worship is a unique one-off never to be repeated beautiful offering, and so needs to be the best it possibly can be
I recently saw this quote and initially found myself wanting to challenge it. Having revisited it I find myself almost letting it off the hook because of the “possibly”.
My challenge to it is around the definition of “best it can possibly be”. We used to have a diocesan advisor who used to say “if a thing is worth doing it is worth doing badly”! But of course the question is “whose definition of badly”? Is it the accurate reading, the “proper” pronunciation and the audibility that make a reading the best it possibly can be? Or is it someone prepared to step out in faith and offer the reading as best they can?
Is worship something performed “perfectly” by the few for the many or is it something that all of God’s people do for God?
There is probably no definitive answer to this (as with most things Anglican).
So, a couple of stories…
Many years ago I used to attend Chelmsford Cathedral, usually the 9:30 Parish Eucharist. One Sunday I didn’t get up in time, so instead went to the 11:00 Cathedral Eucharist, during which I said or sung very little. Afterwards I asked the Provost about this and he said that the aim of that service was for the choir and clergy to do the worship giving us space to have our own meeting with God (I paraphrase somewhat, and as with all preachers it may not be what he said, but what I heard).
At one of our churches we have no rotas (not quite true, but almost) and as people come in they pick up a card on which is written a role in the service. The president doesn’t know who has which card, and sometimes the person with the card isn’t quite sure when their bit comes. A culture of collaboration has developed and at various points in the service a member of the congregation might join in – particularly during the sermon.
It strikes me that perhaps the first service suits introverts more, and the second extroverts. What worried me about the quote was that it was privileging the first kind of worship over the second, but perhaps the second is “the best it possibly can be”.