thanksgiving, breaking of bread, a prayer of thanksgiving and we close with a blessing.

Rather than break each of these down into bits and expositions, I want to make general observations.

First, the processional hymn tends to be more stately as our pastor/priest and others who will assist process in with the cross. This draws our attention to Christ our Savior and the processional creates solemnity. This is followed by a wonderful prayer connected to the call to worship, a prayer that puts us in the proper frame of mind in worship. This is then followed by three songs.

Celebrant: Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

People: And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever. Amen.

All: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

We do a call and response here that begins with “The Lord be with you… And also with you” and the celebrant prays the weekly collect (or set prayer for that Sunday in the year). Those who pray are free to add words of their own.

Second, we read from four texts of Scripture assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary. Whatever failings there are in the texts that appear in the lectionary are more than made up for in this way: over a three year cycle our church hears selections from the whole Bible and, perhaps most importantly, the preacher does not (usually) choose the text. The text is chosen in accordance with the calendar so the life of Christ becomes central to the lectionary’s texts and the preacher’s sermon. The four texts come from the Old Testament, the Psalms, an Epistle, and The Gospel (a Gospel text). We respond to each reading: The Word of the Lord/Thanks be to God. For the Gospel the reader says “The Gospel of the Lord/Praise to you, Lord Christ.”

Third. After the Word of the Lord is read we have a sermon/Proclamation that draws on these texts, or one of them. Because the Sunday morning service has all the elements mentioned above, the focal point of the service is not the sermon. Our church seeks to keep the sermon at about 25 minutes.

Read the emtire post HERE.


Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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