Posted by: Postordinandy | August 25, 2010

The British liturgical language

While discussing the issues of community, mutuality and accountability recently, it occurred to me that potentially one of the main reasons that such things can be problematic for many of us it our use of the British Liturgy.

Not sure what I mean? Here’s perhaps the primary example:

Opening: Hello, how are you? (meaning: Hello).

Response: I’m fine, thank you. (meaning: Hello).

(Approved varieties include the addition of such phrases as ‘this fine day’ in the opening structure; and the addition of supplementary phrases such as ‘How are you doing yourself’ in the response – depending on the season and time of day).

Breaking these conversation conventions and boundaries is costly, and sometimes painful or even dangerous. How many of us have answered with the (now illegal I believe) response: actually, I’m not doing so well at the moment… only to see an expression of disappointment or confusion in our neighbour’s face, or to experience of hearing them explain how they’d love to chat, but have to be off somewhere ?

The church community plays this game (no better, no worse) in the same way that everyone else does. We take the time for social niceties, but often do not wish to hear of the messiness, uncertainty or even chaos in the lives of those we meet. Frankly, we are usually too concerned with dealing with, or actively ignoring, the same in our own lives.

The church is a group of messy people led by messy people. Our God is fully aware of this, yet calls us together, and expects us to learn to lean on one another and Him. This is not to say that we should spend our time telling everyone we meet about our woes and troubles, but we cannot expect to thrive until we can be honest with at least some others about the reality of our lives.


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