Highlands Blog

A Short, Simple, Sustainable Family Liturgy

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Posted in Highlands Blog under Family, Parenting, Worship

Father & daughters reading Bible together. Family Liturgy.

If you are anything like me, daily life in your household generally conforms to a pattern, a liturgy, a modus operandi. Every day certain things happen, and other things happen every few days. Some patterns, however, are weekly, monthly, or annually. Some things are necessary on a daily basis, like eating and drinking, and as long as we’re alive, these will continue unabated. Some events are weekly, like Sunday worship; other events occur annually, like birthdays and Christmas.

Finding Time for Family Worship

One pattern that I have clumsily endeavored to establish for decades now is a time of daily worship together in the home as a family. We’ve tried, failed, repented, and tried again hundreds of times over the years. But a couple of months ago, with a little help from a friend, we began again with hopes for a better outcome, a perpetual outcome.

Last summer, my wife attended a talk at the 2015 CiRCE Institute Annual Conference by Cindy Rollins about family liturgy and then related to me what she had learned. She gleaned that the overarching principle in planning a family liturgy for the long haul is to keep the time together short, simple, and therefore, sustainable. The pattern can then become a thread weaving each successive day to the memory of yesterday, as well as a foretaste of what can be expected tomorrow.

Our Family Liturgy

My wife and I considered what could be included and came up with the following liturgy:

  1. “The Lord Be With You”—mutual greeting and blessing
  2. Sing the Doxology
  3. Prayer—Morning prayer by St. Macarius the Great
  4. Scripture reading: Right now we are reading through John’s Gospel, sometimes only half a chapter (with no commentary unless the children ask questions)
  5. “Christian, in whom do you believe?”: Recite the Nicene Creed from memory
  6. Recite/pray the Pater Noster from memory
  7. Review prayer requests (especially for people outside our immediate family)
  8. Extemporaneous Prayer (each member of the family prays for one person—can be as brief as one, short sentence.)
  9. Sing a Psalm
  10. Sing closing hymn: Nunc Dimittis

Note: Many of these components had already been memorized by the family due to the shape of our church’s Sunday morning liturgy.

Altogether, this takes fifteen to twenty minutes. The ten components look long and laborious, but each step of the liturgy only requires from between thirty seconds to three minutes to complete, so the pace is quick. Scripture reading may take a little longer, but even at that, the goal is to keep it brief—not rushed, but not a sermon either, or even a homily. Just the text.

A Blessing Not a Curse

After a couple months of completing the liturgy an average of four days per week, the younger children are already asking to do it. The older children, who are less inclined to embrace the change to their status quo, are not pushing back against it. I believe the fact that the liturgy is brief and varied lends itself to all the children finding it acceptable. Not that I ask them if they find it acceptable, but it is important that this time be a blessing to them and not a curse.

Proverbs 27:14 says, “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.” A corollary to it might read, “The dad who blesses his children with an hour long lecture, rising early in the morning, will be counted as a cursing.” A blessing is not a blessing if it is not received as such. We need to consider our children’s frame, even as the Lord remembers ours.

It’s Not a Check List

One fruit of daily prayer together in the morning is that when I pray with each of the children at bedtime, the prayer list from the morning liturgy, from which they only asked one petition that morning, is remembered in the evening. At evening prayers, there is no constraint on how many requests they offer, and several times now, the children have decided to pray through the entire list from that morning.

Of course, I am not looking for a checklist to be checked off, so I can feel better about myself or have more confidence about my children’s eternal dwelling place. My goals are more proximate, without being any less eternal. I want to see my family walk with God together. I want to see them happy to walk with God.

To have a liturgy is part-and-parcel with being human; to have an intentional liturgy that cultivates love for God and neighbor is a constituent part of becoming more fully human, more like the Son of Man himself, in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

Have you found good ways to incorporate a family liturgy into your home life? We would love to hear about it in the comments below.

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