maggi dawn

Category: liturgy and worship

40 ways: keeping a joyful, thankful, holy Lent

Lent begins on Wednesday February 10th 2016;  it lasts a bit over 6 weeks, or around 40 Days. So here are 40 ideas for keeping Lent. The Great Commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your giving it up heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbour as yourself” (with the implication that caring for God’s earth is rolled into the bargain) so I’ve thought up 40 ideas for keeping Lent that appeal to the creative and literary, to the development of community and relationships, to promote social action, and to encourage ecological responsibility, as well as individual spiritual concerns. You could:

  • choose just one of these (such as writing a thank you note) and do it every day.
  • choose one category and repeat it throughout Lent.
  • choose one from each category to do throughout Lent.
  • agree with a group of friends, or with your congregation, on one or more of these to practice together.

If you are very organised and energetic, I suppose you could even do them all. But I think it unlikely.

Literary/media/arts
1. Start or join an online book club and read a Lent book with others.
2. Start or join a local book club to read a Lent book with others.
3. Watch “40” by Si Smith
4. Choose one great novel you have never read, and read it this Lent. Middlemarch, or To Kill a Mockingbird, for instance. Is there a character you closely identify with?
5. Choose a great novel you have read before, and re-read it. Take your time. What do you see this time that you didn’t see before? A character you didn’t notice, a theme you missed the first time, a theme that touches you now because 5/10/20 years on you see the world differently?
6. Choose one new musician or artist and listen to their work regularly throughout Lent. Listen to the words. Listen to the tone, the melody, the structure, the texture of the music. Why does it move you?

Social/community spirituality
7. Say sorry. Where is there a relationship that is cooled, ruptured, upset? Say sorry.
8. Write a random thank you note (or email, but handwritten is so lovely!). Who do you appreciate?
9. Make a list of your friends. One per day, send a brief email, make a phone call or post a brief note to say hello. Keep it short and do-able: the point is to keep in touch, not write a novel!
10. Keep a group journal. See here for Steve Taylor’s Advent Journal, and adapt it for Lent.
11. Invite friends for a Simple Sunday Soup lunch. The company is the point. Eat together. Simple, unfussy food; good, sustaining company.
12. Make a point of smiling and saying thank you to people – in shops, on buses, in pubs, on pavements, to delivery people, to teachers and roadsweepers and vicars, and…
13. Power down. See whether you can agree a no-phones at meals policy in your home, switch off all technology 30-60 minutes before bedtime, and make sure you have 30 minutes of uninterrupted time with the person(s) you love the most several times a week.

Spirituality and prayer
14. Don’t give up cake, or chocolate. Instead, give up inherited ideas about God that cripple your soul. See here for more.
15. Read all the way through one Gospel of your choice. About half a chapter a day, or less if you pick Mark.
16. Say a prayer of thanksgiving every day. Thank God for the things you usually take for granted: food, clothes, shelter, life itself.
17. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, and learn to keep still and silent for five minutes every day. (You might need to start with one minute and work your way up gradually.) Listen to the inner voice.

Social action
18. Take your unwanted clothes and goods to the Goodwill/Oxfam/charity shop.
19. Volunteer some time at a local charity.
20. Make a donation to a charity.
21. Join the dots between prayer and action: choose something to pray for *and* give time or money to.
22. Find out which of your local schools needs volunteers to hear children read.
23. Revive a medieval habit: reduce your household bills by eating more simply, and give the money saved to the poor. (Combine with no. 11 to make it a community exercise.)

