Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Gospel Procession

Well, I think my last "Sanctuary Sights and Senses" post was back on January 28, 2011!  For those who do not recall, or those who were not reading this blog during 2010, "Sanctuary Sights and Senses" originated as a series of bulletin inserts for my local church.  I would write the inserts, and I would then post them on the blog.  And, after almost a year, I have a new insert; this one on the Gospel Procession.

I have to say I am excited about this, because this will be the first time we have actually processed the Scriptures for the Gospel reading, but, as you will see, what better time to begin this act of worship than on Christmas Day?!

The other exciting thing is that, after talking with colleagues (especially the Rev'd. Dr. Brook Thelander at Epworth Chapel on the Green ), I found out that one can purchase liturgical binders, in which one can place copies of each Sunday's lectionary readings, and which is designed for liturgical processions.  These binders are considerably less expensive than purchasing the entire Lectionary book for liturgical readings or the Gospel Books.  Then, while talking with my Administrative Assistant, she informed me that she and her husband could simply make an appropriate, decorative covering for one of my binders!  -  I'm quite excited!

Anyway, the actual "Sanctuary Sights and Senses" follows:

Gospel Procession  -  In many churches, when it is time to read the Gospel lesson, the Scriptures are processed out into the center of the congregation.  As this takes place, the congregation stands for the reading of the Gospel.

Often it is said, prior to the reading, “The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to [Scripture reference].”  And the congregation responds, “Glory to you, Lord Christ.” 

During this announcement, Christians may choose to make the sign of the cross on their foreheads, lips and over their hearts.  This signing symbolizes the prayer that the Word will be in our minds, upon our lips, and in our hearts.

Following the reading of the Gospel, the declaration is made, “The Gospel of the Lord,” to which the congregation responds, “Praise to you, Lord Christ!”

The Old Testament reading points us ahead to Christ.  The Epistle reading points us back to Christ.  But, in the Gospel reading, we hear the words of Christ, Himself.  (Though, in a very true sense, we hear the Word of the Lord in every part of Scripture.)

Because, we hear Christ’s words in the Gospel, the procession of the Gospel into the midst of the congregation symbolizes for us the Incarnation; the coming of God in Christ to us, in our very midst; the Word made flesh.  -  This symbolism is heightened for us during Christmas, of all times, when we especially celebrate the Incarnation of Christ our Lord!


Daniel Coutz said...

How did your congregation respond to the procession?

Todd Stepp said...

Time will tell. No comments so far. However, the response has generally been favorable (with a few exceptions) to previous "Sanctuary Sights and Senses" inserts and practices.


Dr.D said...

The middle picture seems to indicate the person carrying the Gospel book ahead of the crucifer. This is an irregular order, to say the least.

In Anglican usage, the crucifer leads the procession out, and stands at the outermost end through the reading. When the reading is finished, everyone stands aside so that the crucifer can pass through to lead the procession back to the altar. It takes some planning, some practice, and some coordination, but it can be done beautifully.

Fr. D

Todd Stepp said...

Fr., Dr., D,

I certainly agree with the order you specify.

As to the picture, it looks like you may be correct. I cant' tell for sure. I'm thinking that you are referring to the man in the right of the picture.

I can't tell what the "staff" is that he is holding. I note that he is only holding it with one hand. It could be a rather tall crozier, and he could be a UM bishop. (I only now noticed that, whatever it is that he is wearing, has the UM cross & flame on it.)

Really, I hadn't noticed all of that, I was just googling for pictures of the Bible in a procesion. I don't know the setting or anything else about the picture, itself.

Thanks for the comment, though, that does explain the correct order. That is appreciated!


Todd Stepp said...

I thought I would follow-up on your question as to how the congregation has responded to the gospel procession.

It seems that there are several people who think that it is too . . (wait for it!). . . Catholic!

And, so, we will be walking that one back, beginning this week.

Obviously, I find it unfortunate, because I think there is great theological symbolism. However, it seems, as is so often the case, there are those who cannot see past Rome to see the symbolism.


Dr.D said...

Rather than walk it back, is this not the time to seize a teaching opportunity and teach the symbolism? People are talking, people are perturbed slightly, something out of the ordinary has been introduced into their lives. What better time to take advantage of that opening and use it to teach, to introduce new meaning and depth of faith for them? Give some serious thought to staying with it. It is a powerful symbol of taking the faith to the people.

Fr. D+

Todd Stepp said...

Fr. Dr. D.,

This very blog post that we are commenting on originated (as did all in the Sanctuary Sights and Senses" series) as inserts during our services of worship.

I did talk with the congregation at the time that we started this, and we used the inserts on about three Sundays.

Prior to that, those who took part in my teaching series on Authentic Christian/Wesleyan Worship saw this practice via Robert Webber's Ancient-Future Worship video series.

My experience in this type of setting is that, after a while, it doesn't do much good to "stick to one's guns" by trying to get everyone to "get it." Instead, it usually ends up hurting things.

I wish it were different, but I think we will have to back up for now.

Rev'd. Dr. T.