Student Essay | Liturgical Patterns

Liturgical Studies, Student Life, Yale Divinity School

Today marks the second day of spring semester classes  (though weather-wise, it’s cold and dark and rainy–still in the throes of winter).  But before we get too far into this season’s coursework, I wanted to share one more student’s reflections upon their fall classes at the ISM.  Meredith Day is a second year M.Div. student who transferred into the ISM this year.  In addition to her lively presence in the ISM, she also serves as the Vice President of the YDS Student Council, and this fall helped to coordinate an orientation program for the largest ever  incoming class of  YDS students! So basically, Meredith is a dive-in-headfirst-with-enthusiasm-and-gusto type of person!  See for yourself here: Growing up, I told a lot of stories. I can’t guarantee that all of them were absolutely true, but I was thrilled with the excitement of story telling. I loved watching my audience’s eyes brighten at a quick turn of events or hearing them snicker after my best punch line. When I was telling a story, I felt confident, admired, and important. Story telling became something like a gift that I could share with the world and with myself. My passion for the integration of religion and the arts stems from the incredible gift it is to use art as a means for telling the story of the redemption of the world. When humans express this story through the arts, a unique connection is made with the creator God. Creating liturgy, poetry, music, art, or literature is an act in which humans, as creations of God, have the opportunity to respond in worship. It is in the creative qualities of God that one finds a model for making one’s own art and giving it to the world. I did not grow up in a traditional liturgical worship setting. My personal definition of worship included Yamaha keyboards, PowerPoint presentations, and extemporaneous prayers. Our ritual life had less to do with bowing or kneeling and more to do with pre-worship Krispy Kreme donuts. Though I didn’t understand it then, my congregation had its own liturgical pattern, and there was an expected order to Sundays. I have found that liturgical patterns in the Church are not about ‘how,’ but ‘why.’ The liturgical pattern of any church tradition shifts the focus from ‘my story’ to ‘our story.’ During my time at Yale Divinity School, I have been awakened to a passion for liturgical studies. Particularly, I am interested in exploring the intersections between traditional liturgical theology and my own evangelical background. As a student in the Institute of Sacred Music I have had the opportunity to participate in this compelling work, particularly this past fall in Dr. Melanie Ross’ course entitled, “Baptism and Eucharist in Ecumenical Dialogue.” As a class, we spent time examining the wide variety of liturgical practices and theologies within the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. We read the work of theologians and church leaders of multiple denominations, as well as the 1982 World Council of Churches Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry document. Dr. Todd Johnson from Fuller Theological Seminary also stopped by as a guest lecturer, and challenged our class to ask the question, “What does what we do in worship say about what we believe? Do our beliefs and actions always line up?” Through courses like this one here at YDS and the ISM, I have had the chance to continually ask Dr. Johnson’s question about beliefs, actions, and worship. I’m constantly challenging my own understanding of how the Church can match its actions with belief. My hope is that through the use of the arts the Church will steer towards a communal story telling event—one in which we are seeking to tell the truth in all possible ways and by all possible means. The Institute of Sacred Music equips students to do just this. With its interdisciplinary and innovative focus, the Institute encourages and trains students to engage the Christian religion in a way that tells Gospel story with passion and creativity.