One of the things that drew me to CDSP for seminary was the opportunity to both be steeped in Anglican tradition and have a chance to put together experimental liturgies. Being an artistic type and avid theologian, I got really stoked about exploring how to bring new experiences into the wealth of what it means to be an Episcopalian, especially when we’re sacramental but not so fixed in our doctrines as a church.
At the same time, I discovered Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM), the communication theory that guides my life. It’s a fantastic approach to communication: we’re making our world together as we communicate.
So, what are we making together?
The insight that spurred my 3rd year experimental liturgy came from discussion of CMM for a forum at my field ed parish when a parishioner brought this thought to the conversation: “Communication is Sacramental.” Our Prayer Book defines a sacrament as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” What would it look like if we saw conversation as that? Our current liturgy, though brilliant, doesn’t really allow us to get to know each other or discuss what we’re hearing during the liturgy. What would it be like to have that be part of church?
This liturgy was met with the overwhelming majority of participants finding it extremely refreshing. When we tried it, a couple that had been married for 15 years learned (to their delight!) new things about their spouse. A staff member who was burned out from frustrating meetings found herself rejuvenated and excited about chapel for the first time in a while. That’s when I knew we were on to something.
Starting every 3rd Thursday in 2018 at 6:30 p.m., we’ll try this experiment here at St. Paul’s with The Dialogue. This is an opportunity to have some fun experimenting on what it means to make relationship building the primary reason for a sacrament: how we can expand–NOT replace–what it means to do church. We want to find ways that meet the needs of those both in the community already and those seeking what we offer but are unable to see it through the lens of “traditional” church. I wonder with great excitement at what new breath can be breathed into the strong body that is the solid oak tree of Deep Roots, Living Faith, and Growing Community.
With great excitement,
Rev. Jeffrey A. Dodge