One of my favorite parts of Anglican worship is the way that call and response is integrated into the way that we pray in our Sunday worship. Perhaps the most common place that we do this in Eucharistic worship is during the prayers of the people. The reader prays the petitions of the parish, and we respond with a particular phrase like “Lord, hear our prayer” or “Have mercy, Lord” or some other short response to each prayer. While we might not notice it as anything that is particularly special, I think that it is a rather important part of how we pray. To my mind, it is a reflection of what is happening in our worship each and every week. We call out to God through praise, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession. We lift up our voices to give thanks to God for all of God’s goodness. We call out to God, and God responds to our calls in a myriad of ways.
Over the next two months, we are going to integrate call and response into our worship in a place that has not been done as call and response in the parish for some time. Instead of singing the psalm on Sunday morning, we are going to practice call and response by first hearing a verse of the psalm being read by the reader and then responding by reading the next verse of the psalm. It is an old way of reading psalms that we would be more accustomed to if The Daily Office still played a central role in our corporate prayer life.
Call and response, though, is also a shape of what is happening in our worship. We gather as a community to call to God and to listen for God’s response to those calls. We begin our worship with this format in the opening acclamation every single Sunday. We gather in our worship space to begin our prayers of thanksgiving and praise through a joyful hymn. Our practice of call and response continues as the celebrant says, “Blessed be God: most holy, glorious, and undivided Trinity.” The congregation responds, “And blessed be God’s reign, now and for ever. Amen.” The practice of call and response is a practice of deep listening. It invites us to be open to the ways that God speaks into the heart of our parish life. We are not simply speaking at God. Instead, we are engaged in an active conversation with God through which we are to listen to what God says to us.
In one way, the call and response of our worship begins with the fact that we gather together to worship God as a community. We have heard God’s call to us to come together and to be enfolded into the mystery of God’s love. The first call is given by God, and our worship, taken as a whole, is how we are responding to that holy call – a call to enter into the mystery of the Trinity and to know God’s love more fully.
As we move through worship, the practice of call and response continues throughout our prayers. We do it in how we read our lessons in worship, in the prayers of the people, in the confession of sin, in sharing Christ’s peace, and in praying the Great Thanksgiving as a community responding to God’s love for the whole of the cosmos. And, we do it being dismissed.
We end our worship by once again responding to God’s call for us to take on the ministry given to us in and through Christ. We are sent forth from our worship as bearers of Good News for the world. The deacon invites us into this work through the words of the dismissal. We are invited to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” We say, “Thanks be to God.” Thanks be to God, indeed, for including us in the work of Christ’s mission in the cosmos, for bringing us into the joy-filled work of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with friends and strangers alike, for being beacons of faith, hope, and love in the world, and for encouraging us to share our faith beyond the walls of our worship spaces.
God is calling us forward in God’s mission made known to us in and through Christ Jesus. How will we respond?