Ecological/environmental – form a new habit in Lent to care for the earth.
24. Change the light bulbs in your house to eco-bulbs, and turn off lights when you leave the room. (Note: that thing about flourescent bulbs using as much energy to turn on as they do to burn for 30 minutes? It’s an urban myth. Turn them off.)
25. Turn the heating down by one or two degrees
26. Hang up your laundry instead of using the dryer.
27. Unplug your appliances when you aren’t using them. Do the earth a favour, and save around $100 US/£60 GBP a year as well, which you could give to charity or church.
28. Learn how to reduce your energy consumption. (Bonus: your bills will go down so you can give a little more away!)
29. Reduce, Re-use, Recycle i) – reduce food wastage. Shop with a list; use up leftovers, only buy and cook what you can eat and really need.
30. Reduce, Re-use, Recycle ii) – spend a couple of hours one weekend thinking about your shopping habits. How can you buy less, avoid buying what you don’t really want or need, eliminate shopping for leisure, buy vintage, buy fairtrade. Fairtrade USA  — Fairtrade UK
31. Use your bicycle, the bus, or share car journeys. Less fuel used = happier earth.
32. Find a source of locally grown food and support it, or grow something yourself.

Joy-inspiring spiritual practices.
33. Pause 4 or 5 times today to give thanks for what you usually take for granted. Food. Shelter. Life. Friends.
34. Take a leisurely walk, alone or with friends. Stop often to look for beauty.
35. De-clutter a cupboard or wardrobe. Give away what you don’t use or need.
36. Sing! Singing fills your system with oxygen and makes you feel better.
37. Look up! What do you miss on your daily journeys by looking down at your feet?
38. Clean the windows. Let the sunshine in!
39. Plant some bulbs in the garden or in a pot for the windowsill.
40.  Say thank you to others, for simple things. Tell people when you appreciate their kindness or value their friendship. Don’t wait to give a eulogy: tell them now.

For more on Lent: check out my book – Giving it Up: Daily Readings from Ash Wednesday to Easter Day

“There are no women on my theology bookshelf…”

Last year on Twitter, someone wrote to me “there are no women on my theology bookshelf. Who should I read?”.

I followed up with a blog list, and was pleased to discover that without even looking up from my screen I could easily think of well over a hundred female theologians, ecclesiastical historians, biblical scholars, sociologists of religion, and others who figure on the theological landscape. More names appeared when I actually looked at my own bookshelf.

Replies flooded in through the comments, adding many more names of women authors – both academic and devotional, theoretical and practical, in every area of the theological landscape. Now the academic year is about to begin again, one or two people have mentioned the post again as a resource – so, incomplete though it is, here is the updated blog post with names added from the comments section.

10897776_469733266514841_7639664988515007378_nWhen people ask about “women theologians” the subtext is often “I need to read about “women’s issues” in theology so I need a female author”. But the most interesting women’s voices in theology are not necessarily writing about “women’s issues” per se, they are simply writing theology.  Certainly their experience of theology will be colored by the fact they are a woman. But there is something insidious about assuming that women are there to add “women’s issues” to what is otherwise “neutral” theology. It implies that theology written by men (mostly white men, incidentally) is neutral theology, while women add the “on-the-side issues” that are not central. But in fact, no one gives you neutral theology. Barth gives you male, Swiss, post-war, post-liberal theology – strongly inflected by his historical setting and personal circumstances. Rahner gives you the perspective of a 20th century male celibate catholic priest, wrestling with language after Wittgenstein. Hauwerwas gives you white, American, Protestant theology; James Cone gives you black American Protestant theology – it’s all theology, but every one of them writes in a way nuanced by their particular setting. There is no such thing as neutral theology. There is theology done by people who happen to be male, by people who may be white, black or Latinx, people in North or South America, Antarctica, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, by people who may be disabled or not, Western or not, poor or rich. And theology by women is not done just for women, nor is it only about women; neither should it be treated as a secondary tier of theology. It’s theology for everyone, done by women.

