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Worship Expressions

"Diversity is divine, division is diabolical"

CEEC Bishop Tony Palmer


One common element of worship is to be found in our Society: Weekly Celebration of Communion in our worship services.  With that being said, we welcome a diversity of worship styles within our diocese.  We refer to these worship expressions as "Rites".  Which worship expression, below, would most fit your style of worship and ministry?  Some of our churches are known to use two or three of the Worship Expressions- depending on the liturgical season or feast day. For example, they may use Worship Expression 3 on most Sundays and Worship Expression 4 on Christmas Eve.

The Worship Expressions (Rites)

The worship of the capital-C Church is liturgical; that is, it is the “work of the people.” It involves the participation of all the people, as opposed to spectator worship or "worship as theater." Liturgy is neither living nor dead; it is simply engaged in by people who are either spiritually alive or spiritually dead. Participating in a spiritually-living liturgy is a powerful and moving experience.

The Rite is not the liturgy; it is a written version or variation of the ancient, apostolic pattern of worship. The Rite is a guide and teacher. The liturgy, always conforming to the apostolic shape, is free, open, participatory, and Spirit-filled. It is a holistic expression involving the spirit, the soul, and the body. Our Society's approach to liturgy is not based on legislative but rather on normative practice as shaped by the Scriptures and by the historic, apostolic and orthodox example. The worship of our Society churches are characterized by both liturgy and liberty.


Worship Expression 1

House Church or Micro Churches by their very nature are limited to smaller groups and are more intimate and participatory.  Simple liturgical practices and acoustic music are the norm.  Celebration of communion is typically the focal worship act.

Image by Gabriel Brito

Worship Expression 2

Rite 2 congregations would embrace what many describe as the “low church” dominant paradigm; that which is commonly experienced in the typical Protestant congregation. Attendance at a Sunday morning worship service feels very much like going to some iteration of the classical Charismatic-Pentecostal experience. Rite 2 recognizes the ancient church as a legitimate voice, but mostly in its celebration of weekly Eucharist.  A “full liturgy” is unlikely. There may be little public engagement with the creeds.  Adherence to the church calendar's most major dates (such as Christmas, Palm Sunday and Easter) would be common, but not to lesser days or to the lectionary in general. One would certainly not expect the use of vestments, except on the most formal of occasions (such as a wedding or funeral).  A Rite 2 church's style of worship might also be called "Vintage Faith" or "Ancient-Future" worship.


Worship Expression 3

Rite 3 congregations would be predominantly Protestant in their expression, while giving more credence to simple liturgical elements.  These communities have begun to integrate elements of the historic liturgy. This integration would be seen in the ways the church recognizes major elements of the church calendar (such as Advent or Lent, for example), follows the lectionary, and regularly confesses one of the creeds as part of congregational worship.  While maintaining a high value on powerful worship and biblical preaching, Rite 3 congregations weekly participation in the Eucharist is now also appreciated as a central element of the worship experience.  The person leading the Eucharist might commonly be expected to don a stole. A Rite 3 church's style of worship might also be called "Vintage Faith" or "Ancient-Future" worship.


Worship Expression 4

Rite 4 congregations continue to embrace and value the Evangelical emphasis on Word and the Charismatic emphasis on the Holy Spirit, but they do so in the context of the liturgy. Rather than incorporating the liturgy into a charismatic context, Rite 4 communities intentionally and creatively incorporate “low church” elements into the historically-established liturgy, and in this manner bring a blend of low church freedom into the majesty of the liturgy. Rite 4 communities would have a broad recognition of the church calendar, including many of the historic expressions that accompany their celebration. So, for example, whereas a Rite 3 congregation might publicly recognize Palm Sunday, a Rite 4 congregation would likely celebrate Palm Sunday by distributing palm fronds to the church, even possibly processing into the building together to commemorate Jesus' triumphal entry to Jerusalem.


Worship Expression 5

Rite 5 congregations would be fully sacramental, and embrace what many would describe as the “high church” paradigm. The clergy leading these services would be fully vested. The church service would be a liturgical experience from beginning to end; likely including formal prayers of the people, congregational prayers of penitence,  professing the Nicene Creed aloud as a congregation at the conclusion of the sermon, and sharing the peace.  Rite 5 churches would embrace the sacraments in a way that is fully in-step with the Anglican or Anglo-Roman tradition. While many Rite 3 communities would see themselves working to deliberately include sacramental elements, one would find Rite 5 communities working to deliberately include more of the free-flowing elements of a Spirit-led worship experience .

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