Monthly Archives: July 2010

Liturgy at Simple Free: Does Liturgy lead to dead spirituality?

This question may seem ridiculous to some whose church has a formal liturgy at the core of the church gathering each week. But to ‘low church’ protestants (meaning they don’t have highly formalized practices or rituals (like liturgy, Lords supper each week, etc)) this is a pretty real question, because their traditions are generally rooted in a revolution against those formalized structures, and focused instead on a living less formal personal relationship to God oriented around personal study of the Bible and personal spontaneous prayer (prayers which are much more like a conversation, and certainly not something pre-written). To low-church protestants, the very idea of a prayer book where I use someone elses prayers seems inauthentic and somehow ‘dead’.

But liturgy technically means a prescribed means of worship. In that sense, almost any church has liturgy– it might be hymns or praise songs, it might be communal prayers or even a sermon (many Calvinists see the sermon as the height of worship– proclamation of God’s word) but all churches have a prescribed way to worship.

But again, usually when we talk about liturgy we really are talking about the kinds of group-spoken pre-set praises, prayers and confessions which are spoken together especially in churches like the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and even Lutheran churches. Most evangelical churches tend to be almost anti-liturgical, seeing it as mindless repetition of words and empty non authentic groupspeak instead of personal living relationship with God.

That is not a very kind, charitable or entirely truthful view of liturgy. Its like someone not used to praise songs going into an evangelical church and saying “well they put it up on the wall with a projector so everyone knows what to sing together, and I don’t think they even think about what they are singing.” The fact that we sing certain songs every week, or say certain creeds or prayers together every week, or say a similar prayer before every meal thanking God for our food does not mean that such things are meaningless.

Still, many evangelical churches feel that liturgy is a mindless ritual which does not authentically engage the individual in a personal relationship to God. It is often thought that people just mindlessly recite the formulas without understanding them. Part of this is historical, since a lot of free churches (free from state) were breaking away from spiritually dead churches where a lot of people did mindlessly recite the liturgy without understanding or necessarily believing it.

It seems strange to some that a church like Simple Free focused on simplicity would use a complicated formal structure like liturgy. But actually, using a set liturgy for each week makes our service very simple and there is no prep work necessary (no worship-team practice during the week, no sermon prep, no need to choose the passages, etc etc) And the other cool thing is that we, by using this liturgy, are using prayers and passages which the Church has been using in worship since the time of Christ. It is old-school and tried and true, and not based on the contemporary whims of a culture which gets bored constantly.

Some Christians who criticize liturgy don’t know what is in liturgy. Some may have come out of a dead church which used liturgy, but many never have experienced liturgy, and just go off of hearsay.

If the problem with liturgy is that people can recite it without truly understanding the theological and historical significance of what the liturgy says, then we could use the same argument to say that we should not sing songs in church, because people sometimes aren’t thinking of the lyrics. But if the problem is that some people don’t have a historical or theological understanding to make the liturgy spiritually significant, then the solution is not to get rid of liturgy, but to educate Christians so that the liturgy is understandable to them and meaningful. Liturgy is not the problem. The problem is that many Christians don’t have aeither the patience or the theological or historical understanding of Christianity to help make liturgy meaningful to them. It just seems like ‘old stuff someone else wrote’. People often don’t care about history, and they tend to regularly want something ‘new’ or ‘contemporary’ so they won’t get bored. So they in turn decide that the problem is the liturgy, for it is dead (without the appreciation of the history or the theological understanding necessary to make it intelligible).


There are a few reasons. One is that it has some of the most basic fundamental statements of Christian faith, which we we speak together. Second, it provides time for repentance, prayers of praise, time to pray for each other out loud, and a time to take communion together. Third, ours involves some singing, along with worshipful readings helping us to focus on God. Fourth, it brings the passages from the Bible which we studied that week into our worship focus so that we can re-reflect on them. In terms of simplicity, using the same format of liturgy each week makes preparation for each week a snap– no one needs to spend 4 hours figuring out what the ‘order of worship is’ or practicing during the week for the ‘worship team’. The passages of scripture are also predetermined by the universal church calendar used by many churches around the world to help direct people through the Bible each year.

Although a lot of people who attend Simple Free Church were not raised with liturgical practices in their church, most all of us have come to really appreciate its rhythm, solid basic truths, and the communal practice of it together as a community.

