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Why Liturgy Matters

The Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, dean of the University of the South’s School of Theology, speaks in the Diocese of Southwest Florida on the importance of liturgy:

“Rituals are memory-laden, time-sensitive, a repeatable action that is chosen, not required, but is missed if one fails to do it,” said Alexander, who addressed the annual Fall Clergy Retreat. The Sept. 8-10 retreat, held at DaySpring Episcopal Center, has deacons and priests gathering for three days of continuing education, fellowship and prayer. The subject theme was “The Clergy and Liturgy.”

Alexander said that humans are ritual creatures, citing research that shows that couples who had morning and afternoon rituals of departure and return had better success at a successful marriage.

“It doesn’t matter what the ritual is,” said Alexander, “but that there be one.” The converse is a ritual pattern that goes out of kilter. He cited the consternation in a parish when a service moves to an hour later, and then parishioners complain that it “messes up” their Sunday morning schedule.

Creating a space for ritual does not mean repeating the same encounter with the Holy Spirit. Instead, it is about “putting us in the place where another encounter can happen.”

Read the rest. Bishop Alexander’s new book, Celebrating Liturgical Time: Days, Weeks, and Seasons, is available from Church Publishing.

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