Lay Anglicana, the unofficial voice of the laity throughout the Anglican Communion.
This is the place to share news and views from the pews.

Get involved ...

Category - "Worship":

O Emmanuel: the Seventh Advent Antiphon – 23 December


O Emmanuel


O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.


O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.


I recommend today’s blog post by ‘Godzdogz, the English Dominican Studentate’:

Emmanuel means “God is with us”, and with the birth of the Saviour, this beautiful idea becomes reality in a way beyond compare. Whilst it is true that God has always been with us, the Incarnation radically changed His manner of being “with us.” The most sacred item for the people of the Old Testament was the Ark of the Covenant, but from the moment of the Incarnation, when the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Ark of the New Covenant) she held within her womb the Word of God in the flesh.
So as we near the end of Advent, the prophecy of Isaiah (7:14) nears its fulfilment:

The maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Emmanuel,
a name which means “God-is-with-us”

Let us leave the last word on this occasion to the Society of Saint John the Evangelist Brothers, who offer a series of videos which teach about the ancient, ever new O Antiphons. In this video Br. Geoffrey Tristram reflects on seventh O Antiphon – O Emmanuel. Audio recorded in the Monastery Chapel, Cambridge, Mass. (published on 20 Dec 2013).

O Oriens: the Fifth Advent Antiphon – 21 December


O Oriens


O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.


O light of the East,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.


Isaiah had prophesied:

  • “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.” Isaiah 9:2

Also compare Isaiah 60:1-2 and Malachi 4:2

The Advent Antiphons are based on a series of metaphors for Christ. There is something almost primeval, for anyone living in the western quadrant of the northern hemisphere (i.e. those for whom Bethlehem is the east) in looking towards the rising sun as the source of our light, and strength, and hope. This goes beyond Christianity – Shakespeare has Romeo saying: What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. The audience immediately grasps, and is in tune with, his feelings. So the Christmas story grafts on to this very human sentiment the birth of Christ, and our star, shining in the east.  There is another sense in which the imagery for today is pre-Christian in the northern hemisphere – it is our shortest day, and the day on which we feel most keenly the desire for light.

Christ was not born on the shortest day – it is as if he waited for mankind to pull back from the brink, knowing that somehow, in the darkest of days, we must begin by trying to find the strength to be a source of light ourselves. And then he comes, as a lamp unto our  feet, and a light unto our path.

C S Lewis has Aslan also wait to appear until just beyond the point at which the children are most afraid and in need of him- There are numerous examples of this, but the Battle of Beruna is one of the most successfully translated to film:


O Clavis David: The Fourth O Antiphon – 20 December

st peters jesse6 baxter

O Clavis David


O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.


O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Isaiah had prophesied:

  • “I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open.” Isaiah 22:22
  • “His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore.” Isaiah 9:7
  • “…To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.”Isaiah 42:7.


Googling ‘the key of David’, as I did before finalising this post, leads to some interesting – and to me curious – results. In this context, you may like to read the following:

Question: “What is the Key of David?”

Answer: The Key of David is a term found in Revelation and Isaiah. A key indicates control or authority; therefore, having the Key of David would give one control of David’s domain, i.e., Jerusalem, the City of David, and the kingdom of Israel. The fact that, in Revelation 3:7, Jesus holds this key shows that He is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, the ruler of the New Jerusalem, and the Lord of the kingdom of heaven. However, the passage in Revelation has been used inappropriately by a number of cults that ultimately descend from the Christian Identity Movement via Armstrongism. The Philadelphia Church of God, a splinter group from the Worldwide Church of God, produces a television program called Key of David.

Scriptural Usage
The Key of David is most directly referenced in Revelation 3:7, “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: these are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David.” The Old Testament reference is Isaiah 22:22. There, the prophet tells the palace secretary Shebna that he will be replaced by Eliakim, for God “will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David” (Isaiah 22:22). The one who holds the keys has the authority. Thus, the “key of David” implies control of David’s domain, which was promised to the Messiah in both the Old and New Testaments (Isaiah 9:7; Luke 1:32).