Here is what the Simple Free Church liturgy looks like:

First, there is an ‘officiant’ who basically is the one who calls the people and speaks first in the call-and-response sort of praying.

The liturgy begins with the officiant simply saying,

Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

Officiant and People together,

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins
through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all
goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in
eternal life. Amen.

The Invitatory and Psalter

Officiant O God, make speed to save us.
People O Lord, make haste to help us.

Officiant and People

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as
it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Except in Lent, add Alleluia.

The following, or some other suitable hymn, or an Invitatory Psalm, may

be sung or said.

Evening Prayer II 117

O Gracious Light Phos hilaron (this is considered to be the earliest known hymn of the early church, dating from just a hundred or two years after Christ– we just speak it together)

O gracious light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of Life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

Then follows

The Psalm or Psalms Appointed
(we read a psalm passage here)

At the end of the Psalms is sung or said

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Here we sing our first hymn from the old hymnals I got from a church who no longer used them.

The Lessons (there are four readings each week: the psalm (above), a reading from the old testament, a reading from the New Testament non-gospel books (Acts-Revelation) and a reading from the Gospels (Matthew-John) We do a bible-study on those three last readings before we even do the liturgy, so at this point, we have read and studied these passages, but here they are read aloud again)

One or two lessons, as appointed, are read, the Reader first saying

A Reading (Lesson) from ________________.

A citation giving chapter and verse may be added.

After each Lesson the Reader may say

The Word of the Lord.
Answer Thanks be to God.
Or the Reader may say Here ends the Lesson (Reading).

The Song of Mary Magnificat from Luke 1:46-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *

the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *

in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *

and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *

and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

The Song of Simeon
Nunc Dimittis
Luke 2:29-32

Lord, you now have set your servant free *

to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, *

whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A Light to enlighten the nations, *

and the glory of your people Israel.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed (This is a very standard very historical basic statement of Christian belief. It is hard to see how someone who is a Christian would not agree with these basic statements of Christian doctrine)

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord.

He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Communion: Here we have a glass of wine and a piece of bread. The officiant begins this by passing it to the person beside them and saying “the body of Christ, the bread of heaven” or “the blood of Christ, shed for you” and then that person passes it on to the next, doing the same, and so on, around the full circle of people attending. We usually mention that one need not partake and shouldn’t if they aren’t a Christian. We do this as a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice for us, and the redemptive power at work in us and among us.

The Prayers (Here is where people can pray for whatever they want, out loud, as they feel led)

Officiant The Lord be with you.
People And also with you.
Officiant Let us pray.

Officiant and People

We conclude the time of prayer by saying the Lord’s prayer together:

Our father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done.
On earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts
As we have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
And the power,
And the glory,

Then follows one of these sets of Suffrages (chosen by the officiant that week)


V. Show us your mercy, O Lord;
R. And grant us your salvation.
V. Clothe your ministers with righteousness;
R. Let your people sing with joy.
V. Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
R. For only in you can we live in safety.

V. Lord, keep this nation under your care;
R. And guide us in the way of justice and truth.
V. Let your way be known upon earth;
R. Your saving health among all nations.
V. Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
R. Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
V. Create in us clean hearts, O God;
R. And sustain us by your Holy Spirit.


That this evening may be holy, good, and peaceful,
We entreat you, O Lord.

That your holy angels may lead us in paths of peace and
We entreat you, O Lord.

That we may be pardoned and forgiven for our sins
and offenses,
We entreat you, O Lord.

That there may be peace to your Church and to the whole
We entreat you, O Lord.

That we may depart this life in your faith and fear,
and not be condemned before the great judgment seat
of Christ,
We entreat you, O Lord.

That we may be bound together by your Holy Spirit in
the communion of all your saints,
entrusting one another and all our life to Christ,
We entreat you, O Lord.

Then, unless the Eucharist or a form of general intercession is to follow,
one of these prayer for mission is added

O God and Father of all, whom the whole heavens adore:

Let the whole earth also worship you, all nations obey you,
all tongues confess and bless you, and men and women
everywhere love you and serve you in peace; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

or this

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

or the following

O God, you manifest in your servants the signs of your
presence: Send forth upon us the spirit of love, that in
companionship with one another your abounding grace may

increase among us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Second Hymn is sung here

The General Thanksgiving

Officiant and People

Almighty God, Father of all mercies,

we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

A Prayer of St. Chrysostom

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one

accord to make our common supplication to you; and you
have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two
or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the
midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions

as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of
your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.

