April 11, 2016

Liturgical Confusion

CRASH. I rocked back on my heels awkwardly, hoisting a 6 foot long wooden rod parallel to the floor, while avoiding smashing into the dingy closet ceiling or falling on the wax covered, fake foliage littered floor. I balanced the rod at the perfect angle and slowly backed out of the closet. I have a serious love/hate relationship with the banner closet. Yes, it houses the church’s treasured memories- glorious displays of talent and craftsmanship, labors of love woven into the hand-stitched fabrics, artistic representation of the church’s history. But, storing them, ironing them, organizing them….. requires a forklift and a whole truckload of patience. As I carefully placed the rod holding our Good Friday banners down on the chairs, I had a thought. Why not pull the Easter stuff NOW and leave it super accessible? As soon as the service is over and people have left the building, un-dim the lights, blow out the candles and get the Easter show on the road. Tear down the purple and black and raise the white and gold!

I’ve only been in worship ministry for 11 years, which I know is likely less time than many of you. But each year, I feel a growing sense of what I call “liturgical confusion.” Our job requires working ahead – often several weeks or even months in advance. Our worship calendars with preaching schedules, choir anthems, guest ministers, special missionary presentations, accompanist schedule, instrument involvement and so on are laid out before us with Sundays flying at us like fast balls in the batting cage. And the working ahead makes me feel liturgically confused. When the congregation is celebrating Christmas, singing their “Joy to the Worlds,” I’m already glowing with the light of Epiphany and dabbling with the “L” word. Then when the big “Lent” rolls around, I’m already into Holy Week and beyond. I’m in Easter space when everyone else is at the foot of the cross. Even from the bench, while playing and leading each week, it is hard to be present in that time and space. It’s hard to be in that moment. Not just in the broader sense of what comes next week or the week after that, but in the “next up is that responsive reading and I don’t see the leader sitting in their normal seat…. I hope they are here and are ready to read” kind of way.  

Being the person who was asked to blog so soon after Easter could have led to any number of submissions about the stations of the cross display that was set up, or the new Easter hymns that were sung, or even the best way to unwind and relax in the week after Holy Week. But I want to name this problem and put it out there because if I’m feeling it, I suspect you all have felt it too. And maybe naming the problem corporately can lead to ideas to rectify it. How do you not jump the gun liturgically and find yourself perpetually several weeks ahead of your congregation? How do you effectively lead worship on a weekly basis and allow yourself to be present in that exact time and space? How do you remove yourself from responsibility and allow authenticity? How do you cultivate your own worship life when 99.9% of the time you are busy trying to do that for others? Problem named. Solution needed.  

Let’s continue this conversation on facebook or email with your ideas.

Kathryn Ritsema Roelofs is a commissioned pastor in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and serves as a worship specialist with Thrive, a ministry of the CRC. She is also the managing director of the Worship for Workers project through Fuller Seminary.