Cultic Usage
The television show called Key of David is hosted by Gerald Flurry, the author of a book of the same name. Flurry is founder and pastor of the Philadelphia Church of God. His interpretations of Scripture include the twisting of many biblical prophecies and a reading of many other passages as being secretly prophetic. Flurry has a special interest in Revelation 3:7-13, the letter to the church at Philadelphia (the ancient city located in modern-day Turkey). Flurry claims that the “key of David” held by Christ is “the profound understanding he wants all of us to have” (Key of David, p. 10) which will lead to special “positions of authority” (p. 11) in the New Jerusalem. Flurry claims that the letter is a vision of what Christians of our time are to do, but that “only a small percentage” (p. 8) will understand this great vision, qualify to receive the special authority, and share the throne of David with Jesus.

I suppose the obvious point is that  ‘A key indicates control or authority’. St Peter carries the key of the Christian Church forward on earth after the death of Christ; popes and bishops have keys in their coats of arms or symbols. But for me what resonates in the image of Christ wielding the key of David is the verse from Isaiah: to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. (42.7). We are like the Hebrew slaves in Verdi’a Nabucco, wandering around in a desultory, almost zombie-like fashion until the coming of the Messiah sets us free and brings us into the light:
Here is  Va Pensiero:

Translation in English
Va, pensiero, sull’ali dorate;
va, ti posa sui clivi, sui colli,
ove olezzano tepide e molli
l’aure dolci del suolo natal!Del Giordano le rive saluta,
di Sionne le torri atterrate…
O, mia patria, sì bella e perduta!
O, membranza, sì cara e fatal!Arpa d’or dei fatidici vati,
perché muta dal salice pendi?
Le memorie nel petto raccendi,
ci favella del tempo che fu!O simile di Sòlima ai fati
traggi un suono di crudo lamento,
o t’ispiri il Signore un concento
che ne infonda al patire virtù.
Fly, thought, on wings of gold;
go settle upon the slopes and the hills,
where, soft and mild, the sweet airs
of our native land smell fragrant!Greet the banks of the Jordan
and Zion’s toppled towers…
Oh, my country, so beautiful and lost!
Oh, remembrance, so dear and so fatal!Golden harp of the prophetic seers,
why dost thou hang mute upon the willow?
Rekindle our bosom’s memories,
and speak to us of times gone by!Mindful of the fate of Jerusalem,
give forth a sound of crude lamentation,
or may the Lord inspire you a harmony of voices
which may instill virtue to suffering.

O Radix Jesse: the Third Advent Antiphon – 19 December



If you do not already know it, do visit the Oremus (‘Let Us Pray’) website at I subscribe to their daily email of Anglican liturgy, about which they say:

oremus is a form of daily prayer which is distributed each day via email at 1700 GMT (either 12 noon or 1 pm Eastern Time).
It is also available on this site at
To join the email distribution list, visit the list administration page.

This post is a shortened version of today’s email, with my insertion of sung versions of the hymns and chants



OREMUS for December 19: O Radix Jesse

Blessed are you, God of mercy and might! You sent your Son, the Word born in silence, to be born as the majestic fruit of Jesse’s stem, standing as a sign to the people of Israel, and King before whom all kings shall shut their mouths and whom all nations shall seek.

For these and all your mercies, we praise you: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Blessed be God for ever!

A Tender Shoot

Music by:
Otto Goldschmidt (1829-1907)

A tender shoot hath started
Up from a root of grace,
As ancient seers imparted,
From Jesse’s holy race,
It blooms without blight,
Blooms in the cold bleak winter
Turning darkness into light.

This shoot Isaiah taught us
From Jesse’s root should spring,
The Virgin Mary brought us
The branch of which we sing,
Our God of endless might,
Gave her this child to save us
Thus turning darkness into light.

Words anonymous 16th century
Tr. William Bartholomew (1793–1867)

FIRST READING [Isaiah 53:7-12]:
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away.  Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.  Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.


