Monday, May 24, 2010

Orthograph #88 - Liturgical Worship Leaders


November In My Soul said...

You clearly take no prisoners. Dead on as always. You certainly have a gift for this type of art/satire.

Fr. Sean Lotz said...

That's all very well and good, but if it weren't for us, the rest of you people couldn't be trusted to blow your noses to the glory of God.

[Can I say that?]

JD said...

Being received into the Church last Pentecost, I'm a little green. I need some amplification on this one please. Thanks

s-p said...

JD, clearly you haven't experienced a "Liturgist"... In every liturgical tradition there is someone who, as Fr. Sean notes, is basically responsible for the good order of the liturgy and making sure that things are done according to the daily rubrics, which can be very nuanced at times. Its not an easy job. I've been the head Reader and Subdeacon at our Church for a long time, and I'm responsible for putting together the outlines and informing the choir, other chanters and sometimes the priest of the daily rubric, and then making sure the service is followed correctly by everyone while it is being performed. I've been doing this for quite a while and I still blip now and then. While it takes someone who pays attention to details and needs to have some "leadership skills", it doesn't take a licensed psychologist to see the perfect fit of this "office" with an egomaniacal anal control freak personality. Over the years, I have worked out several good cues and ways of subtly steering things with our priest, chanters and choir when they go wrong so no one in the congregation notices that we made a correction. And there are judgment calls, some things are minor and you just let go and roll with it and get back on course after it is done then discuss it with the folks after the service. The goal is to do the service properly but in the process not disrupt the flow and peace of the service for the congregation. The "Liturgist" on the other hand, comes storming out of the altar or from the kliros, stops things dead and publicly corrects or humiliates the choir or chanters, loudly discusses the correction so everyone can hear him, or chants the "right stuff" loudly over everyone else until they stop and catch up with him or do it in the right tone, etc. Basically its not about "prayer" but more a display of ego at worse, or a lack of social skills and discernment at best.

Fr. Sean, As long as we're blowing our noses in the right tone, we're good :)

Moore said...

Sounds like the liturgist is the Orthodox version of what in some Anglican and Catholic churches call a Verger, kind of the MC of the service. They're super helpful when they're nice.

Fr. Sean Lotz said...

I have been called, a few times by a few people, "the liturgy monster." The funny thing is, I believe that those folk have never actually worked with the sort of person you are describing in this Orthograph. Sadly, I have; but blessedly, not too often. Actually, such real liturgy monsters have been teachers to me, since they taught me, by negative example, how not to think about and not to do liturgy. I have learned a lot about liturgy as authentic worship of God by seeing the well-meaning but misguided attempt to make it, not a graceful and spirit-filled dance, but a perfectly choreographed and legally correct performance.

And Moore: Although Vergers do often perform the job of liturgist, the actual function in Anglican churches is called "MC." The verger's main jobs, of course, are to poke people with his long stick, make sure the clergy can find their way from one end of the church to the other, and frighten away stray dogs and ill-behaved children (you think I jest, but I don't). The Eastern folk have no similar office in their churches, I believe, and we should pity them for that.

JD said...

So I guess in some instancces this person might actually be the priest.

Fr. Sean Lotz said...

There seems to be a matter of basic personality type involved in whether the priest is the fierce liturgist or not. Some have that personality, and are quite exact and strict of themselves and everybody else. At the other extreme, some seem almost not to care, as long as things get done with some reasonable degree of order. Most, of course, are at some healthy point in between these two extremes.

And I see that my bit about vergers was not as clear as it could have been. Yes, in churches with vergers, the verger generally does perform the office of MC. It's just that that is not the essence of the verger's job and it could, in theory, be performed by somebody else.

The history of the verger is kind of fun. Back when Europe was more barbaric and rough than it is now, and when processions typically wound through city streets, it was felt necessary to have somebody to clear away dogs and other animals, and to deal with street urchins. So the verger led the way, carrying a stick with a large ball at one end. He used this to deal with the livestock and pesky kids and whatnot. As Europe became more civilized, and when processions became confined more to the inside of the church, the verger became a bit more refined also (though I have known some few who are hardly models of advanced civilization, though they do clean up rather well when called upon). Now they carry their staff "upside down," with a tiny ball at the base and a larger cross at the other end. Most vergers can go years without having to whack a stray dog or errant Sunday School pupil.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately I don't have that problem in our parish.

During last Christmas season I volunteered to read the Hours prior to Liturgy. Father came up to me before I began and said "Hey read the Christmas canon instead". OK, cool.