As I set out on my PhD studies a few years ago, with my first degree behind me, I began to get calls from publishers asking me to write about women in theology, feminist theology, what is it like to be a woman and a theologian. I took these very flattering letters along to my supervisor, herself a seasoned writer and very fine theologian. “You have a choice,” she said. “You can write about women’s issues as they relate to theology, and that is a fine thing to do. Or you can just carry on doing theology in your area of interest. But you can’t do both.”
“Why not?” I asked.
I never forgot her reply: “I’ve seen so many women start out with such promise,” she said. “Then they are asked to write about being a woman, about being a feminist, and all that stuff. They spend so much time on that, their real area of interest is swamped, and then they don’t do so well on their first call. Then guess what happens? – men, behind closed doors, say to one another – ‘told you so! women can’t cut it in theology!’ So you choose: read Coleridge, or read feminist theory; do one well, but don’t do both of them badly. Whatever area of interest you choose, you are being a feminist anyway.”

There are so many women with interesting things to say, some writing about feminism in particular, but many more simply writing –in women’s voices– about areas of theology that used to be thought of as a male preserve – or, the earlier you go, writing theology against the culture that denied them access to what was assumed to be a male preserve. This is very far from a complete list, I’m jotting these down off the top of my head – but the fact that I can come up with a list like this without thinking too hard is evidence enough that there are plenty of places to go if you realize there are “no women on your bookshelf”. My categories are not perfect – and some of these writers could appear in two or three categories, but such is the impossibility of lists. I’ve read a lot of books, but I haven’t read everything in every field so there will, of course, be many omissions – if someone’s name isn’t here it is due to my ignorance or forgetfulness, not a reflection on them! Please do continue to add your recommendations in the comments – Note – this is about women on your bookshelf – so this is not a list of wondrous women (of whom there are many), but published women.

ancient voices 
Hildegaard of Bingen (12th Century, German)
Héloïse (Heloise, Héloyse, Helouisa, Eloise, among other spellings) – famed for letters between her and Peter Abelard 12th Century (see also a number of women who have written about them)
Clare of Assisi (13th century Italian)
Julian of Norwich (14th century English mystic) – also note the excellent Frances Beer who writes about her
Margery Kempe
Catherine of Siena (14th Century Italian)
Theresa of Avila (16th century Spanish)

19th and early 20th century 
Katharine Bushnell
Phoebe Palmer (1807 – 1874, American)
Catherine Mumford Booth (19th century English)
Jessie Penn Lewis (1861–1927, Welsh) 
Simone Weil (1909 –1943, French)  
Charlotte von Kirschbaum (1899-1975,  German)
Evelyn Underhill (1875 –194, English) 

biblical studies
Margaret Barker
Jo Bailey-Wells
Lynn Cohick  (Philippians, Ephesians)
Adela Yarbro Collins
Ellen Davis
Katharine Dell
Michal Beth Dinkler
Mary Douglas
Beverly Gaventa
Deirdre Good – biblical studies
Paula Gooder
A. Katherine Grieb – Romans
Judith Gundry Paul and Perseverance: Staying in and Falling Away, 1990
Jane Heath
Morna Hooker
Denise Dombkowski Hopkins – Hebrew Bible
Catherine Kroeger – Biblical studies
Judith Lieu
Lucy Peppiatt
Pheme Perkins
Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza
Carolyn J. Sharp
Francesca Stavrakopoulou
Elsa Tamaz
Phylis Trible
Gale A. Yee, Hebrew Bible

early christianity (AKA patristics)
Pamela Bright – on Tychonius, Augustine
Roberta Bondi (To Pray and to Love; To Love as God Loves, and other titles)
Virginia Burrus
Liz Clark
Kate Cooper
Nicola Denzey
Susanna Elm
Carolyn (Cally) Hammond
Meira Kensky (biblical studies/early christianity – see “Trying Man, Trying God: The Divine Courtroom in Early Jewish and Christian Literature”)
Morwenna Ludlow
Patricia Cox Miller
Sara Parvis
Karen Torjesen
Christine Trevett — Late Antique religion (also 17th-century sectarianism)
Frances Young

