Descriptive Liturgies, the Humorous Side

Every church has its liturgy. Individual churches who define themselves as spontaneous, spirit-led, or non-hierarchical take exception to this statement. At least that has been my experience when working with them. But their worship services follow a weekly pattern despite nonetheless. What differences arise are variations on or deviations from a theme.

The real difference is the degree to which a church's liturgy is prescriptive or descriptive. What we tend to think of liturgy is actually a predominantly prescriptive liturgy. These are the so-called "high" churches. Building for descriptive and prescriptive liturgies require different methods for determining their requirements, but the principles of translating those requirements into material expressions are parallel.

Nor should we rely to heavily on a binary distinction, as imposed when the unfortunate "liturgical / non-liturgical" distinction is used. Projects for churches with descriptive liturgies provide a perfect occasion for a community to re-assess their worship and make changes in conjunction with relevant spatial transformations. Such changes are mutually reinforcing even when only indirectly linked. And even in the high churches, local variations introduce a degree of descriptive elements which should not be overlooked.

I grew up in a church with an almost entirely descriptive liturgy. And I distinctly remember being chastised as a child for sitting when I should have been standing (I was a terribly introspective youth) or for the relative enthusiasm expressed during worship. So I have never doubted the power of the unwritten descriptive ritual rubric.

These reflections come courtesy of a humorous attempt at writing the descriptive rubric for non-denominational praise & worship. This image has been circulating the social networks recently and seems to have originated late last year (2011). Definitely a case of "it's funny because it's true."

This is the work of Tim Hawkins, and there is a (slightly less funny) video of his stand-up performance of the same idea. You can support the effort / wear the image if you are so inclined.