HYMN: Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen

Words: tanzas 1-2: German, fifteenth century carol; trans. Theodore Baker, 1894.

stanzas 3-4: Friedrich Layritz (1808-1859); trans. Harriet Reynolds Krauth (1845-1925).


Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung! of Jesse’s lineage coming, as those of old have sung. It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter, when half spent was the night.  Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind; with Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind. To show God’s love aright, she bore to us a Savior, when half spent was the night.  The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright, how Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night. To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger they found him, as angel heralds said.  This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere; true man, yet very God, from sin and death he saves us, and lightens every load.


SECOND READING [2 Peter 1.162.3]:
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.  So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.  But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought thembringing swift destruction on themselves. Even so, many will follow their licentious ways, and because of these teachers the way of truth will be maligned. And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced against them long ago, has not been idle, and their destruction is not asleep.



As we look forward to your coming, we call to mind our sins.


The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class:

Father forgive.


The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own:

Father forgive.


The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth:

Father forgive.


Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others:

Father forgive.


Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless and the refugee:

Father forgive.


The lust which dishonors the bodies of men, women and children:

Father forgive.


The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God:

Father forgive.


O Root of Jesse,

master of the universe and ruler of the house of Israel, your mighty acts have rescued remnants of your people from the midst of slavery, exile, war, and holocaust:

Raise your scepter over us, that your saving rule may be extended to all people in all places, for the sake of him whom we know as Lord of all, even Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

Awaiting his coming in glory, let us pray as our Savior has taught us:


– The Lord’s Prayer –


[Music may be found here ]


O come, thou Branch of Jesse’s tree,

free them from Satan’s tyranny

that trust thy mighty power to save,

and give them victory o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

shall come to thee, O Israel!



The psalms are from _Celebrating Common Prayer_ (Mowbray), (c) The Society of Saint Francis 1992, which is used with permission.

The biblical passage is from The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright (c) 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of  the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


O Adonai: the Second Antiphon- a miscellany of responses


O Lord and Ruler of the House of Israel

First, the Latin text and the English translation:

O Adonai

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

These antiphons address Christ with seven magnificent Messianic titles, based on the Old Testament prophecies and [attributes] of Christ. The Church recalls the variety of the ills of man before the coming of the Redeemer…Before the coming of God in the flesh, we were ignorant, subject to eternal punishment, slaves of the Devil, shackled with our sinful habits, lost in darkness, exiled from our true country. Hence the ancient antiphons announce Jesus in turn as our Teacher, our Redeemer, our Liberator, our Guide, our Enlightener and our Saviour.

The Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine, trans. Ryan and Ripperger, 1941

 The antiphons beg God with mounting impatience to come and save His people. The order of the antiphons climb climactically through our history of Redemption…In the first, O Sapientia, we take a backward flight into the recesses of eternity to address Wisdom, the Word of God. In the second, O Adonai, we have leaped from eternity to the time of Moses and the Law of Moses (about 1400 B.C.).

Jeanne Kun comments:

“Adonai” is Hebrew for “my Lord”, and was substituted by devout Jews for the name “Yahweh”, out of reverence.  With this second antiphon we progress from creation to the familiar story of God manifesting himself by name to Moses and giving his law to Israel as their way of life.  We are also reminded of the Israelites’ deliverance from bondage under pharaoh – a foreshadowing of our own redemption from sin.  The image of God’s arm outstretched in power to save his chosen people also brings to mind the later scene of Jesus with his arms outstretched for us on the cross.

The poet and composer, the Revd Malcolm Guite, has written a sequence of sonnets on the antiphons.
O Adonai begins:

Unsayable, you chose to speak one tongue,
Unseeable, you gave yourself away,
The Adonai, the Tetragramaton
Grew by a wayside in the light of day….

Ann Lewin, in her Come Emmanuel:

It was the Exodus that God gave as his reason for giving his people the laws that would guide their lives…God’s relationship with his people was a covenanted relationship, a relationship in which both parties pledged faithfulness to each another, that made demands on the people in return for God’s faithful care.

