Friday, August 19, 2011

Renewing our common priesthood

In the current issue of Liturgy, Fritz West discusses liturgical renewal within the churches of the Reformed tradition. Among his many interesting observations is the way in which the use of a common lectionary makes a powerful witness of the reality of the priesthood of all believers.

In keeping with the didactic character of Reformed worship of the sixteenth century, Hageman makes ‘‘lex orandi lex credendi’’ an imperative—‘‘Cultus must express creed.’’ To begin with, it must reflect the priesthood of all believers, that is, it must be corporate— not clerical—worship. (This includes preaching from posted scriptural readings rather than topical preaching, whose choice of scripture is inherently private.) (p. 47)

Over the decades the lectionary has come to be widely used, either regularly or occasionally, by—in some Reformed denominations—as many as 80 percent of all congregations. Admittedly, lectionary readings are rarely used as intended; they seldom form a ritual of reading containing all three readings plus a psalm in the Liturgy of the Word in a service of word and sacrament. Typically it is used as a list of preaching texts, with one or two readings being read in a service (with the Psalm treated as a reading rather than as a hymn). Despite this unfortunate reality, it does make for the public reading of scripture, that is, scripture chosen by the church rather than the pastor (thus furthering the priesthood of all believers, yet another aspect of Hageman’s reformed liturgic). (p49)

What other aspects of liturgical renewal make the priesthood of all believers powerfully present?

Implementing a Reformed Liturgic: Fifty Years of Reformed Liturgical Life, Liturgy, 26:4, 45-56.

Fritz West is a retired minister of the United Church of Christ and presiding member of the Association for Reformed & Liturgical Worship (AR&LW). He is the author of Scripture And Memory: The Ecumenical Hermeneutic of the Three Year Lectionaries and of The Comparative Liturgy of Anton Baumstark.

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