Praying Shapes Believing: New Liturgies for Celebrating God in Creation

September 24, 2015

From The Rev. Devon Anderson, Rector, Trinity, Excelsior:

In his seminal book, “Praying Shapes Believing: A Theological Commentary on the Book of Common Prayer,” Leonel Mitchell reminded his readers: “probably more than any other contemporary religious group, Episcopalians are people of a prayer book. Not only do we use the Book of Common Prayer for the conduct of our public services; it is the guide for our private prayer and the source of most of our theology…Traditionally this dependence of theology upon worship has been expressed in the Latin maxim ‘lex orandi lex credenda,’ which means that the way we pray determines the way we believe. Or, even more simply put: praying shapes believing.

This September the Episcopal Church in Minnesota came together for its annual convention. This year featured a programmatic focus on God in creation, specifically our stewardship (or lack thereof) of the gifts that God gives us in creation.

If praying shapes believing, if we are at all effective in exciting change and activism around the environment, an excellent companion to convention’s theme is a series of liturgies authorized by this past summer’s General Convention entitled “Honoring God in Creation.” It’s a treasure trove of liturgical goodies: propers for Honoring God in Creation, three fresh forms of Prayers of the People, a Confession of Sin against God’s creation, a Litany for the Planet, a Rogation Day Procession and Liturgy, and a Rite for the Blessing of a Garden.

These new liturgies can be used in any number of ways – as part of a celebration of Earth Day, for example, or celebrating the harvest in agricultural communities. What is very cool about this collection is that they lend themselves to public worship, meaning, worship that can be celebrated outside of the church building, in the midst of the community, offering blessing and celebration for food and bounty, harvest and summer, and all the many gifts God’s earth offers for our enjoyment and sustenance.

The crowning jewel of this new collection is the Liturgy in Thanksgiving for Creation and in Honor of the Feast of St. Francis, with the Blessing of Animals. Trinity Excelsior will use this liturgy at its primary service on Sunday, October 4th, the Feast Day for St. Francis, when animals come to church with their families to celebrate the Eucharist and receive a blessing. Trinity combines this service with a fundraiser for Episcopal Relief and Development – where members of the parish purchase an animal for a needy community on the other side of the world in honor of their pet.

You can find these liturgies on the General Convention website: (http://www.generalconvention.org/home/bluebook) on a PDF entitled “Supplemental Liturgy Materials (Appendices of the SCLM Report), pp.231-266. The liturgies will be published by Church Publishing in January 2016, but seriously, why wait?