Our Digital Nun, at iBenedictines blog, concludes our piece with:

…Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush makes one tremble. God’s holiness flaming out from an insignificant shrub is a thought to strike awe; but the thought of not seeing it, of mistaking his presence, is more terrible still. I suspect many of us would admit that there have been times in our lives when God was there but we didn’t register his presence. We were too caught up in other things. We ignored the hand he stretched out to us….


O Sapientia: the First Antiphon: Ann Lewin


 Some of the words we are given to ponder during [Advent] are found in the Advent Antiphons, meditations on verses of Scripture that were sung in turn from at least the fourth century, before and after the Magnificat at Vespers, the monastic equivalent of Evensong, on the seven days leading up to Christmas. By the twelfth century, five of these had been put together into a Latin hymn, translated into English in the nineteenth century by John Mason Neale. They form the basis of the hymn O come, O come Emmanuel. The first of the Antiphons survives by name in modern Lectionaries, where 17 December is named O Sapientia.

O Sapientia (O Wisdom)

O Wisdom, coming forth from the Most High, filling of creation and reigning to the ends of the earth: come and teach us the way of truth.

Isaiah 1 1:2-3; Wisdom 7:24-28; Ecclesiasticus 1:1-20

…Wisdom isn’t a commodity, a package we can get off the shelf. It is described as a way, a disposition. It is also personified as a companion who influences us so profoundly that we become wise in our turn…Like many of God’s gifts, we receive it in part from other human beings. Some wisdom we inherit from the past, timeless wisdom that has stood the test, always true…

Other kinds of wisdom we realise have to be challenged. We sometimes talk about ‘received wisdom’, and when we do, we are usually expressing some doubt about what seemed to be true at one time, but doesn’t sit easily with our understanding now. For example, it used to be thought perfectly acceptable to enslave people. But then came people who challenged that concept, and established a wiser approach to treating people from other cultures and races.

We need to draw on the wisdom of previous generations, and apply it in the light of contemporary understanding of what it is to be human. That is what Jesus kept on doing. The Gospels record him telling stories that illustrated people’s lives and relationships. Sometimes he said,’Go and do the same’ (Luke 10.25-37). At other times, he said ‘Think, see what conclusions you draw’ (Matthew 6:26-34). At yet other times he said ‘that old idea won’t do. You have heard it said ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy’, but I say to you ‘Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you’ (Matthew 5:17-48).

…Biblical wisdom revolves around the idea that we need to live our lives in awareness of God, accountable to God, in a context of reverent worship. That comes about when we decide that our priority is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Jesus did that, and it showed in the way he paid attention to God in prayer and public worship, in the way he treated people with profound respect, and the way he recognised God’s faithful love in sustaining the whole creation.

That is not a bad description of how we too can begin to live in the fear of God, and grow in wisdom, as we live in growing awareness of God, rooting that awareness in prayer, which is the heartbeat of our relationship with God.

This extract is taken from ‘Come Emmanuel: Approaching Advent, living with Christmas‘ by Ann Lewin


‘Jesus and Life in the Hoodie’: Miriam Oliver aka Mimsie

Rabadashass from the Narnia books by C S Lewis

Rabadashass from the Narnia books by C S Lewis

If you do not already know her,  I would like to introduce you to Mimsie. She blogs as Rabadash The Ridiculous and, though she is clearly unwilling to take herself too seriously, she takes the Church very seriously indeed and has written a thought provoking piece on young people and the Church. I reproduce, with her permission, the first of the half of the post below, and urge you to follow the link to read the whole piece here: She tweets as @midiclorian

