Rediscovering the Power of Liturgy Through New Music

by Justin Clifton

As Anglicans, we love liturgy. And we realize that liturgy is not a script or box in which our services have to fit, but it is a launching pad for our worship to God. Liturgy is a beautiful pageantry where powerful prayers and confessions interact with the congregation.

But what happens when our launching pad turns back into a box. Sometimes we’ve said the prayers and the confessions so many times, we just don’t interact with them in the same way anymore. For me, it always was the Lord’s Prayer. As a child I grew up saying it regularly in church and I could quote it word for word. But as I developed my relationship with God, I realized it had turned rote. I had to rediscover it, again.

I was first exposed to liturgical songwriting through Dave Frincke’s Eucharistic Prayers CD. And although I was just getting into the Anglican tradition, I realized how powerful it could be putting timeless words to music. And of course, one of the songs on the collection was the Lord’s Prayer. It was interesting how I knew the words I was going to sing, but yet, there was this element that slowed me down, where I had to think about them. I couldn’t just do it from rote this time.

That is the power of new liturgical music. It helps us think differently about the words. It connects the worship to a different part of our brain. It is able to draw out a new way for the congregation to participate in the liturgy.

But it is certainly not the only way. Not only does it help us THINK differently about he words; it also connects it differently in our HEARTS.

A couple years ago I was attending a new Anglican mission. The liturgy at the end of the service regularly included a selection from the Anglican Church in Kenya.

I send all my problems to the cross of Christ

I send all my fears to the cross of Christ

I send all my sins to the cross of Christ

I put my hope in the Risen Christ

It really impacted me as I was dealing with circumstances that seemed just too much for me to bear on my own. That is what birthed my song “To the Cross”. I took the liturgy and applied it to my current situation, to Who God was proving Himself to be to me at that moment. For me it was a powerful testimony in a life changing season. However, it also went beyond my personal experience. It connected in a deeper way for the congregation, too. Breathing new life into words that were already filled with so much life.

Maybe you’re a congregational leader or a worship leader looking for a different way to launch people into worship. Or, maybe you’re a songwriter that has been thinking about this for awhile now. I encourage you to pursue the power of liturgical music!