It has always been important in our Anglican tradition to align our prayers with the times and places in which we live. This is the reason for our successive editions of the Book of Common Prayer. As our experience of living in Christian community evolves with each successive generation, our prayers have evolved as well. Christian leaders have always done their best to offer prayers that connect with the current generation of the faithful.
There has been much talk in recent years of a new Book of Common Prayer. Many have sensed that the time has come for us to offer some new expressions of prayer that address the concerns and sensibilities of people living in these modern times. The Episcopal Church has yet to commission a new prayer book, but it has encouraged its clergy and other leaders to explore new forms of prayer and worship.
As you are aware, here at St. John in the Wilderness, we offer three services of worship each Sunday morning. Our 8:00am worship is a traditional, condensed form of the Holy Eucharist. At 11:00am, our worship is again a classic, faithful offering of the Holy Eucharist (usually Rite II) in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer, complete with all readings and the raised voices of our splendid Chancel Choir. It is at our 9:00am service of worship that we offer some Fresh Expressions of prayer. It is at this service that we are experimenting with new forms and ways of connecting with God and each other.
On the first Sunday of October, we introduced a new form of worship that is far from traditional. While maintaining the basic order of a traditional Holy Eucharist service, we are trying new elements of prayer and song that are rather different. Some marks of these fresh expressions include: (1) a drumbeat (representing the heartbeat of the living God) threaded throughout the service, (2) contemporary songs, (3) new ways of expressing our understanding of God’s character, and (4) different ways of telling the story of Jesus’ incarnation, ministry, death and resurrection. Week by week, we will be making adjustments to the 9:00am service as we listen to your constructive critique. Our intent is to create a worship environment in which God and God’s people may truly connect and in which we may newly sense the movement of God’s Spirit in our midst. Many of you, particularly many of our younger members, have found these new ways of worship refreshing. We do understand, however, that not all of you may appreciate or be comfortable with either the form or the language employed in these Fresh Expressions. I would ask, however, that if you are a regular 9:00am worshipper, you stick with it for a little while until these new forms or prayer and worship become more familiar. We are confident that these Fresh Expressions will offer many of you some new and life-giving ways of encountering God in worship.