Young people and church

How often do we see young people in our rural churches?  Has anyone asked the question – where are our young people on a Sunday morning?  While we’re engaging with children in our family services, our adults and seniors in the standard Eucharist services, there is a very definite gap in our congregations that is left by the absence of teenagers.  This is probably an age-old conundrum but I’d like to raise the question again and perhaps make some suggestions (again – this may not be news to us but it’s always worth revisiting).  You may have seen a few of the youth group members during Eucharist services on previous occasions.  When we’re asked to help it normally involves us doing something that would ordinarily involve an adult such as a reading, leading the intercessions.  I would like to ask a question.  By including the young people in a traditional service whose structure and content many of them aren’t familiar with, singing hymns written a hundred years ago or more and generally conforming to a liturgy that is somewhat alien to the teenage newcomer, do we genuinely believe that we are actually catering to their spiritual needs?  The proof may be seen in the fact that, aside from the odd occasion when we are invited to participate in a service, teenagers are generally absent from our churches.

My leaders and I decided to address this at Youth one week.  We did an activity where they were asked how they perceive the church.  This involved having a list of 9 descriptions and a blank piece of paper where they could add to the list.  The following were the descriptors:

  1. A beacon for the community – demonstrating people who are salt and light of the world
  2. The Sacraments – the altar, the bread, the wine, liturgy and hymns
  3. A refuge – shelter in the storm of change where like-minded people feel safe
  4. A heritage site – a place where historic and significant virtues of a past culture can be celebrated and preserved
  5. A health centre – where people go to stay healthy and where they gain what they need to continue to live productive lives in the community
  6. A nursing home – a place to which people turn to see out their days, or for respite in an atmosphere of love and care
  7. A place of education – to learn about God, the Gospel and how to live a life that Jesus would want
  8. A gathering of people – a fellowship of mutual care and encouragement: an open place that welcomes people of all ages, ethnicity, sexuality, etc.
  9. The means by which a group of people can meet the needs of communities near and far through fundraising and social action.

Next to each description was a saucer.  They were then given 10 marbles of the same colour and had to vote on which descriptions most accurately reflected their perception of the church as it is today.  They could put all marbles in one or distribute them around several, or put one in each saucer.  Most of them saw church as a refuge (3), a heritage site (4) and a place where you learn about God (7).  We asked if it appealed to them as it stands.  They indicated that they liked parts of it but not all of it.  So we asked them to suggest how they would like church to be – and using a different coloured set of marbles each had to vote with their 10 again.  At the end of the exercise the marbles were counted.  The overwhelming response was for it to be a gathering of people of all ages, backgrounds, gender, race and sexuality (8).  Furthermore they said they wanted a safe space where they could explore their doubts without fear, and a quiet place where they could reflect on the week (a combination of 3 and some of their own ideas).  The fact of the matter is that they do not perceive the church today to be a place they want to attend.  Many even stated that they believe that what we do at Youth is their “church” because it is their safe space where they can just ‘be’.  It was quite flattering for us leaders, but we were anxious for them to experience something a little closer to what they wanted church to be; for them to create it, lead it and participate in.

Youth vote using marbles on what church is

Youth vote using marbles on what church is

Something I discussed during my Authorised Lay Ministry training was about noise and ‘visual’ noise and how this affects the way young people approach the world.  In this world we are surrounded by noise, images and ‘stuff’ all day, every day, and young people in particular experience this perhaps more than most.  They also live with a lot of expectation from school, peers, parents, and tv etc.  And so my question is: do we, as a church, also put on them expectations of conformity to a way of doing things and ‘being’ that may not appeal?  Is it any wonder that the kind of church that appeals to them is one that gives them the freedom to explore things on their terms without fear of rejection?  Is it any wonder that amid a busy, noisy world they crave a sacred space that gives them time to reflect?  The experiment was fascinating to observe, and was very thought-provoking for us as youth leaders, as was the open mic night that occurred as a result of the experiment.  I know that Church as a refuge already exists, and one clergy, in a sermon recently, used the metaphor of an oasis in the wilderness – but how much of what we do meets the needs of a select group of people rather than appealing to a generation whose need for a sacred space often takes them elsewhere rather than the one established place they should be able to find it – i.e. our Sunday morning services?

