From chapter 5 of Church of the Isles – a prophetic strategy for renewal, by Ray Simpson, published by Kevin Mayhew 2003
Tragically, the worship of most churches consists of packaged words that do not so much as say hello to the sun’s dawning, the rain’s falling, or the day’s dying. Or else the worship spills out of the psyches of dominant members who are too surfeited to notice the rhythms of their own bodies, let alone of the days or the years. Yet it is possible to create a sense of daily rhythm which touches and inspires a wider number, even among the most mobile populations, and which connects them with the ebb and flow of deeper realties.
In emerging churches the corporate worship follows the rhythm of the natural seasons and of the church year, and observes seasons of fasting or spiritual warfare, of lamentation for the sins and hurts of society, and of joy and celebration of creation.
The word rhythm comes from a Greek word (rhuthmos), whose root meaning is flow. Physicists are discovering that our universe has an underlying pattern; nature is full of symmetry. Rhythm is indivisible. There is a rhythm of the seasons of the year, and a rhythm of the seasons of life. There is a rhythm between masculine and feminine. The emerging churches seek to flow in these rhythms.
Mike Bream, of St Thomas Church, Crookes, Sheffield, calls his church to a holiday period in July and August because that is the natural thing to do. Then it has more energy to develop programmes in the new autumn season.
In the first millennium the daily prayer together in the larger, hub churches was normal, and these were called ‘People’s Services.’ However, they degenerated. Monastic churches developed long, wordy services that suited celibate monks, but which put off the general population. Daily worship in central churches became clericalised, form became more important than fellowship, ritual more important than relationship. A counter-church culture developed which encouraged prayers from pulpits or in groups, but not corporate daily prayer.
In the third millennium, we have to make good the gaps, integrating the creativity and spontaneity of occasional prayer gatherings, with the first millennium’s rhythm of corporate daily prayer. This is beginning to happen, in churches of all shapes and sizes. Some use Anglican or Roman Catholic liturgies . Others use simpler, more flexible patterns. Daily prayer patterns from contemporary communities such as Aidan and Hilda, Iona, Northumbria and Taize are increasingly being adopted.