early christian art and culture 
Felicity Harley-McGowan
Susan Ashbrook Harvey

reformation
Julie Canlis (writes on Calvin)
Christine Helmer (16th-C religion, Reformation, Schleiermacher, Luther, philosophy of religion, constructive and systematic theology)
Charlotte Methuen
Jeannine Olson – Reformation history
Susan Schreiner (Calvin Scholar)

philosophical/systematic/dogmatic/historical theology
Marilyn McCord Adams
Lorraine Cavanagh
Sarah Coakley
Grace Jantzen — Becoming Divine; Power, Gender and Christian Mysticism
Elizabeth Johnson
Karen Kilby
Renate Kobler
Catherine Mowry LaCugna
Sallie McFague (also in ethics) – Models of God & The Body of God
Sara Maitland – (my favourite of hers is A Big-Enough God: Artful Theology, 1994)
Margaret Miles (history of theology)
Nancey Murphy
Catherine Pickstock
Amy Plantinga Pauw
Rosemary Radford Ruether
Marika Rose
Tracey Rowland
Anna Rowlands – Catholic theology
Sandra M. Schneiders
Suzanne Selinger
Kate Sonderegger
Janet Soskice
Kathryn Tanner
Susannah Ticciati (apophatic theology, Barth, Augustine)
Angela Tilby
Medi Ann Volpe
Frances Ward
Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendell
Anna Williams
(oh, and yours truly, Maggi Dawn!)

theological memoir (strong in theological content but doubly interesting for their literary form)
Karen Armstrong
Dorothy Day
Anne Lamott
Rachel Mann – Dazzling Darkness
Chine Mbubaegbu Am I Beautiful
Kathleen Norris
Katherine Jefferts Schori

theology, literature and the arts (including novels, poetry and literary critique of notable theological content)
Gillian Boughton – Literature and Christianity
Ruth Etchells (a pioneer in Literature and Theology)
Kathy Galloway (would also figure in systematics) 
Mary Karr Sinners Welcome 
Sarah Miles – Take this Bread
Flannery O’Connor
Marilynne Robinson – Gilead, Home
Dorothy L. Sayers – The Mind of the Maker, Creed and Chaos

ecclesiastical history
Caroline Walker Bynum (medieval history and theology)
Rona Johnston Gordon
Judith Herrin
Frances Knight
Judith Maltby
Jessica Martin
Jane Shaw
Miranda Threlfall-Holmes Monks and Markets: Durham Cathedral Priory 1460-1520
Hannah Thomas – early modern English Catholicism
Christine Trevett — 17th-century sectarianism (also Late Antique religion)
Megan Williams

sociology of religion/religious studies
Linda Woodhead
Kristin Aune
Eileen Barker
Grace Davie
Penny Edgell
Sally Gallagher
Slavica Jakelic
Bernice Martin
Sarah Jane Page
Laurel Schneider
Sonya Sharma

asian christianity and theology
Chloe Starr
Melba Padilla Maggay
Violeta T. Bautista

liturgy
Teresa Berger
Marva Dawn (no relation!)
Siobhan Garrigan
Janet Morley — All Desires Known
Gail Ramshaw
Melanie Ross The Serious Business of Worship (ed., 2010)
Nicola Slee

ethics/political theology
Susannah Cornwall (theological ethics, sexuality)
Kelly Brown Douglas, (Sexuality and the Black Church)
Margaret Farley
Carrie Pemberton Ford
Amy Laura Hall (also on Kierkegaard)
Jennifer Herdt
Ann Morisy
Rachel Muers
Esther Reed
Anna Rowlands
Emilie Townes

faith and media
Heidi A. Campbell

Bex Lewis
Pam Smith (@revpamsmith)

preaching/homiletics
Barbara Brown-Taylor
Kate Bruce – Igniting the Heart: Preaching and Imagination
Anna Carter Florence
Susan Durber
Fleming Rutledge
Nora Tubbs Tisdale

