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Hallo again to all.

Today we attended the early service in a small Anglo-Catholic parish in a town that is an hour's drive from the nearest big city or airport. Not isolated — modern communications media make isolation be no longer a possibility for towns of any size — but decidely not urban in style. There were about 50 people in attendance, and the small all-male altar party led a very rapid thee-and-thou spoken service.

Walking out afterwards, the words 'sprint liturgy' popped into our heads. The last candle was extinguished, to release the worshippers from their pews, about half an hour after the priest spoke the opening sentences. In between, the liturgy with its 17th-century language was recited as rapidly as human lips could move. No solemn pauses, no dramatic readings. Just a sprint. Perhaps the priest had once worked as an auctioneer. How rapidly can we get through this? The excellent sermon was about 5 minutes long. No one had time to fall asleep or drift off into thoughts of some sporting event. The pause between the sermon and the start of the Creed was about one second.

We were visitors, but we knew the liturgy by heart and could easily follow along despite the speed, though at one point, one of us auto-responded 'And also with you' rather than 'And with thy spirit', only to have a person in the pew in front of us turn around briefly to glare.

We noticed that the regulars, the people who knew each other and greeted one another warmly, were utterly comfortable with this high-speed format and knew just what to say and do. This was their service, their liturgy, their familiar rituals. Almost no one needed to pick up a service book to follow along. This might have been a sprint, but it was just what the congregation wanted and expected. Perhaps it was the reason they attended. 'Let's get this church thing out of the way as quickly as we can, and then get on with our Sunday.'

The priest was an energetic and interesting man. By local reputation he has brought new life and new health into what had been a moribund parish. The people of that town want (and attend) a high-speed high-church liturgy, so they found a high-speed high-church beretta-wearing priest to lead and grow the congregation.

Our previous experience with ultra-high-speed worship services had been at churches of a denomination that required its members to attend weekly but provided numerous short and fast services to make that mandatory attendance be as painless as possible. This church wasn't like that: everyone in attendance was there by choice and not obligation.

We were surprised, upon reflection at breakfast after church, that this quick liturgy had given us a complete sense of closure on our own need for Sunday worship. It wasn't our norm, it wasn't anything we expected, but it was for us a meet and right Divine Service. The diversity in Anglican worship continues to please and astonish us.

Do you have any opinions about sprint liturgies? For you or not for you? Please write and tell us.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

17 August 2014


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