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Wednesday, June 27, 2012


As you receive the Eucharist, when you hear the words “Body of Christ,” look at the bread, look around and within and see the Body of Christ, and do likewise if you are distributing the bread. The presider should hold up the bread and look around and say: “This is, and together we are the Body of Christ, happy are we who are called to this supper.” If that does not happen in your church, why not? It is a core ultimate truth. It is a core biblical truth. For all our lives our Christ has been too small. Look around and behold the Cosmic Christ described by Paul. He and those who wrote in his name shout from the rafters the radical union that each person has with Christ. “We, though many, are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.”

Can you imagine that? Is it too mind-boggling? You and I are part of each other, and part of Christ! The Body of Christ is a fundamental reality that connects us all with Christ, and in Christ with each other. Imagine that, as the First Letter of John proclaimed – loving God means loving one another! In doing so we love the God we cannot see by loving the person we can see.
Don Pachuta
Community of Saint Luke, Framingham,MA
June 10, 2012 - Feast of Corpus Christi

This suggests to me a better conclusion of the communion rite than we usually experience.

As I have written before, we need to improve our performance of the communion rite.

The communion minister needs to allow time for the communicant to respond “Amen.” before beginning any movement of offering the bread or cup. The sharing is not about efficiency but about faith and communion.

Similarly, we need to emphasize participation of all in the same bread and the same cup as members of the same commun-ion/-ity. All should be standing for the entirety of the communion procession. All should be singing a processional song for the entirety of the rite. We are affirming that we are all members of one body, one communion. This is not the time for individualism.

What if all continued standing and singing until all had shared the one bread and cup, then the presider turned to the assembly and said.

“We are the Body of Christ.”
Then all respond.

Following that the congregation members could sit or kneel in private prayer while the vessels are cleared and the ministers return to their places.

This seems to me to be a better conclusion than any Communion or Post-communion oration.

What do you think?

Friday, June 15, 2012


Try printing the Lord's Prayer in the following arrangement 
for a few weeks in your Sunday Order of Service, 
explicitly asking people to pray it as written, with the emphases marked 
and only pausing at the end of lines.

After three weeks, have a discussion of 
how this affected people. 
Expect that some will just want to do it the way they always have, 
but see if it prompted thoughtful reactions otherwise.

I think that this format can better reveal some more 
of the meaning of the prayer than the places we usually pause.

Our Father,
You are in heaven,
Hallowed be your Name.

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive
those who trespass against us.

Lead us not into temptation.
Deliver us from evil.

Yours is the kingdom
And the power and the glory,
Now and forever.

           After three weeks, please post here on Practical Liturgist 
how the experience went in your congregation.

Monday, June 4, 2012


My personal list of liturgical principles has grown and the current version is below. 
This list is intended for discussion by liturgy planning groups at all levels.
They are invited to amend it to be accurate and applicable for their own use.
Then they can reference the agreed principles when a discussion gets stuck on what people like, want to do personally, or have seen done elsewhere, in order to address the question, "Liturgically, is this a good idea?"

Specifically Liturgical Values


  1. Liturgy is public prayer.
  2. Liturgy is communal prayer.
  3. Liturgical prayer is regulated by the church.


  1. Liturgy is more a gift from God to the Church than an offering to God from the Church.
  2. Liturgy exists to strengthen communal support for personal Christian living.

Role of the Assembly

  1. The assembled believers are themselves the ones who are praying, the ecclesia.
  2. Christian liturgy is an exercise of the priestly office of the baptized.

Implications (from the role of the assembly)

  1. The members of the assembly should be taught the importance and fullness of their roles in liturgy.
  2. The elements of the liturgy should be comprehensible to the assembly without explanation.
  3. All of the members of the assembly should be supported in actively participating in all the liturgical elements not specifically requiring a ministry expertise.
  4. The assembly needs to be prepared by its ministers before complications or variations are added to a liturgical service.

Nature of Ritual

  1. Liturgical prayer involves ritual whose positive effects are supported by repetition over a lifetime.
  2. The primary role of liturgical music is to unify the prayer of the assembly.
  3. Ritual music is based on the repeated use of melodies and texts, which assists the assembly's participation in song.