devotional writing and pastoral/applied theology (including education, youth)
Dorothy Bass
Christina Baxter
Zoe Bennett
Elizabeth Caldwell
Joan Chittister
Barbara Glasson, A spirituality of survival
Elaine Graham
Janet Henderson
Vanessa Herrick
Jane Keiller
Anne Kitch
Joyce Mercer
Bonnie Miller-McLemore
Mary Kate Morse
Mary Clark Moschella
Kathleen Norris
Elaine Ramshaw, Ritual and Pastoral Care
Janet K. Ruffing
Margaret Silf
Rosie Ward, Growing Women Leaders, nurturing women’s leadership in the Church
Lucy Winkett
Margaret Whipp
Almeda M. Wright
Karen Marie Yust

feminist/liberation theology
Ann Loades (see – Feminist Theology: A Reader)
Mary Daly
Jacquelyn Grant: White women’s Christ, Black Women’s Jesus (a womanist thesis, and a notable corrective to some aspects of feminist theology)
Daphne Hampson
Elaine Kaye (with Janet Lees & Kirsty Thorpe – Daughters of Dissent)
Janet Lees
Mercy Amba Oduyoye Daughters of Anowa: African Women and Patriarchy (1995)
Julie Faith Parker
Judith Plaskow
Rosemary Radford Ruether
Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza
Elaine Storkey (her What’s Right with Feminism is a good intro)
Kirsty Thorpe

some books that attempt to highlight women in theology who were completely overlooked because it was a man’s man’s world:
Teresa Berger Gender Differences and the Making of Liturgical Tradition: Lifting a Veil on Liturgy’s Past (2011)
Reuther, Rosemary R. and Rosemary S. Keller, Women & Religion in America: The Nineteenth Century.
Janet Soskice: Sisters of Sinai
Marion Ann Taylor: Handbook of Women Bible Interpreters
Marion Ann Taylor and Heather Weir – “Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on Women in Genesis”

One begins to wonder how anyone could have a theological bookshelf that has *no* female authors on it…

———————–

Read on below for more names added since my original list, including many recommendations from recent comments, Twitter etc., some of whom I have not come across before. Thanks to all  commenters for adding to the list–please do read and add to the growing comments list below!

Denise Ackermann (from South Africa) / Miriam Adeney / Loveday Alexander / Marcella Althaus-Reid / Sarah Apetrei – ecclesiastical history and Reformation /

B Alice Bach /  Jenny Baker / Lytta Basset “Holy Anger. Jacob, Job, Jesus” / Lynn Bechtel / Kimberly Belcher – Liturgical studies/sacraments / Alison Benders (systematics) / Adele Berlin, biblical studies / Jan Berry, British liturgist / Myra Blyth / Marcia Bunge /  Athalya Brenner / Kathy Black – A Healing Homiletic / Helen Bond / Roberta Bondi / Riet Bons-Storm / Kate Bowler (history) / Rita Nakashimi Brock / Catherine Bushnell /

 C / Lisa Sowle Cahill / Susannah Cornwall / Kate Coleman – Black Women and theology / Mary Coloe /

D / Dana Robert Daneel / Lilian Daniel / Mary Albert Darling “The God of Intimacy and Action” (co-author)  / Joy Davidman, “Smoke on the Mountain – An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments in terms of today”, first published by Hodder in 1955 / Maggi Dawn / Kenda Creasy Dean – youth ministry / Adrienne Dengerink-Chaplin for philosophical aesthetics / Lorraine Dixon / Rose Dowsett / Verna Dozier/ Musa Dube from Botswana –  on post colonialism / Kristin Du Mez, A New Gospel for Women /

E / Ruth Edwards /  Elizabeth Elliott / Rachel Held Evans / Nancy Eiesland (The Disabled God) / Mary Evans – OT/biblical studies / Cheryl Exum

F/ Danna Nolan Fewell (“Gender, Power, and Promise, co-authored with David Gunn) / Sarah Foot – ecclesiastical history / Lisa Fulham (ethics) / Esther Fuchs /