Problem, the "Reader" and "Priest" designations were indicated in about .03 point font, so I blew right into "And unto thee we send up glory to the...."

Well, I was well into it, looked up to the altar, and Father just waved me off and went back to preparing for the liturgy while I completely stepped on his lines.

Kept the flow going, at least. "Stuff Happens", said an eminent philosopher.

He didn't say squat about it. Everybody who in any way gets involved in the liturgy: clergy, minor clergy, choir member, reader, they all blow it at some point. So what?

s-p said...

JD, Yes, sometimes it is the priest.
Fr. Sean, That's some really interesting history. Thanks for posting it!
Anon, Yup, everyone blows it, including the "Liturgist" sometimes. I would say 97% of the time the only people who know something got blown are those who are chanting or singing. If everyone just went on no one in the congregation would even know it. It is when the "leaders" react and call attention to the errors that people realize SOMETHING went wrong, but even then they don't have a clue what it was or why it was wrong. It is just a distraction at that point.

David B said...

"Liturgical Hiccups" are humbling, amusing (afterwards, in coffee hour), and necessary.

The longer I'm in the Church and the more services I attend, the more convinced I am that God is not at all impressed with anything that goes on in Orthodox (or anyone else's) liturgies.

Anonymous said...

I got my first taste of the politics of my jurisdiction when our priest was in the hospital and I was told to work up the service.

I had no idea what I was doing so I went online and tried to piece it together. Of course, Sunday morning I was told it was wrong; because we use a particular monasteries' publication of the rubric.

And we're "Tikons" not "Vladimirs" so to speak.

The funny thing is a week later (now working from the proper documents) I noticed the rubrics didn't agree with their own calendar they published.

Sort of makes you wonder.

I still haven't ever found a sensible outline of Matins to make it comprehensible to me. Or worse a full Vigil.

Just a long string of "this follows this, except when it doesn't and then you add this in or this".

Moo! said...

David, Yup, I think WE'RE more impressed with our worship than God is. :) Some of the funniest "blips" I've heard (and done) are unprintable in a PG blog. Those are the times you don't hesitate for a split second in order to not call attention to what you said and just keep going and hope people were attending to their logismoi instead of the prayers. I was talking with a priest last week who told the story of a priest who was prone to "spoonerisms" (reversing words) and he prayed "Thou, O Lord who was baptized in the John by Jordan".

NH, I'm starting a "reader's training class" and if I come up with something comprehensible I'll send it to you. I have a standard "cheat sheet" I make up for vigil and matins that is an outline of what is contained in the "rubrics book". The stuff that throws everyone who doesn't know the services is when it says, "and the rest as usual". It took me 5 years to figure out what "the usual" is... and then it is only usual if its not unusual for some reason. :)

Anonymous said...

The funny thing is a week later (now working from the proper documents) I noticed the rubrics didn't agree with their own calendar they published.

Our parish gets calendars every year from St. Tikhon's, and they send along little pocket calendars as freebies. There are just a few, so they get handed out to Parish Council members, etc., such as myself.

Imagine my joy to see that the pocket calendar had a little fish symbol on it every day of Lent.

Yet Another Anon said...

". . . and just keep going and hope people were attending to their logismoi instead of the prayers."

HAHAHAHA. Love that.
So HEY,in attending to my logismoi, I'm doing an important service for both the clergy and the faithful, helping to keep decent order in the liturgical services.

I can live with that. :)

I know a Spoonerism-prone priest. That can get amusing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks s-p, I'd love to see what you have.

One of the problems is that even while I stand with the choir nearly every service (the choir is me, Matuska and the Reader and occasionally the Deacon when he isn't serving and my daughter's Godmother) I can't make head's or tails of her notes.

Our Reader was just made a Deacon, so tonight I got my first taste of playing Reader for Vespers. I couldn't have done it if Matuska wouldn't have just handed me everything when I needed it. I'm no Reader, just a guy who reads.

margaret said...

Ahhhhhhh you have described every MC from my Anglican days, including me.

margaret said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chrys said...

Sorry for posting so late on this (long work week):

s-p said:
Over the years, I have worked out several good cues and ways of subtly steering things with our priest, chanters and choir when they go wrong so no one in the congregation notices that we made a correction.

All I could think of was the elaborate gestures employed by first & third base coaches.

As for that fine line between "attentive to detail" and "control freak" - it brings to mind a number of says, which I will mash together:
It is essential, but not sufficient, that we care to worship as well as we can. Even so, there's more to picking peas than bending over. If (per St. Seraphim and St. Paul), it does not acquire the Spirit and engender love, it profits us nothing.