General Guidelines

  1. Liturgical preparation is based on the text of the church and must support its flow and climaxes.
  2. Christian liturgy is based on Scripture and should use vernacular translations of Scriptural texts rather than paraphrases in prayers and songs.
  3. The texts of the liturgy and the Scriptures have priority over musical expression.
  4. Liturgy needs to be prepared with the size of the assembly in mind.
  5. Liturgy needs to be prepared with the nature of the prayer place in mind.
  6. Liturgical celebrations, even of a particular congregation, vary in formality depending on the occasion and the size of the assembly.

Role of Ministers

  1. Liturgical ministers, ordained or not, are called to serve and support the praying of the assembly.
  2. Things should not be added or expanded in the liturgy for the gratification of the tastes or demonstration of the talents of the ministers.


  1. Unity in liturgy does not require uniformity in performance.
  2. Beauty in liturgy is an element of acculturation and varies among societies, classes, and places.
  3. Elements of the liturgy require craftsmanship of noble simplicity rather than artistic expression.
  4. The essentials of any liturgical service need to be distinguished from accretions and protected.
  5. Do not fear to have a brief service which allows time for more fellowship or even more preaching.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


The people who want an additional sign of reverence before receiving communion seem to be concerned that going to communion has become routine and thoughtless. They feel that some people merely line up, grab the host, then hustle back to a seat, as if on autopilot. They want people to stop and collect themselves before receiving. They think a gesture of reverence, prayer, or whatever, is important.

The problem is that they are trying to add something to the communion service, rather than looking at what is already there and trying to make it work better. There is already an act of reverence built into the communion rite. It simply is not done as envisioned by the liturgical authorities who developed it.

In the Roman Catholic communion rite, [and there are very similar rituals for Evangelical Lutherans and Episcopalians] the communion minister is told to hold up the element before the communicant and proclaim, “The Body of Christ.” The communicant is to respond, “Amen.”

What usually happens is that the minister lifts the bread or wine while saying the formula and continues into a motion to give it to the communicant while that communicant responds and then accepts the sacred species. There is no time for a reverent response separate from the reception. All is mushed together.

The sequence is improved by simple changes by the minister, making distinct each element of the rite.
  • Wait until both the minister and the communicant have come to a stop.
  • Hold up the element.
  • Then make the proclamation while the element is before the eyes of the communicant.
  • Give the communicant time to make eye contact with the bread or wine before making a profession of faith by saying “Amen” to the proclamation.
  • After the “Amen,” then offer the communion element to the recipient.
This procedure allows time for a faith transaction before God between the minister and the communicant. It slows and solemnizes the transaction. It requires the minister to focus on what is being offered to each individual instead of on the general communion process.

This might slow things down. That in turn might suggest that more communion ministers are needed, but is this not better, to have a difference in the administration of communion which has a better chance to feel meaningful instead of routine?


If one is allowed to change the rite for a local congregation, there is a possible change which would help everyone to better understand the meaning of what is happening in the overall communion service.

Instead of having the communicant response be, “Amen,” each could respond, “We are all members of that one body/blood.”

This gets closer to the essence of the communion service, the sharing of all in the body of Christ. This sharing is certainly there as the service exists now in most denominations, but it is there by implication or in its theology and is not very much there experientially. It is too easy to feel that communion is a “me and Jesus” moment instead of a communal experience.

Indeed, that is reflected in the very concern mentioned at the beginning of this article. One [exactly] gets in line, waits a turn to get for oneself what everyone else is getting, then goes back to one's personal place to sit and respond to what one has received.

This does not reflect the doing something with others, communally, which is the essence of liturgical versus private prayer. It does not speak of participation in the body of Christ, of sharing in that one body of which Jesus is the head and we all are members. One belief about communion, Jesus coming to each of us, is too easily able to dominate the more central belief that Jesus comes to all of us and all of us are part of Jesus.

Another essay will get into how what else we do can enhance the communality of community.

Meanwhile, what do you think about these two ideas?