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Edition:  2019

I think it was Andrew Greeley, author, storyteller and priest, who suggested in one of his many articles that liturgy as story was fundamental to celebrating.  I have sought to follow that suggestion.

The first person to invite my interest in the serious study of liturgy was Von Ogden Vogt - a former Congregational cum Unitarian preacher and liturgist in American - little known outside his country of birth.  His Lowell Institute Lectures of 1927 and published in book form as Modern Liturgy (1927: Yale University Press) is still on my library shelves. This interest was added to by Henry N Wieman's 1929 book, Methods of Private Religious Living (1929: Macmillan Co).  And I continue to read both, even now.  Both invite me to shape liturgy/ritual as a 'celebration of life’ which is a radical step away from orthodox ‘worship' of a theistic G-o-d. (See below).

While my liturgies are fairly traditional in shape, I try to be careful about language, images suggested, and the flow or plot of the liturgy.  It's style is a blending of traditional and contemporary.  I call it 'contemporary liturgical’.  It seeks to use contemporary language and Australian images in an inclusive way through metaphor and story.  The involvement of others each week in the presiding at worship, with a printed liturgy, is essential.  Colour, symbols, candles, inclusive language and story, all shape the experience.  And by the way - at the end of each liturgy you will find a list of Resources used in shaping the content.

In short: the weaving of story (what we tell) and ritual (what we enact) are ways we make sense of our world.  Ritual/Liturgy is not about the past, but life in the present. Thus gathering is about celebrating life in the continuing, creative presentness of the sacred - we often call G-o-d, but understood naturalistically.

Some time ago, when invited to share some thoughts on a colleague's paper on "the Sunday morning experience", I wrote:
* Gathering is a human activity, celebrated in the presentness of G-o-d/sacred.  Rather than praise required of us by the theistic god G-o-d.
* Must be broad enought to create a cooperative experience (rather than collective) - cognitively and emotionally.  What Bernard Loomer calls 'size’.
* Be a celebration of the whole of life.
* Have form/shape.  I have been influenced by the models offered by Von Ogden Vogt and Henry Nelson Wieman.
* Use of artistic media/symbols highlights the 'art' of worship.
* What is brought to the service can be as important as content.
* Be 'landscape' and 'intellectually' honest.

And the Goal of such gathering - to help us know/feel how we relate as individuals to ourselves, others, world, universe.  To celebrate that relationship.  To touch sources of creative transformation. To reinterpret our experiences.  To reaffirm living in this world.  To respond with awe and wonder.

The form or shape of my liturgies usually offer six encounter points: Gathering; Centering; Exploring; Affirming; Celebrating; Parting.

Each liturgy has the heading “A Gathering Liturgy for the Celebration of Life”. That is, I do not call the experience ‘worship’. I call it ‘celebration’. There is a major difference between the event ‘worship’ and the event ‘celebration’. Worship moves from symbol to a transcendent source - persons, word, places, Holy or God - present in the ordinary. Celebration consists of rejoicing in the presence of things rather than going beyond them. Worship seeks to transcend the object. Celebration seeks to penetrate to its depth. Worship is only possible where there is a distinction/dualism between the ‘sacred’ and the ‘ordinary’. Celebration seeks to dissolve such distinctions and dualisms...

After all that..., if you scan down the three years of weekly liturgies, you will find some Special Liturgies - covering Communion/Meal/Jesus Banquet, Baptism, Funeral, Marriage, etc.