Underneath the hoodie lurks a passionate, loving soul who wants to be loved and appreciated for who they are and where they’re at in the journey.  So stop trying to bring them into the framework of a traditional church setup that is often alien and uninviting to them and let them discover a loving God through building a bridge to them.  This may mean rethinking what we believe “church” is – when it happens, what it looks like, how we play a part in it.  Let’s start with reminding ourselves that Christ calls it His “Bride” and go from there.  It begins with love and compassion.

‘Reading The Psalms As Poetry’: Alexander Ryrie


An image of Psalm 23 (King James’ Version), frontispiece to the 1880 omnibus printing of The Sunday at Home via Wikimedia

Today’s reading is taken from ‘Deliver Us From Evil: Reading the Psalms as Poetry’ by Alexander Ryrie  published by Darton, Longman and Todd in 2005.

The Psalms as Poetry

The Psalms of the Old Testament have been a spiritual resource for people of different religious traditions for thousands of years. During this time, methods of interpreting them have kept changing…Although it has always been known that the Psalms were written in poetic form, their special character as poetry has in the past often been overlooked. They have been read, and sometimes printed in translation, as if they were simply prose….seeing them as poetry enables us to understand them in a fresh way and to find in them new, and perhaps deeper, forms of truth…Cecil Day Lewis speaks of a poetic truth which ‘is not, like a scientific truth, verifiable’, but which operates upon us to bring about a ‘furtherance of life…The truth is the passion’…

Poetry is not simply a matter of form. To qualify as poetry, a piece of writing must possess not only formal features but also certain qualities which it is less easy to define…These include…loftiness of thought, the expression of sentiments which are not trivial…mundane or banal, but serious, imaginative, potentially inspiring and above the level of our common thoughts. Along with this goes intensity of emotion…Both these qualities are found in large measure in the Psalms… But…there are two other distinctive qualities…which are important for the interpretation of the Psalms. One is a certain ambiguity of meaning which leaves words or phrases open to different interpretations…In these ways the psalmists…leave scope for readers to exercise their own imagination in interpreting it.

The other significant characteristic of the poetry of the Psalms is its use of imagery. The Psalms are particularly rich in…metaphors and similes, some of which have too often been understood in an excessively prosaic and literal fashion. Imagery is not simply a stylistic device, but a means of…pointing to deeper truths than can be stated in non-figurative language.

Addressing God

The very large majority of the psalms are addressed, in whole or in part, to God…the Psalms give powerful expression to a great variety of human feelings and thoughts, and so have provided a vehicle by which people throughout the ages have presented their own thoughts and needs to him. Whereas scripture as a whole is often thought to be a means by which God speaks to us, in the psalms it is human beings who speak to God. Thus, [they]…speak for us rather than to us…They give unique expression to some fundamental aspects of the human relationship with God which could not be expressed in any other way….What cannot be comprehended by human reason can in some measure by pictured by the imagination, described in images, understood by the heart and wrestled with in prayer.

Poetic Truth

Reading the psalms as poetic texts requires a more explicit acknowledgement than is sometimes made that one is offering a subjective interpretation, which brings together the words of the psalms and the viewpoint and life situation of the reader. There is no escape from this, and no apology for it is required….

A Mystery

Psalms use a great variety of images to point to evil as a suprahuman power, hostile towards God and humans, which, in spite of God’s victory and supreme power, continues to act with stealth and seduction to entice people into wicked deeds and thoughts, to separate the world and its people from God and draw them down to the realm of death and God-forsakenness. These images point beyond themselves to something transcendent, to a mystery which cannot be explained by processes of thought, or expounded in rational prose. Confronted by this mystery, the psalmists can do nothing but cry out to God to be present and deliver them. And perhaps it was the very vehemence and urgency of this cry that provides a clue to the question of the proper human response to evil, and to the nature of deliverance….

Securing God’s Protection

The concern of the psalmists, as of most of the other biblical writers, was ‘not to explain [evil] away but to call upon God to blast it away’. Evil was a mysterious, inexplicable and unavoidable reality, finding expression in many forms but describable only through image and myth. The only answer to evil was the presence of God, and the only way to be delivered from evil was to cry out to him, and to seek that presence with their whole heart….

