Liturgical changes

A newsletter message written for St. David's Episcopal Church, Kinnelon, NJ

Dear Friends,

At this point, I’ve been with you for nearly two months.  We’re still figuring one another out, and occasionally tripping over one another, still.  But all in all, our work together is coming along smoothly.  I remember, on my first Sunday, someone asked me what I wanted to do differently in the liturgy.  This was in the morning, before we’d had that first service together, and I couldn’t really wrap my mind around the question.  I didn’t know yet what the customs were here at St. David’s.  And that first Sunday, I stumbled around a lot at the altar.  But I’ve started to learn my way around, and you’ve all started to know what to expect with me.

By now, however, you’ve probably begun to notice some things may be a bit different than they had been.  Each priest has his/her own peculiarities.  We all have our own ways of making our leadership in public worship more worshipful for ourselves.  This month, I thought I’d discuss a couple of the things that you may have noticed that I do differently, and why it happens (for me, at least).

The first thing you probably noticed was the use of the lavabo before the Eucharistic Prayer.  Lavabo is really just a fancy word for “washbasin”, but it is derived from the Latin phrase for “I will wash”.  Symbolically, in the Eucharist, it signifies preparing oneself for the Holy Table by washing away one’s impurities.  For me, the water reminds me of my baptism – the first entrance to the church that makes us all worthy to stand at the table with Christ.

You also may have noticed, after everyone has received communion, I’ll typically consume the remaining elements and wash the dishes.  This is called “ablutions”.  Traditionally, the priest would consume the consecrated wine, pour unconsecrated wine into the chalice and consume it, then rinse the chalice with water before consuming the water.  My own practice is a sort of abbreviated version of that.  After I’ve finished drinking the consecrated wine, I rinse the chalice with water and drink that water.  For me, this is an act of respect for the Body and Blood of Christ.  It’s a way of me recognizing that the things we use in worship aren’t just wine and wafers, but, through our prayer, they are earthly creatures that have been set aside for something special – for holy worship of God.

I’m sure I have other quirks in worship that you haven’t seen before.  Maybe you think they’re strange.  Feel free to ask me about it.  I actually really love talking about worship, and everything I do in the church has a meaning that’s important to me.  So if you notice something that you don’t recognize, let me know.  I’d love to discuss it with you!