ARTICLES, SERMONS & DISCUSSION
What is a church service?
common opinion is that the priest ‘gives’ a service as a musician
gives a concert or a lecturer gives a lecture. This means people identify
church with the priest. The congregation then become an ‘audience’.
is a convenient mistake, because it enables people to keep a distance.
They can be mere spectators, listeners, critics.
is far from how it should be. The word ‘liturgy’ comes from a
Greek word, leitourgos, meaning the performance of public
duties. In ancient Athens it meant the
worship of ‘the gods’. And
this ‘public duty’ included both celebration and lament. It
was one’s duty to honour what was – objectively
– good and beautiful, and to lament what was ugly and evil.
that ‘the liturgy’ was performed by the public as opposed to for
the benefit of
the public. In this consumerist age, an interesting
everyone plays their various parts, lamenting (not the same as grumbling!)
and celebrating, the liturgy generally ‘works’.
fact that the priest is not ‘giving’ the service for an
‘audience’ is symbolised by the way he doesn’t (or used not to)
face the people, except when giving a blessing or declaring God’s
forgiveness; but rather, at the Eucharist, faces forwards to the east
(as at Appleton and Hutton), and at Morning and Evening Prayer faces
across the long axis of the church.
© ASF 2006
For a mini-dictionary of theological terms, particularly those used in Radical Orthodoxy, click here.
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