Sometimes when we’re planning something as familiar as a liturgy, clergy and musicians get impatient to ‘get it done.’ And so we begin without first asking questions of principle or reminding ourselves of why we’re doing what we’re doing, in other words we skip the ‘first things first’ that ‘principles’ would suggest and work from an implicit check list of what we ‘know,’ meaning what we’ve seen before. No principles and no questions makes what’s familiar seem obvious or inevitable.
In day to day living, some things actually are so obvious that doing them otherwise could only be a joke. We talk about ordinary people with ordinary routines in an old saying like, ‘Puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like anyone else.’ But liturgy requires that we work with other planners and shape and invite the willing participation of a whole congregation.
Horse. Horsecart. Harness. Driver. Wagon load. Road. Direction. Push/pull. More complex and collaborative tasks can lead us to methodical blunders, like harnessing the horse to push the cart rather than pull it. Gently, we’d like to suggest that planning liturgy Sunday by Sunday without steady development and re-examination of principles of what we intend to do and what we have learned works and why makes as little sense as putting the cart before (ahead of) the horse.
My hope is that we can find the patience and curiosity look freshly at church practice, contemporary problems, and older practices (tradition) to find deliberate principles for the church’s Sunday gathering. With God's help we will.