By The Rev. Kyle Mackey, Curate
In seminary, a classmate of mine once made the mistake of calling the 400th page of the Book of Common prayer “Rite III” within earshot of our liturgics professor. The professor then quite crossly explained it to the rest of the class. Page 400 of the BCP shows us how a Eucharistic liturgy is shaped, and its parts in their proper order. All Eucharistic liturgies in the Episcopal Church follow this pattern. The inclusion of this “Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist” was intended to encourage the development of new Eucharistic liturgies by parishes for when a standard from the BCP was simply not going to work. In keeping with the prayer book, our new children’s chapel is based on this same pattern.
The first item on the list is to “Gather in the Lord’s Name.” Children’s chapel begins its gathering in the nave, where on a typical Sunday we hear the opening acclamation (Blessed be God…), the collect for purity (Almighty God to you all hearts are open…), and even the first bit of the Gloria, Kyrie, Trisagion, or another song of praise we may be using. We follow the cross back to the children’s chapel, which like the nave is a consecrated space. We also sing a song as part of our gathering, recently we’ve been using “Jesus Loves Me.”
While we sing, the candles are lit by a volunteer. These bits of flame help to draw our attention towards the altar itself, as well as serving as a symbol of the Holy Spirit being present in the room. This action in combination with singing together, helps to bring our children together as a worshiping community and helps move the focus towards God. This first step of the liturgy is known by liturgists as the “Gathering Rite.” It begins when we wake up on Sunday morning, and ends with the Collect for the Day.
After the song, the presider uses the ancient greeting of the early church. “The Lord be with you!” which comes from the greeting of Boaz from the book of Ruth. (Ruth 2:4) Then after saying “Let us pray,” a special prayer for the day is used. This special prayer, known as a collect (from the Latin collecta), is used to ‘collect’ our prayers together into one big prayer, focuses us on the occasion we are celebrating, and marks the end of the rite of gathering.