The Individual and the Community

In addressing God in this way, [the psalmists] not only brought themselves into God’s presence, but also engaged with God in a relationship in which both individuals and members of the community could find their true selves as persons, and know themselves to be held and bound and kept by God.

Deliver 001I must apologise to the author of this book, Alexander Ryrie, for this rapid run through his fascinating book. The first extract above is to be found on the first page, and the last extract is on the last page. In between are 135 pages (followed by endnotes etc).  But my justification for doing this is to whet your appetite for a longer read, and to highlight some of Ryrie’s points.

Although I realise that this book was not written in any connection with those who offer public intercessions, I did find much to value in it in this context. To some extent, we are latter-day psalmists, as we pray on behalf of the community but speaking from our own perspective. This book also encourages me in my instinct that these prayers should be ‘not trivial…mundane or banal, but serious, imaginative, potentially inspiring and above the level of our common thoughts‘, as he says. Easy to say, possibly harder to achieve, but a goal to be aimed at nevertheless?

‘Spoken Worship’ by Gerard Kelly

Spoken Worship 001

Serendipity is a wonderful thing – a chain of events can lead to real insight. In this case, I saw a remark by Simon Sutcliffe on twitter, asked him to blog about it, which Rachel Parkinson commented on in an interesting way, so I asked her to blog as well; she referred to this book and made it sound interesting, I got a copy and I am captivated and given new nourishment for the journey. It was published in 2007, so you probably already have your own copies but if not I urge you to buy it. You can read a great deal of the book here and at £5.20 for the paperback  (£4.49 Kindle) it will not break the bank. The one review says it is aimed at Evangelicals but I am no Evangelical and I find it inspiring. Thank-you Rachel, for the signpost.


Spoken worship is about the power of the spoken word to illumine human experience in the place where it matters most: connection to our creator. For centuries Christian worshippers from formal hymn-singing traditionalists to chandelier-swinging charismatics have set words to music to enhance the worship experience. In gatherings large and small, in great halls and home groups, in the shower before breakfast and in the car on the way to work, we sing our praises to God. But in doing so, have we forgotten the power of words spoken.

…I have discovered that the spoken word has a power of a different order of magnitude from the power of a word set to music. I have found that there is a special additional something, a deepening of the impact, when words are spoken into the holy space that is worship…I believe there is vast potential for God’s people to rediscover the power of the spoken word as a vital element in worship… in essence, spoken worship is poetry written for the context of Christian worship. It is the writing whose ultimate goal is not so much literary as devotional, writing aimed unashamedly at provoking and prodding the human heart to wonder before its maker. Like many other forms of poetry, it is writing that has a life on the page but whose real life emerges only in performance: writing designed to be clothed in the human voice…

This is the calling, I believe, of the worship poet: to love words, and in words to carry love. Whatever else worship is, it is a language of the human heart. It speaks of deep longings, of love deeply felt, of ultimate concerns…It is poetry of the soul, reaching out to the soul’s greatest lover.

Performance Note on Pages 18-19

Worship is by definition a shared experience: it is the response of a community to God its creator. Even when she worships alone, the worshipper stands in radical solidarity with the family of God through space and time. She is, as Wordsworth noted, ‘never less alone than when alone’. Worship is not a private, obscure, barely intelligible transaction between a God lost in the clouds and a seeker lost in confusion; it is an expression born in belonging, a shared articulation of the human touching the divine. Spoken worship, then, cannot afford to be written in a private code: it does not dare to be obscure. It must, rather, touch the depth of the meaning of worship in such a way that those who hear it, or read it, or themselves speak it out, are drawn into the experience. It may be a secret garden into which the traveller has never before strayed, but it must be a garden whose blooms, once found, are recognised as such…

This does not mean that spoken worship must be bland – that it must speak in the language of a menu at McDonald’s. To be accessible and intelligible is not, by definition, to be shallow, and unless spoken worship is in some way deep – unless it goes somewhere that those engaging in it would not otherwise go – it has nothing to offer. It must live in the tension between obscurity and banality, between indecipherable depth and unpalatable shallowness…Its goal is resonance, that beautiful moment of connection when a worshipper can say, ‘I feel this too, I just didn’t know how to say it’.