G / Freda Gardner, Christian education / Julie Gittoes (ecclesiology, eucharist) // Lisa Goddard and Clare Hendry “The gender agenda” / Ruth Gouldbourne  / Elaine Graham / Mary Grey / A. Katherine Grieb. – Romans / Brita L. Gill-Austern /

H/ Joann Hackett, biblical studies / Georgia Harkness / Jane Harrison / Jane Heath / Gina Hens-Piazza (biblical studies) / Carter Heyward / Sheryl Kujawa Holbrook / Bell Hooks /

I/ Ada María Isasi-Díaz, biblical studies / Lisa Isherwood  Companion to the Bible”/

J/ Mignon Jacobs (“Gender, Power, and Persuasion”) /   Sara Japhet, biblical studies / Kelly Johnson / Karen Jobes (Biblical studies) / Serene Jones

K/ Namsoon Kang – Cosmopolitan Theology / Margot Kässmann / Sylvia Keesmaat, biblical studies & cultural/reformation studies / Catherine Keller / Tikva Frymer-Kensky / Patricia O’Connell Killen  / Ingrid Kitzberger / Judith Kovacs – patristics and biblical studies / Chung Hyun Kyung

L Hetty Lallemann – OT/biblical studies / Mary Jo Leddy “Radical Gratitude” / Lilly Lewin – youth ministry and worship  / Hannah Lewis, Deaf Liberation Theology / Diana Lipton /

M/ Bonnie Miller McLemore / Kathleen McVey, church history / Catherine Madsen / Jacqueline Mariña, on Schleiermacher / Hilary Marlow – OT / Frederica Matthews-Greene / Charlotte Methuen – Reformation / Carol Meyers  biblical studies / Alison Milbank  /  Margaret Mitchell, biblical studies /  Jeanne Stevenson Moessner / Alison Morgan – The Wild Gospel /

N/ Sarojini Nadar (from South Africa) / Beth Newman  / Carol A. Newsom/  Hulda Niebuhr / Wendy Sproston North / Irene Nowell – OT/Biblical studies / Ella Nutu / Ann Nyland “The Source” /

O/ Kathleen O’Connor / Gail O’Day / Mercy Amba Odoyoye (The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians) /

P/ Elaine Pagels / Kimberley Patton, Comparative and Historical Study of Religion, (ancient Greek religion and archaeology, research interests in archaic sanctuaries and in the iconography of sacrifice)  /  Rebecca Ann Parker / Stephanie Paulsell, practice of ministry / Helen Pearson / / Kristina LaCelle-Peterson – church history/theology / Elizabeth Phillips — political theology / Christine Pohl pastoral theology / Priscilla Pope-Levison, theologian and historian (Building the Old Time Religion: Women Evangelists in the Progressive Era) / Kwok Pui-Lan – postcolonial theology /

R/  Randi Rashkover (Jewish Philosophy in conversation with Christian Theology) / / Ilona Rashkow / Esther Reed / Sandra Richter “The Epic of Eden” / Mayra Rivera, postcolonial theology /Gillian Rose /Helen Rosevere – missionary, devotional-formational writing / Joyce Rupp – contemplative writing

S/ Catherine Doobs Sakenfeld, biblical studies / Angela Shier-Jones / Angela D. Sims (womanist and social ethicist) / Edith Stein / Suzanne Scholz / Dorothy Solle / Dorothee Sölle / Brita Stendahl – Women’s ministry / Edith Stein / Tammi Schneider (“Mothers of Promise”) / Susie Stanley – church history/theology / Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki,

T Elsa Tamez, from Mexico – on scriptural interpretation  / Marianne M Thompson /Fredrica Harris Thompsett / Deanna Thompson (http://hopingformore.com/) is a Lutheran theologian and professor. She writes on feminist religion and has a memoir on dealing with cancer. / Kristin de Troyer /

