The Beauty of Routine

Trinity Presbyterian Church (CREC) of Birmingham, Alabama has produced a wonderfully helpful guide to the liturgy.  You can read the full document here.  Here’s an excerpt on liturgy, routine, and pastoral care:

“Do not be put off by the fact that much of our service is scripted and repetitive.
While there are certainly portions of the service that change from week to week or season
to season, we intentionally have spoken and sung lines that that remain unchanged. In
fact, much of the service is repeated, verbatim, week after week, year after year, decade
after decade. We do this because God has given His people certain forms, words, and
rituals to do again and again so they can have a shaping effect on us. We are not engaged
in mindless repetition; rather, we are storing up the Word of the Lord in our hearts.
Repeated worship forms are like a river running over stones, smoothing and shaping them
over time. The rituals of the liturgy become so ingrained in us that they are woven into the
very fiber of our identity. 

We have a fixed liturgy because we believe liturgical routine is an excellent form of
pastoral care and is the most effective form of cradle-to-grave discipleship there is. The
repetition of certain portions of the service allows everyone to participate, even those who
are not able to follow a sermon or read the lines of a new hymn. In other words, it makes
our worship inclusive of the very young, the very old, and the mentally challenged—the
very sorts of people God wants the church to care for most diligently.

 

Before Jesus came into the world, God’s people worshiped Him in ways that were
highly ritualized. With the coming of Jesus, much changed in the form and content of
worship. However, the same Spirit who inspired the ancient Israelites to worship with
repetitive forms still does so in the new covenant church. What do we see when we get
glimpses of the worship practices of the early Christians? They are reciting Psalms (Acts
4:23-31; Eph. 5:19) and prayers (Luke 11:1-4) together, singing the same pieces of music
again and again (Rev. 4:8-11), and celebrating the Lord’s Supper every week when they
gather (Acts 20:7). The earliest Christians did not see ceremony and ritual as intrinsically
evil; rather, ceremony and ritual rooted in Scripture served as a powerfully formative and
symbolic way of helping Christians internalize the great truths of the gospel.”