Then may be said

Let us bless the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

From Easter Day through the Day of Pentecost “Alleluia, alleluia” may

be added to the preceding versicle and response.

The Officiant may then conclude with one of the following

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and
the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore.
Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14

May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in
believing through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Romans 15:13

Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely

more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from
generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus
for ever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20,21

At the end of our service, we at simple free sing the doxology, a cappella (all of our singing is without instruments, since we have none:)

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

here is the melody on a kalimba if you are interested:

HISTORY of Liturgy: Here is some helpful summary of the historical origin of the liturgical tradition:

…the canonical hours stemmed from Jewish prayer. In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelite priests to offer sacrifices of animals in the morning and evening (Exodus 29:38-39). Eventually, these sacrifices soon moved from the Tabernacle to the Temple built by Solomon in Jerusalem. During the Babylonian Exile, when the Temple was no longer in use, the first synagogues were established, and the services (at fixed hours of the day) of Torah readings, psalms, and hymns began to evolve. This “sacrifice of praise” began to be substituted for the sacrifices of animals.

After the people returned to Judea, the prayer services were incorporated into Temple worship as well. As time passed, the Jews began to be scattered across the Greco-Roman world in what is known as the Diaspora. By the time of the Roman Empire, the Jews (and eventually early Christians) began to follow the Roman system of conducting the business day in scheduling their times for prayer. In Roman cities, the bell in the forum rang the beginning of the business day at about six o’clock in the morning (Prime, the “first hour”), noted the day’s progress by striking again at about nine o’clock in the morning (Terce, the “third hour”), tolled for the lunch break at noon (Sext, the “sixth hour”), called the people back to work again at about three o’clock in the afternoon (None, the “ninth hour”), and rang the close of the business day at about six o’clock in the evening (the time for evening prayer).

The first miracle of the apostles, the healing of the crippled man on the temple steps, occurred because Peter and John went to the Temple to pray (Acts 3:1). Also, one of the defining moments of the early Church, the decision to include Gentiles among the community of believers, arose from a vision Peter had while praying at noontime (Acts 10:9–49).

As Christianity began to separate from Judaism, the practice of praying at fixed times continued. The early church was known to pray the Psalms (Acts 4:23-30), which has remained a part of the canonical hours and all Christian prayer since. By 60 AD, the Didache, the oldest known liturgical manual for Christians, recommended disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer three times a day; this practice found its way into the canonical hours as well. Pliny the Younger (63 – c. 113), who was not a Christian himself, mentions not only fixed times of prayer by believers, but also specific services—other than the Eucharist—assigned to those times: “they met on a stated day before it was light, and addressed a form of prayer to Christ, as to a divinity … after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble, to eat in common a harmless meal. .”[1]

By the second and third centuries, such Church Fathers as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Tertullian wrote of the practice of Morning and Evening Prayer, and of the prayers at terce, sext, and none. The prayers could be prayed individually or in groups. By the third century, the Desert Fathers (the earliest monks), began to live out St. Paul’s command to “pray without ceasing” (I_Thessalonians 5:17) by having one group of monks pray one fixed-hour prayer while having another group pray the next prayer.

[edit] Middle Ages

As the format of unbroken fixed-hour prayer developed in the Christian monastic communities in the East and West, longer prayers soon grew, but the cycle of prayer became the norm in daily life in monasteries. By the fourth century, the characteristics of the canonical hours more or less took their present shape. For secular (non-monastic) clergymen and lay people, the fixed-hour prayers were by necessity much shorter. In many churches and basilicas staffed by monks, the form of the fixed-hour prayers was a hybrid of secular and monastic practice.

In the East, the development of the Divine Services shifted from the area around Jerusalem to Constantinople. In particular, St. Theodore the Studite (c. 758 – c. 826) combined a number of influences from the Byzantine court ritual with monastic practices common in Asia Minor, and added thereto a number of hymns composed by himself and his brother Joseph (see Typicon for further details).