…It follows, then, that the gift most essential to the creation of spoken worship is the gift of empathy, and time and energy invested in this gift will be richly rewarded when it comes to both the composition and the delivery of spoken worship. Without this gift, the most finely crafted piece will have no power; with it even a few stuttered and stumbling words can play their part. Before even putting pen to paper or stepping up to a mike, an indispensable principle must be embraced: learn to listen, and listen to learn. This is the craft of the worship poet. Spoken worship is a mirror held up to those who seek God. As well as polishing the words and their delivery, there is  much to be said for polishing the mirror.”


Gerard Kelly

Senior Pastor, Crossroads International Church, Amsterdam



“Extroverts and Introverts in the Church”: Jo Amey

Will you help Jo Amey by filling in her survey on whether our personality types affect our choice of worship style?

About me

My name is Jo and since 2007 I have been on the Foundation Degree in Ministry offered by Oxford Brookes University through the Diocese of Salisbury’s Learning for Discipleship Programme.

Extroverts and Introverts in church

For my final project I am analysing whether our personality types affect our choice of worship style.  Are charismatic churches full of bubbly extroverts?  Are introverts sitting silently in the back pews at Evensong?   Are these just stereotypes?

There are many things that baffle me about church.  Even after being a Christian for thirty years, or especially after being a Christian for thirty years.  One of them is the different approaches people have to worshipping the same God we all seek to follow faithfully.

Have you ever sat at the back of a charismatic meeting wondering why everyone else is wildly jumping and shouting and keeling over to the glory of God?  Have you ever sat in the third pew from the back in an Anglo-Catholic Eucharist wondering why people are carrying candles about, bowing in odd places and then worrying about the right time to stand, sit and turn around?   I have.

During my time on the Learning for Discipleship course I have met people from many different strands of Anglicanism which differed from my own experience.  I found that one of the deepest areas of mutual non-comprehension was that of worship style.    It started to interest me.

One of my fellow students remarked  ‘I went to a service at the Church of ….  I would never have known I was in an Anglican church at all!’   As I know that the style of this church is close to my own,  I was astounded to discover that there were people, quite normal people apparently, who regarded my own familiar worship experience as something  odd and  not typical.

I also became interested in personality types, especially after reading ‘Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture’ by Adam S McHugh.   He questions how much of our church experience is based around culture rather than the kingdom of God.  As a minister in the USA his church culture may differ from ours in the UK but he still raises some pertinent questions.

He challenges the assumption that extroversion automatically a valuable characteristic in a minister and that introversion is a handicap to be overcome.

So I thought it would perhaps be a fruitful area of study to see if introverts and extroverts differ in their choice of worship.  After all it could explain a lot … Are those frenetically  exuberant charismatics all expressive extroverts?   Are introverts sneaking into the back pew at Cathedral Evensong and slipping away before the end of the service so they don’t have to socialise? Are these just unhelpful and extreme stereotypes?

I have devised a cunning plan to help me find out in the form of a short survey.  The more people who take part, the more chance I have of finding out if there is a bias or if I’m barking up the wrong tree.  But I’m hoping it will add to our understanding of each other in some small way at least.

After all, one day the wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard with the kid, the introvert with the extrovert  …

What I would like you to do

Please complete the survey (powered by Survey Monkey)  here .

Your personal contact details are not collected. You don’t have to download a programme. There are ten questions which you can answer as briefly or expansively as you like.

Your comments may be quoted in the final assignment but I won’t know who said them. If you don’t want this to happen, then add ‘DNQ’ to your comment.

Ways We Worship: online presence

You may also like to have a look at my blog, ‘Ways We Worship’ or my Facebook page Ways We Worship.

We rely on donations to keep this website running.