Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Anticipated Returns: The Advent Project

Click to read the article as a PDF
Anticipated Returns: The Advent Project
is a new Open article. Click the image above to read the article by William Peterson.

We publish Bill Petersen’s article on the North American Academy of Liturgy’s “Advent Project Seminar” in time to challenge any of us who plan liturgy to restore Advent to its ancient seven week length, sidestep the ‘Christmas culture,’ and find our way to much-needed preaching, teaching and reflection on what Christian eschatology actually looks like, how it’s different from ‘End Times’ speculations of the Religious Right, and how the end which has come to us in Christ invites us to live differently NOW. The North American Academy of Liturgy’s ecumenical conversations took this renewed approach to practical ideas including the observation that the Revised Common Lectionary anticipates such a change, or at least supplies suitable readings for a seven week Advent. The seminar also suggested experimental use of the “O” Antiphons one by one for this longer seven week Advent, and invited making new sources (or adapting existing ones) such as hymnody and psalm antiphons to give the extended season character and life. This article was invited by APLM Council member John Hill and is also published in Liturgy Canada.

Read it and see what your congregation can do to linger in reflection on the coming and presence of God’s kingdom. The seminar is particularly interested in hearing of experiments this advent – what you tried and how it worked. Read, ponder, and join this ecumenical and international effort to renew and enlarge our Advent in practice.


Larry said...

I read Bill Petersen's article in a recent issue of 'Open' with interest and great delight. About five years ago, we introduced the practice of observing a pre-Advent season on the Sundays between All Saints Day and Advent 1.

I was enlightened by a dear friend who was the Vicar at a progressive 'Affirming Catholicism' parish in Islington (London UK). At the time, he was using liturgies and the liturgical calendar from pre-publication materials which preceded the eventual release of Common Worship. Just prior to my trip to Islington, my Rector and I at St. Stephen's in Edina, Minnesota, had been puzzling over what to do with the days between All Saints Day and Advent, so this discovery of a new season, Sundays before Advent, was indeed timely.

[Note - I had also been aware that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America had, more than a decade ago, recreated this time and simply referred to it as 'November Time.']

As a result of this revelation, we renamed the Sundays before Advent: 3rd Sunday before Advent, 2nd Sunday before Advent, and Sunday next before Advent (or 'Reign of Christ').

We begin with the second Sunday after All Saints Day because, as most churches do nowadays, we typically observe All Saints Day as All Saints Sunday on the first Sunday in November.

Further, the RCL Sunday lections after All Saints have always seemed to imply a 'white season,' so we now keep white vestments and hangings from All Saints Day through Proper 29 (both 'white days').

Before making this change, we had a terrible time making sense of returning to the Season of Pentecost after the celebration of All Saints. After introducing our new 'season,' the power of worship achieved was almost breathtaking, making the arrival of the First Sunday of Advent incredibly powerful.

[To add to the impact, because we are in Minnesota, our pre-Advent is set against the perfect backdrop of cloudy, damp, chilly, and barren November weather.]

Larry Reynolds
Minister of Worship
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Edina, Minnesota (Minneapolis)

King of Peace said...

I thought I would send an update as we are about to enter the Sixth Sunday of Advent. I will describe something of how we are living into the lengthened season of anticipation here in south Georgia.

Our liturgy as we ended the Sundays after Pentecost was Rite II Prayer A with chairs which face the front very much as pews would. Green frontal on altar and ambo.

As we moved into Advent, we have nothing on the ambo and the altar is now in the center of our worship space with chairs arranged in a circle around it. The 4-foot square altar then has no one-sided frontal, but a blue cloth batiked in white by Anglicans in China. As we have a 36-foot wide Chartes-style labyrinth on the floor, this means the altar is in the center of the labyrinth and the round shape to the chairs feels organic and not forced.

We are using Rite II Prayer B Penitential Eucharist. The prayers of the people are changed weekly, adapted from those in LTP's Intercessions for the People. We are using a seasonal blessing for Advent from the Book of Occasional Services.We are also using Bill Petersen's seven Advent collects written for this project.

We used to have an Advent wreath on the way into worship and replaced that with a seven candle stand so to show the same season is lengthened.

We do not have a choir and music is by piano except on fourth Sundays when it is guitars, dulcimer and drum. I have used O Come, O Come Emmanuel in the spot of a hymn of praising with verses 1 and 2 in week one, verses 1 and 3 in week two and so on.

Preaching has reflected seasonal themes found in the texts each week.

Music has been a challenge, but we've made it work. This needs improving over time. Some hymns from the Lutheran Book of Worship have helped us expand available music on the fly.

We have experienced not one single complaint, but that may be the nature of starting from scratch 9 years ago as much as anything. Positive comments have been few and centered on our beginning the church's anticipation before the craziness of Christmas season got cranked up. Largely I think it has been greeted with an attitude of enjoying it mildly and being mildly indifferent.
I think that my wife, Victoria, hit on the issue in naming the distinction between Lent and Advent. For Episcopalians, Lent involves some changes to both corporate worship and one's daily life, where Advent involves solely changes in corporate worship. This would need to change in order to transform a congregation's experience of Advent.

In past years, we have pushed materials we created on Celebrating Advent in the Home (see ). As we have a lot of young families, getting them to do a nightly devotion helped cross this divide. I didn't have the time this year to create as a seven-week version, and so did not promote that in-home devotion. If we repeat the seven-week Advent, I would make that change and look for other ways to encourage a sort of Adventen discipline, hopefully different from Lent. This would take thought and preparation, but could be important.