In the West, St. Benedict in his famous Rule modeled his guidelines for the prayers on the customs of the basilicas of Rome. It was he who expounded the concept in Christian prayer of the inseparability of the spiritual life from the physical life. St. Benedict was known to have said “Orare est laborare, laborare est orare” (“To pray is to work, to work is to pray”). Thus, the fixed-hour prayers came to be known as the “Divine Office” (office coming from the Latin word for work). The Benedictines began to call the prayers the Opus Dei or “Work of God.”



Uganda’s Deadly Bombings

I am a missionary with Ripe For Harvest living in Kampala, Uganda – working with Ravens Ministries – sent by Simple Free Church

I have many emotions and feelings about Sunday’s deadly bombings in Uganda as several friends were directly affected by the attacks.  I think about three friends: Brynne, Francis, and Grace.  When I came to Uganda in 2008, I met, worked with, and developed a good friendship with Brynne.  We were here at the exact same time and we even flew out to Uganda and back to the USA on the exact same flights.  Her brother recently came out to Uganda to work for a few weeks.  I was saddened to hear from Brynne on Monday morning that her brother was the American killed in the bombings.  I saw my friend Francis today who managed to survive the attacks, yet he saw friends lose their lives right before his eyes.  His firsthand account of the bombings was difficult to hear.  Francis is a board member of Dwelling Places, the Ugandan organization I worked for in 2008.  And Grace, a young adult on Ravens Ministries program, came to me with the news that one of her best friends lost two brothers from the terrorism.  I feel the pain.  But I can’t fathom how Brynne, Francis, and Grace must feel now.

I can think back to similar horrible events in my lifetime– Columbine, 9/11, Virginia Tech, Westroads Mall, and so on.  Remembering how I was feeling and remembering my prayers to God at the time.  At times we can be angry at God and sometimes I do not completely understand why He allows certain events to happen.  Trying to understand the evil in the world while also trying to grasp his perfect love for everyone.  Trying to see His sovereignty alongside the hurtful events that happen in our world.  I’ll probably be re-reading “The Problem of Pain” and “A Grief Observed” both by C.S. Lewis this week.

These past few weeks have full of pain and grief:  food poisoning and intestinal parasites (fully recovered now); getting in a minor motorcycle accident that left my hand bloodied and full of glass particles after it went through a window of an oncoming taxi van (nearly fully healed now); hearing the news of my dad getting in a major motorcycle accident in the USA that put him in the hospital for two nights with several broken ribs and deep bruising (he’s recovering at his home now); and finally the bombings in Kampala.  And maybe I am a bit frustrated and tired from all theses events happening at once, but I know this:  God has been so close these days.  And I have tremendous peace in my heart.  Life’s difficulties can draw us closer to God, if we allow Him to be.  And I’m thankful that God has been there: my nurturer, my comforter, my healer, my friend, my Lord, and my Savior.

A few Bible verses (Jesus’s words, in fact) have been coming to mind since the bombings in Kampala:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted… Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” -Matthew 5:4,6
–I’m mourning alongside my friends who were affected by the attacks.  And I know we will be comforted.

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” -Luke 6:27-29
–I’ve been compelled to not only pray for the families and friends of those who lost their lives, but also for the “enemies” who conducted the bombings.  How lost and hurt their hearts must be.

Before I ramble anymore let me share my prayer requests in regards to the bombings:

*For Brynne, Francis, and Grace as they cope with their lost family and friends.
*For peace in Uganda.  Another bomb was found and disarmed today.
*That I can be an encourager and support to my friends here in Uganda.  The bombings have affected the attitude and spirit of everyone here.
*That unity will come to the local church during this time of mourning.
*People will turn to Christ in response to the tragedy.
*That Ugandans will love the Somalians living in Kampala.  The Somalians are experiencing the same pain as the Ugandans from the same terrorists, both in their own country and in Uganda.

Some news articles for further reading:

‘Somali link’ as 74 World Cup fans die in Uganda blasts
“The death toll from blasts that hit the Ugandan capital as football fans gathered to watch the World Cup final has risen to 74.  The blasts went off as people were watching the World Cup final.”

Uganda bombings: Why the world should care
“A Somali Islamist militant movement (Al-Shabaab) issued a statement claiming responsibility for a devastating trio of bombings that killed at least 74 people in Uganda’s capital.”

Who are al-Shabab?
“Al-Shabab are believed to be largest group among several Islamist and clan militias battling the transitional government in Somalia.”

Thank you for your prayers, thank you for your support, and thank you for allowing me to share with you.

Much love,
Ryan Youtz