Sunday, October 18, 2009

Following the Liturgical Year - Help for a Novice

I would like to follow the liturgical year this year but would like some suggestions or guidance on the best way to go about it. Is it just reading the right passages from the lectionary on the appropriate Sundays? How do feast days fit in? I'm just a Baptist who is looking to gain a better appreciation for the church year and want to get the most out of it. If I'm right 2009-2010 is year C. Does it matter if I mix traditions (Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist, Catholic) or should I pick one and stick with it? I would like to make regular posts throughout the year (probably on Sundays) on my experience. I don't mean for this to be just an "experiment" as much as it is an initial step in orienting my year around the acts of God rather than the four seasons or the school year. Whatever advice you can offer would be most appreciated.


Esteban Vázquez said...

My recommendation would be to choose an integral tradition and stick with it. Liturgical calendars and their concomitant practices have a logic and wholeness to them, and to mix and match does violence to this. Further, find a living worshipping community that you can join on major liturgical occasions without forsaking your own assembly. Reading the lectionary lessons and, say, praying the collects from the Book of Common Prayer is good and useful, but these are intended for liturgical use, and their proper context is not the "prayer closet," but the liturgical gathering.

It takes some time to find the rhythm of the liturgical year, and a bit more to live and breathe in sync with with it, but it is well worth the effort: it is no coincidence that Christian experience throughout the ages has seen a connection between that and a vibrant spiritual life.

Louis said...


This is very helpful. Thank you. I do believe this is not meant to be a lone ranger affair so I'm very interested in finding a church that observes the the liturgical year (but, as you say, without forsaking my own). I also apprecitate your thoughts on the integrity of the respective calendars which does not lend itself to mixing. I know your own tradition is Eastern Orthodox but do you have a preference within the Protestant tradition?

Keith Williams said...


I certainly don't want to contradict the advice of the venerable Esteban, especially when I agree with him that choosing a liturgical tradition and sticking with it is indeed the best way to way to follow the liturgical calendar. I'm just not so sure that the benefit of participating in a tradition whole-cloth will be as great if you are doing so without actually worshipping in a congregation within that tradition on a week-by-week basis.

Another humble suggestion for getting a foot in the door of the church year is with the new Holy Bible: Mosaic that I had the pleasure of working on. I tried to create a liturgical system that is faithful to the way the church year is practiced across several Western church traditions, flexible enough to be supplementary to any of them yet simple enough for a person with little or no exposure to formal liturgical worship and practice to be able to follow.

It doesn't precisely follow any specific tradition, but rather draws from the lectionary readings in the RCL (drawing on all three years) and the BCP (both the propers and the daily lessons).

One of my greatest hopes for Mosaic is that it will help introduce many evangelicals who have never practiced the church year to at least give it a try.

Louis said...


Thank you so much for your comments. I have been looking around my local area for a church I could attend without taking me away from my regular church. My Tyndale rep was kind enough to send me a Mosaic Bible and I am looking forward to incorporating that into my year. I'm sure some will push for the "purity" of one tradition but I still have time to think about this since I don't plan to start until Advent. I did notice the Mosaic Bible includes a number of traditions and that was what made me first think about "mixing" traditions. Thanks again for taking the time to comment. I sincerely appreciate it.

Andrew R said...

I saw the Mosaic Bible while on a visit to Baker Book House today and it looks stunning. I only had a chance to quickly breeze through it, but I hope to spend more time with it soon. Thanks for your comments here.

Do you have any recommended reading for Advent?

I look forward to your posts on this topic over the next year. I more or less tried the lone ranger approach to the Church year during the last Advent and Paschal seasons. It was challenging.

I think your posts will be an encouragement to me in this upcoming year. I look forward to many fruitful conversations!