By now you will have heard, especially if you read this column weekly, that Church of Our Redeemer will be observing a parish sabbath during Lent this year. Our goal is to reconnect with God’s commandment to “remember the sabbath and keep it holy” by setting aside some of the busy-ness and work that can be part of church life. Instead, we will intentionally focus on our communal and individual practices of prayer, study, fellowship, and rest. Our Lenten sabbath will include worship, and I want to share some of the ways that worship will be different during Lent.
The worship committee met in January to talk about how we could make our Lenten worship more spacious and contemplative, to add some silence and perhaps take away extra words. Here is what they came up with:
- Silence. To add some time for silent prayer and contemplation, we’ll have two minutes of silence after the sermon, as in past years during Lent. In addition, the Prayers of the People will be a shorter version this season, with no congregational responses and instead time for silent reflection.
- Chant. One thing the worship committee noted is our group tendency to prayveryfast! We tend to say the Lord’s Prayer and the Psalm at a fast clip. To help us slow down a bit, we’re going to chant those parts of the service during Lent. Chant is an ancient spiritual practice that draws us to our center. (You can learn more about chant at the March 8 Adult Forum – stay tuned for more info.) This week, Dr. Bernadette Colley, our music director, is spending several days at the Monastery of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, where she will be learning more about chant from the SSJE brothers to share with us.
- Music. We’ll also be keeping the music more contemplative. Instead of a Gospel hymn, we’ll just sing one verse (of the same hymn) each week before the Gospel reading. This will also help make the service a bit shorter. At Communion, we’ll sing just one regular Communion hymn and follow that with a Taize song. Taize is a modern contemplative style of music developed by the youth community of Taize in France – it’s beautiful, simple style that anyone can easily sing.
- Choir. To give our hard-working choir some sabbath rest, we will have fewer choir anthems (which means less rehearsal time for them) and will sing an offertory hymn together a few Sundays. The choir will use the extra time to add some musical meditation to their Tuesday rehearsals.
- Announcements. Lastly (and we’ll have to see how this goes!) the worship committee proposes having no verbal announcements during Lent. Instead, the Vestry Person of the Day will welcome visitors, explain that we’re having a Lenten break from announcements, and invite people to coffee hour. The Vestry Person of the Day will urge everyone to look at the printed announcements instead. The point is not that announcements are bad (they are great!) but that we want to create a more contemplative, quiet space in worship for this short season.
During Adult Forum on May 3, we’ll have the time to reflect on our Lenten sabbath experience. I look forward to hearing how these small changes to our service impact your worship experience.