Monday, December 26, 2005

And a child shall lead them.

A glory of Anglicanism that’s easy to take for granted is how the whole congregation takes a role in worship. You can be passive in the seats. But you might feel out of place as the congregation, stands, kneels, responds, bows, goes forward, etc. And, if you so like and are active in a parish, you will probably get to lead a portion of worship through reading a scripture lesson or, say, playing a role in the procession or offering.

This Christmas has particularly brought home to me how Anglicanism enriches worship through the participation of laity. I wrote yesterday what an experience it was for this layman to read two of the Nine Lessons, particularly the last one.

In my last two churches before becoming Anglican, both very non-liturgical Bible churches, I can’t recall leading any part of corporate worship during those 16 years. And I was quite active in both. Liturgical traditions such as Anglicanism or Catholicism are oft criticized for clericalism and/or diminishing the laity. But in my experience, laity are given much more leadership in worship in liturgical traditions.

And that includes children. I might say that especially includes children. Acolytes, for example, are usually children and youth in most parishes.

Children played a big role in leading our Nine Lessons and Carols service. Meredith, about 11, began the service by singing the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City solo. Later, Sebastian, 9, read the first lesson. He doesn’t have a naturally loud voice, but he read the long lesson clearly and perfectly. And I think it was his first time to read a lesson. He did better his first time than I did!

Meredith and Sebastian’s leadership enhanced the worship in a way an adult or clergyman could not.

And to me, one of the most electric moments in the church year is when a sole boy begins the Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College by singing the first verse of Once in Royal City before a full chapel and a world wide audience of millions. For many, including me, that tingling place in time is the beginning of Christmas.

Giving such weighty leadership in worship to a boy was a foreign thing to me before I began to be lured by Anglicanism. And, especially at Christmas, it is indeed one of the glories of Anglicanism.

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