Category: Liturgy


When it came time to pray, the Stars and Stripes stood limp in the back, left-hand corner of the room, out of sight.

Up front was the processional cross, the center of our attention and standard of the hour. I had to crane my neck nearly one hundred and eighty degrees to spy Old Glory. I didn’t feel sorry for her, though. I knew that before the day was over, she would receive her due–and then some. But at that moment, she was merely an invited guest, one among many.

That was the scene as we prepared for common prayer yesterday at Nativity Episcopal Church in Huntsville.… Read the rest

Dust In The Wind

I close my eyes
Only for a moment and the moment’s gone
All my dreams
Pass before my eyes a curiosity

Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind.

“Dust in the Wind,” Kansas, 1977

Ash Wednesday always makes me think of dust (that’s the point, after all). And I can’t think of dust without thinking of Bobby.

Bobby was one of my best friends at church growing up. He, David and I were either The Three Musketeers or The Three Stooges, depending on who you asked. We often hung out on the elevated front porch of the Roanoke Church of Christ overlooking Brandon Avenue near the “Established in 33 AD” sign.… Read the rest

A Church of Christer’s Guide To Communion At An Episcopal Church

Recently a Church of Christ friend of mine wrote to me and said that he was considering attending an Episcopal Church Christmas Eve service and that he was a little intimidated by the prospect of having to walk forward and take communion. Could I help out?

Oh yes. Yes I can. Glad you asked.

First off, let me say this: Dude’s got guts. Most Church of Christers I know have never even set foot inside another church except for weddings and funerals. Some may have been taught that “they’re it” and if there’s nobody else out there, why bother? Or even if they don’t believe that, they still feel as if they might be betraying their parents or now deceased relatives by even associating with other “religious people” Christians in an actual spiritual context, as opposed to something more secular and therefore safer like, say, a NASCAR race at Talledega or a football game in Tuscaloosa.… Read the rest

Waiting on the Crumbs From Steve Jobs’ Table

I had a Close Encounter of the Creepy Kind with my iPhone this week. This has caused me to pause and reflect on our relationship with all our bright and shiny electronic doodads.

It happened last Sunday as Eyegal and I attended early service at a local Episcopal parish, as is our habit from time to time. It was the First Sunday in Lent (Note to my Baptist and Church of Christ friends: Lent is a 40-day period of repentance preceding Easter. It is part of the church calendar, which is actually pretty official and has been around a long, long time–like, several centuries before the founding of the United States–and has more on it besides the date of the Ladies Retreat and the next church-wide potluck.… Read the rest

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”

–Genesis 3:19

and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7

The first time I remember hearing the phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” was when Princess died.

Princess was a pet cat, circa 1968-approx. 1971. I don’t remember that much about her other than she was gray, and I don’t recall having a particular fondness for her, although I’m sure I liked her well enough.… Read the rest

A “Thin Place”–Right Hand Side, Two Thirds Of The Way Back

“Our pew” is on the right hand side, two thirds of the way back. That’s where we always sit when we attend Christmas Eve services at our second church home, Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Huntsville. I’ve written of our experiences there before, and as longtime readers know, that’s our refuge where we occasionally go in order to escape the tyranny of the modern (e.g. PowerPoint!) and surrender instead to the power and holy mysteries of the liturgy.

Picture in your mind the quintessential Christmas Eve setting: an old, storied building topped with a 150 foot Gothic Revival spire reaching toward the heavens, the nave bathed in soft candle light and bedecked with festive, seasonal greenery, a 12-foot Christmas tree near the front, beckoning with a thousand starry lights.… Read the rest

Hey Lionsgate–I’m Watching You

I promised that I would follow the story that I reported the other day about Lionsgate Picture’s apparent use of Ginny Owens’ “Be Thou My Vision” on the trailer for the upcoming release of Saw V.

This message was just posted on her website:

Friends: Sometime during the afternoon of Friday, July 25th, my voice on “Be Thou My Vision” was replaced by another singer.

The track still sounds nearly identical, and most websites continue to “credit” me for it, but the background music for the Saw V trailer is no longer my original version of “Be Thou My Vision.”

Read the rest

You Can’t Keep A Good Song Down

“Be Thou My Vision,” that wonderful old Irish (we think) hymn, is one of my favorites. And if I have to explain to you why, then you haven’t been paying very close attention these past 3 years.

I’ve always considered sacred music, well, you know, sacred. So imagine my surprise to hear the strains of Ginny Owens’ hauntingly beautiful rendition of that hymn intermeshed with the trailer for the latest installment of the Saw series, Saw V.

We were waiting for the new X Files movie to start Friday night, and the misdirection totally threw me. I was thinking, hey this looks and sounds interesting.… Read the rest

The Old Shoes Never Fit So Fine

As long as you notice, and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be the one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

–C.S. Lewis

This is the Roanoke Church of Christ, the congregation where I grew up in the 1960s and 70s. As is our custom, we visited and worshiped there during our recent trip to Virginia.… Read the rest

Eat Your Heart Out Pepperdine Lectureship!


And that goes for you too, Tulsa Soul Winning Workshop!

Just try getting 48,000 Church of Christers together like these Catholics did for Mass yesterday in Washington DC without some sort of fight breaking out over worship music styles or women’s roles in the church.

Oh wait. Catholics argue about that stuff too. But I bet they didn’t yesterday–not with “Da Man” in town. And he even spoke in English–not Latin.

So, do Church of Christers have a de facto “Pope?” Full Professor Elrod and his shy and retiring chorus consider the question.

You’ve got to hand it to him.… Read the rest

An Interesting Turn of Events

Talk about an interesting turn of events.

Yesterday, Eyegal, Number One and I made our way down to our favorite beautiful old downtown church for a Lenten liturgy fix. I had not adhered very well to my promises this year, and I was eager to make amends. Lent, after all, is not merely the stuff that you must brush off your clothes.

The rain poured hard as the service started, and the sound of it pelting furiously against the roof lent an air of drama to the lectionary readings. The music soared, drawing us away from our selfish, petty concerns and upward and outward toward Higher and Holier Things.… Read the rest

I Am So There

There are two things that soothe my soul these days, three places where I find some much-needed grace and peace…

At a Barnes & Noble on a Friday afternoon, a cup of coffee in hand, perusing the recent releases and the latest bargin bin deals. My reward for a hard week’s work…

Near the end of a Saturday morning 10-mile run, when the endorphins hit my bloodstream with a mighty roar. Natural opiates–a gift from God…

Kneeling at the altar rail of an old, liturgical church, hearing the priest say, “The Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven; the Blood of Christ, the Cup of Salvation.”… Read the rest

Straight to the Soul

In keeping with my current theme of saying little and listening a lot, I will say this: This is what I’m listening to.

Some in my beloved Church of Christ tradition will ask this question: Yeah, but can you understand what they’re saying?

Answer: No, not really (save for a phrase or two now and then). But it doesn’t really matter. You see, there is more to God than print on a page, and there are some things that bypass the left brain and head straight to the soul.

Read the rest