liturgical text

Whenever the Community Gathers...

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The new Book of Common Worship of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is full of good things. We have already featured its “Immigrant’s Creed” (in the ALL-Archive). Here is another fine extract, from its opening pages on “Common Words and Gestures”—the simple and excellent suggestion that the font of baptism should be open and filled with water whenever the community gathers, and the waters of baptism recalled each time.

Its Service of the Lord’s Day (Sunday service) has the presider pour water in the font to introduce confession of sin, and lift water out of the font to declare God’s forgiveness. Services of daily prayer begins each day with a thanksgiving for baptism, at the baptismal font (presumably for those praying in the church building) or a bowl of water (those at home). The daily prayers are different each day, and here is Thursday’s:

Eternal God, we give you thanks
that through the gift of our baptism
you call us to a new way of life
in the realm of your grace and peace.
By the power of your Holy Spirit,
let your will be done in our lives
and in this world that you love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(p. 887)

The Book of Common Worship (2018).

Below: the font of baptism, Pilgrim Theological College. (Photos: Stephen Burns.)

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The Lights of Evening Round Us Shine...

Song of the Light Phos hilaron

O joyful light,
from the pure glory of the eternal heavenly Father,
O holy, blessed Jesus Christ.

As we come to the setting of the sun
and see the evening light,
we give thanks and praise to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit of God.

Worthy are you at all times
to be sung with holy voices,
O Son of God, O giver of life,
and to be glorified through all creation.

(or)

Hail, gladdening Light, of his pure glory poured,
Who is the immortal Father, heavenly, blest,
Holiest of holies, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Now we are come to the sun’s hour of rest,
The lights of evening round us shine,
We hymn the Father, Son and Holy Spirit divine.

Worthy are you at all times to be sung
With undefiled tongue,
Son of our God, giver of life, alone:
Therefore in all the world your glories, Lord, they own.

Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England (2000).

O Gracious Light    Phos hilaron

O gracious light, 
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven, 
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun, 
and our eyes behold the vesper light, 
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of Life, 
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

Book of Common Prayer (The Episcopal Church, 1979).

Below: Melbourne cityscape and Half Moon Bay, walking the dog at Hampton beach. (Photos: Judith Atkinson & Stephen Burns.)

Heart of the Universe

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Blessed is She, Song of the Universe,
Who sang our world into being,
weaving mystical melodies
out of themes composed of dust.

She gathers us into Her cosmic choir
to teach us Her song of love.


Blessed is She, Dance of the Universe,
Whose grace-full movement
breaks open our lives
to the twists and turns of Her Spirit.

She gathers us into Her circle of friends
to teach us Her dance of trust,


Blessed is She, Hope of the Universe,
spilling new possibilities
on the dead dreams of the despairing.

She gathers is into Her new creation
to help us begin again.


Blessed is She, Heart of the Universe,
beating with passion,
warm with compassion,
holding us all,
enfolding us all
in Her gentle, mystical Presence.

She gathers us into Her energy
to show us the strength of Her love.


Blessed is She, Soul of the Universe,
feeling the pain of those who grieve
and the joy of those rejoicing.

She gathers us into Her Spirit-space
to teach us to be like Her.


Blessed is She, Shalom of the Universe,
Holy and wholly present
to the whole of Her cherished creation.

She draws us into Her sacred Shalom
until we are one with Her.


"Berekah: A Psalm," Miriam Therese Winter, WomanWisdom: A Feminist Lectionary and Psalter / Women of the Hebrew Scriptures: Part One (New York: Crossroad, 1991), p. 56.

Image: a close up of a painting on my dining room wall, by Jason Garwood, some of whose other work can be found here: https://www.greenstagegallery.co.uk/artist/29/jason-garwood#biography