Script vs. liturgy

My family has recently begun visiting an Anglican gathering — a very new and different experience for us. I’m still wrestling through liturgy and ritual, and the appropriate place for it in the Church. On the one hand, ritual is everywhere — our morning routines, business meetings, social gatherings. Ritual gives us structure — a baseline that we can then use to branch out of. It’s much like Jazz — it cannot be random, otherwise it would be chaos and cacophony. Instead it has a basic structure that allows the musicians to try variations. Individuality comes out — yet in harmony with the group.

On the other extreme is lip-syncing — you are just playing a part and are making no contribution to the music in any way.

So which is liturgy? Some people certainly see it as dead ritual. But I am also seeing how a “contemporary” church service can become dead ritual. Worse, it becomes manipulative and false. The choice of songs just before the sermon about tithing? Scripted. That emotional music that plays over the final heartfelt plea of the preacher? Scripted.

With a true liturgy, we are all — leaders and congregation — focused on the words and meaning. We are having a shared experience, not passively consuming. Any emotions I feel are my own, they are genuine.

And we need a church that is genuine.