After 12 years in a small, northern, and somewhat remote, community, and lots of time to ponder, I’ve learned that when you are the “only show in town” for Anglicans, worship planning has many challenges not found in city parishes. In a city you can shop around for a parish that speaks to your soul, whether in uplifting music, style of liturgy, use of the BCP or BAS, etc. In a remote rural setting people come in all shapes, sizes, ethnic backgrounds, musical preferences and preferred liturgical styles.
Eclecticism is the order of the day. Foremost in our minds in planning worship is the challenge of maintaining the integrity of the liturgy while still providing worship that stirs the soul of every person present, at least some of the time. Over time, some principals (not and exhaustive list) emerged that guide us in our planning. These principals will go a long way towards building goodwill and providing uplifting and spiritually enriching worship. While these principles also work in urban settings, when you are the only show in town they are crucial.
- Used the authorized books – both of them. We are the only expression of Anglicanism for many kilometres.
- Morning Prayer is important to some to nurture the soul. Use it, even if you reluctantly forego Eucharist. Find a way of providing it at a time other than the main Sunday service.
- Ensure that the music is eclectic. In addition to the authorized hymn books, draw on other sources of music. Gospel choruses and Bach chorales both have a place in worship.
- Solicit and listen to feedback. You cannot respond to unmet liturgical needs if you don’t know about them. Ask for written as well as verbal feedback. Periodically conduct a survey or an evaluation after trying something. (Psst – Calling something an experiment for a trial period and then evaluating is a device I learned from the Rev. Dr. Francis Cooper. It does help with buy-in for a new idea.)
- Involve lay leadership in the planning.
May all your worship glorify God and stir your soul.
A member of Liturgy Canada since 1998 and a member of the Executive for much of that time, Marion retired from Henry Budd College for Ministry at the end of 2016. Marion and her husband, the Rev. Paul Sodtke were the heads of College. Jointly, they led the indigenous theological college in the northern part of the Diocese Brandon in preparing men and women for ministry, both lay and ordained, in their home communities. Marion worshipped at Christ Church, The Pas and was a member of the worship leadership team planning liturgy and music. Marion and Paul have retired to London, Ontario where she now worships at St. Andrew Memorial Anglican Church. Marion previously worked for the Diocese of Huron and the Diocese of Toronto.