U / Bridget Gilfillan Upton /

W/ Heather Walton / Frances Ward / Helen Wareing / Marina Warner (cultural/historical studies) / Renita Weems, biblical studies/ Sharon Welch. (Unitarian theologian) / Pamela Cooper White – pastoral care/psychotherapy / Johanna van Wijk-Bos (“Making Wise the Simple: The Torah in Christian Faith and Practice”) / Jane Williams / Lauren Winner – memoir / Ellen van Wolde / Mildred Wynkoop – theology / Flora Wuellner

Y / Michaela Youngson /

 

 

 

 

 


You must be born again.

I preached at St Michael St George, St Louis on Sunday. Several people have asked for the script. In fact, although I wrote a script I didn’t read it very closely, so the words below are only approximately, and not precisely what I said. All the same, for my new friends in St Louis, and anyone else who’s interested, here is the script:Starry night over the rhone, Van Gogh

‘You must be Born again!’

‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…’

These two phrases from John 3 are associated more than anything with conversion, probably because they are so over-used in a particular religious culture in which preachers urge their listeners to change their lives without delay, and by an effort of will, make a decision to follow Jesus. It’s pitched as Good News. But does it feel like good news? Delivered like a demand, under pressure, it may feel more like bad news.

Read the story closely, though, and you find that these two phrases are not about an overnight conversion at all, but about a secret conversation. Read the rest of this entry »

Liturgy – it’s *not* the work of the people

There is a prevalent popular saying that liturgy is “the work of the people” – based, it is claimed, on the meaning of the original Greek word. But the current popular application of the word is often used to reinforce the idea that worship should be planned and executed by the people, according to their own taste, without any regard to liturgical tradition, doctrinal concerns, or church order.

This may sound like one of those moments when the etymology of an ancient word brings about a radical re-think of how we enact our faith.  But when it comes to this particular pop-phrase on liturgy, it’s application is not nearly radical enough, and its translation isn’t accurate enough. “Litourgeia” did certainly connect “work” and “the people”, but its meaning is lost if we use it merely to demand that the congregation gets to design their own worship.

What did litourgeia really mean? A litourgeia, in Greek usage, typically referred to a piece of work initiated by patronage for the purposes of the public good. So, for instance, if a wealthy person or group of people wanted to sponsor something for a town, they might initiate the building of a town hall – the work was initiated by some people who had the means to make it happen, and executed by others who had the skills and expertise to deliver the structure, but the result was something that existed for the benefit of all the people – and really, that meant all. It meant public – so that its benefits were available to everyone.

Anyone who knows my work knows that I am fully subscribed to including the community in the design and performance of liturgy. But that is with the caveat that such work takes place in the context of exploring the history, riches, expertise, theological wisdom and scriptural foundation of our faith. To say “liturgy is the work of the people” as an argument for doing away with tradition entirely, or for the unskilled to design worship, or more particularly to reinforce the idea that worship is something we do to satisfy our own tastes, or as a mandate to shift the balance of power inside the four walls of the Church, we have missed the point entirely. The really radical stuff begins when we understand that a liturgy – a work of worship – is supposed to be a work supported by proper expertise, and to have public benefits, not just personal satisfaction.

Back in 2011 I wrote in an article,

“… liturgy might legitimately be said to be work that is first for God, that also transforms our world and benefits people. But liturgy isn’t mine or yours. And it isn’t a mandate for “the people” to do whatever they like in church, regardless of tradition or order. In short, it’s not about me….

…the work of the people” is easily misused to imply that anyone and everyone has the right to have worship be the way they like it. And while I’m absolutely subscribed to inclusivity in worship, the second you cross that line to say “worship is about me”, worship disintegrates into an unholy mess. It’s not about me, or about you. It’s not the work of the people, it’s work in service of God that benefits the people. It’s FOR the people, but not OF them.”

I still think so.