Behind the Curtain
I’m standing in the our sanctuary after worship. I’m still wearing my white robes and and my giant silk poncho. I’ve been greeting people as they leave, and those who are left in the room are bunched in little groups. As I walk up the aisle, I come to a young married couple. This is their third visit.
The man looks at me and says “so, do you do this every Sunday?” His wife seems embarrassed, but I don’t know why. “Do what?” I ask him. “You know, all this?” He waves a hand around the room. His other hand is in the tight grip of his wife. She says to him in that strained, sort-of-whispering voice “I told you that they do.”
I smile and say, “well, things change with the seasons of the church year, but, yes, basically we do this every Sunday.” This thing that he was speaking of, this thing we do every Sunday, is something we call “liturgy,” or “liturgical worship.”
Of course, every church has liturgy. That is, every church basically does the same thing every Sunday. There is a pattern, a particular space, a certain way of incorporating music, a way of handling preaching or praying or taking the offering. Even when there are variations, liturgy tends to triumph.
At Redeemer our liturgy is important to us. We are conscious of it, perhaps more so than many other churches in our part of the country. This comes from our Anglican way of being Christian.
Over the years, many people have asked me to sit them down and explain all that we do. They want to know why we do this thing with our hands, or why this object is moved at this moment, or why the service has this particular element. I try to answer their questions in a succinct way, and if they keep asking I might refer them to a book.
There is part of me that doesn’t want to answer their questions. I feel a bit like the salesman towards the end of the “Wizard of Oz.” He’s pulling the gears that make the mighty apparition speak while the fire and smoke billow forth. When the veil covering him is pulled back, the great and powerful Oz says “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
I’m a bit like the man behind the curtain. There is a certain amount of mystery to liturgy, and I think that this mystery adds to the experience of the sacred. However, unlike Oz our God is real. We do not need to pretend that he is present with us, nor do we need to manipulate those who would come to worship him.
In that spirit, I am leading a series of conversations beginning this Wednesday night. I call this “Behind the Curtain: why we worship the way we do.” I’m going to talk about the structure and purpose of our liturgy. I’m also going to literally (and I always use the word “literally” literally) walk folks step by step through the liturgy, commenting on every aspect that is of interest to those present. I see this as an interactive learning opportunity. I hope it satisfies the curious, but more importantly I hope that it adds to the depth and meaning of our worship. Everyone is invited on Wednesdays.
We will have Evening Prayer in the chapel beginning at 6:30, followed by Behind the Curtain from 7:00 until 8:00 p.m. We will do this series for as many weeks as it is interesting and helpful. I will do my best to make an audio recording for our teaching podcast, but this is the sort of thing that will be much better appreceiated by those in actual attendance. Childcare is available, though this may be something that older children might enjoy as well.
Church of the Redeemer is located at 920 Caldwell Lane, Nashville, 37204. The website is www.RedeemerNashville.net, and join us on facebook at www.facebook.com/redeemernashville