Today’s printed liturgy introduces something brand new to Church of the Servant’s worship: the ellipsis.
Grammatically aware worshipers will know that an ellipsis is the three dots indicating a portion of text was omitted. In formal writing ellipses are used to show that a few sentences were left out of a lengthy quote. In informal writing they indicate something is left unsaid. (“I’d love to go, but…”) Ellipses can even be misused to make someone else’s words say what you want. For example, a book reviewer may write, “All of the gravitas of a world class novel with none of the skill. A masterpiece of mediocrity.” But an ellipsis allows for a different message: “All the gravitas of a world class novel…A masterpiece.”
The humble ellipsis appears in this season’s liturgy for a different reason: to allow us to listen.
When a liturgist reads a lengthy passage, it’s likely you find yourself reading along in the printed liturgy, noticing places where the liturgist stumbles or thinking about how many inches of text remain until the people respond. This Christmastide we’d like to encourage people to periodically get their heads out of their printed liturgies and simply listen. For example, on page eight the leader’s part says, “It is truly right to glorify you… and lift our voices in joyful praise.” This let’s the congregation know that the liturgist will add words to that section and cues the people when to come back in.
Even though this is a minor change, it is likely to cause some stumbling in the first few weeks. Changes always do. But let’s give it a try and see if it opens up something new for us. Perhaps we’ll find that we experience the liturgy in a different way, becoming more attentive to the spirit of the words we speak and aware of the volley of praise and prayer passed back and forth between leader and people. Perhaps exploring a different liturgical mode (hearing, rather than reading) will create a richer, broader capacity in us as worshipers. Or perhaps we’ll decide that this just doesn’t work for us. That’s okay, too. After all, Christmastide is only a two week season.
In a season celebrating the Word made flesh, it seems fitting to flesh out our words in a new way. And if you don’t like it, you can just…
…email Greg Scheer, minister of worship. (email@example.com)