In pursuit of liturgy

The church I grew up in was overbearingly liturgical. Granted, overbearing is a personal opinion but it is one I will defend. I know there are other churches with more rote or ritual, but for a small Nazarene church, we had a stagnant order of worship.

It wasn’t the most liturgical church on the face of the planet, but there was enough routine to be predictable. I could tell you when our worship leader would ask the congregation to stand, and when he would tell us “you may be seated" before either order was given. I knew when a certain pastor preached we would get a lesson in church history and Greek vocabulary. To this day, I can still recite the exact order of worship for both the Sunday morning and Sunday evening worship services – from the choir’s song to the closing prayer. I could still show you the spot our lead pastor would stand to greet people after the service. I can still identify which instruments were used in the morning services and who played the instruments. And I could still point out where the youth group sat, and who usually sat next to whom.

Don't get me wrong, these are people I dearly love. And anytime I’m in town, I stop by to visit. I’m not writing this to mock the church I grew up in but to make an observation. When you grow up in an environment like that, one of two things happen: you either cling to the ritual or run from it. I did the latter.

By the time I moved away from home, liturgy was the last thing I wanted. I associated with people who shunned repetition. I took a different route home from work everyday. I was drawn to non-liturgical churches. I craved disorder. I thrived in chaos.

It’s funny how things change. 10 years later, I still prefer non-liturgical churches. There is a certain order of worship at my church… but it’s more of a rough outline than a strict dictated guideline. I still find myself challenged and fascinated by people who are seeking out new things with a passion I wish I possessed. Yet, I’m tired of chaos. I find myself longing for a routine. My recent switch into a new department at work came with new stresses, but it came peppered with relief of a constant schedule - the first I've had a set schedule after four years of teaching. I am slowly developing my own routines and rituals… my own personal liturgy. Not doing anything in the morning until I see the weather forecast. My shortcut through the Albertsons parking lot while walking to work. My bedtime talks with Christian, tickle fights with Zu when I should be getting her into her jammies. All in pursuit of a liturgy I once avoided.

It’s funny how things change.


  1. Yup! I remember the order of worship. I remember church was never dismissed until the pastor called his wife up and he went to "that spot." I remember people parking in the same spot week after week (and the ensuing chaos if somebody else parked in that spot). I remember the choir enterance and exit.

    That said, I remember youth trips to Olympia, stopping no where for fear of being late. Trips to Idaho stopping in the very restaraunt you've written about (also getting kicked out almost every time). Or District Convention always being in Aurora and eating at Pizza Hut.

    Wow! Routines can be both memorable and yet somewhat mondane. Thanks for the memories?.?.?

  2. Or the quiz team always ate at Taco Bell during the competition's lunch break.

    You know... the district conventions were eventually moved to Puyallup.

  3. I'm obviously in a very different place than you - no kids or anything like that - but very much appreciate this entry, and commented on it at HBO. Liturgy is a subject near and dear to my Anglo-Catholic heart.

    For me, though, liturgy is not about routine. It is about meditating upon something specific and formal rather than making it up as I go along, and it is about meeting God in the mysteries of the altar.

    Thanks, Nic.