What does “liturgical” mean?

When we say that we are a “liturgical” church, it simply means that our worship follows a certain pattern that includes parts that are handed down from the days of the early church, like the 50s. (No, not the 1950s…the actual 50 ADs.) Things like singing a psalm (from Bible times) to reading accounts of the life of Jesus (written within a generation of his being on the planet) to the creeds established in the early centuries of the church, these texts connect us in a real way to all those who have worshipped before us. And, on any given Sunday in any given Lutheran congregation, you will find yourself surrounded by people using a worship service you will (mostly) recognize. Granted, everyone has their unique way of worshipping, but many common elements to Lutheran worship should make you feel comfortable wherever you might be.

Sometimes we hear people say, “Well, WE are a Bible-based church.” Truth is, so are we! The liturgy (Greek for “work of the people”) comes primarily from Scripture. The greetings, the prayers, the music, most parts of the liturgy are based on passages from the Bible.

For example, we use the Revised Common Lectionary. This resource guides us through the entire Bible (just about) in a three-year span. In addition to the liturgical parts, our worship services include a reading about God’s working in human history through the people of Israel (Old Testament or “Hebrew Bible”), the singing or saying of a psalm, and an account of the early church or a letter written to the early church from the New Testament. On most Sundays, our worship centers around a story about or a teaching by Jesus, as recorded in one of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. (This is the order they’re listed in the Bible even though Mark wrote his account first.)

I said our worship centers around the Gospel reading and that is true but not complete. We are what is called a “Word and Sacrament” tradition. This means that we believe that Jesus is truly present with us in the Biblical Word proclaimed about him and in the bread and wine of Holy Communion (the Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, or just Communion) as he said he was. Do we understand how this mysterious process works? Nope. But Jesus promised he would be there and we believe him. The best explanation that Martin Luther came up with is that Jesus is “in, with, and under” the bread and wine. Whatever the case, we believe he is truly present in this sacrament. So, it is, in a sense, the “Gospel made flesh.” We celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week and you are invited to come forward for it if the Spirit moves you.


SERVICES, SERVICES, SERVICES

We worship every Sunday, rain or shine (with rare exceptions made for dangerous PNW winter weather). As part of a “liturgical” tradition, we follow a special “church year” calendar. It begins with Advent, a season that happens mostly in December and prepares us for Christmas. Other seasons you might recognize include Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. (Incidentally, that information might help you on another part of our website!)

Some of these seasons have special services of their own. Most notable are “The Three Days” of Lent; we observe the Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil (Saturday) services of Holy Week (the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday).

We also might have special midweek services during a season and a Thanksgiving Eve service. We like finding various ways to worship and give thanks to our God for all the blessings of this world.


music, music, music

We make a lot of music. Okay, maybe it’s not all today’s Top 40 but we do have a lot of the historical church’s Top 40. You’ll find the old familiars like “A Mighty Fortress,” “Amazing Grace,” “Beautiful Savior,” “How Great Thou Art,” and “Joy to the World.”

You’ll also find “newer” songs like “Borning Cry,” “Canticle of the Turning,” “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High,” and “Shout to the Lord.”

Our main instrument is a large and wonderful Aeolian-Skinner/Balcom & Vaughan pipe organ which, with its 2,278 pipes, can be softly meditative or thunderingly inspiring. A Young Chang grand piano is also available for choir or soloist accompaniment.

We have a church choir that offers anthems almost every Sunday of the year. Their repertoire includes music of various kinds, including traditional anthems, modern spirituals, and more. Our handbell choir provides occasional offerings that leave its beautiful arrangements ringing in our ears.


Service, Service, Service

I’m not talking about worship this time but about service out in the world. We have a variety of ways, big and small, that we try to serve in Jesus’ name.

Some of our outreach to our immediate neighbors on the lower South Hill has included a community barbecue on Wednesday evenings during the summer. We’ve rolled the tables out into the parking lot, fired up the grill, and enjoyed the “Hotdog of the Week” with our friends and neighbors. We have also installed a “Doggie Station” as we have some of the only grass in the area for our four-legged neighbors to enjoy. The “Little Free Library” out front is stocked from the shelves of our members and friends.

Our weekly “Clothes Closet” provides a set or two of gently used clothing for those who need it. A ministry of this congregation for almost 50 years, the Clothes Closet serves between 30-40 people per week. You can learn more about it here.

Many of our members volunteer with other organizations and agencies in town, including Meals on Wheels, All Saint’s Lutheran community meal, St. Peter Lutheran Food Bank, S.C.R.A.P.S., Crosswalk, SPEAR, and more.