At Virginia-Highland Church, we worship every Sunday at 11 a.m. We celebrate communion every Sunday during this service, which also includes prayers, a corporate confession, musical selections, scripture readings, and a sermon on one of the scriptures for the day. Our worship service generally lasts approximately one hour, until about noon.
Worship at Virginia-Highland Church uses the traditional liturgies found in the Reformed and Protestant traditions. This style of worship is often called “liturgical” or “high church,” and some visitors are surprised to find such formal worship in a church with historical Baptist roots.
One of the hallmarks of worship in both the Baptist and United Church of Christ (UCC) traditions is diversity. Although most Baptist churches in America were influenced heavily by frontier religion; others followed a more traditional, formal style of worship. Our church identifies itself with the latter tradition (which is sometimes called the “Charleston” or “Furman” tradition). People raised in less formal traditions are often initially skeptical of this form of liturgical worship; but we preserve the historical worship of the Church for several reasons.
One reason is that worship is an act of Christian discipline. Worshiping in an environment that follows different rhythms and symbols from those found in our daily lives is a way of reminding ourselves that we are called out from the world.
In addition, worship shapes us to remember the things that are truly important. Liturgical worship appeals to all of the senses, and serves as a mnemonic device for the historic teachings of Christianity and our Christian obligations. Although some people associate liturgical worship with “empty,” rote recitation; in reality the diversity of readings and responses actually encourages meditative reflection.
Finally, we use traditional worship at Virginia-Highland because it is, well, traditional. Paul Duke describes the liturgy as a river that flows down from the Early Church. By observing the historic traditions of the Church we stand in the same waters in which our grandparents and their grandparents stood. It should be noted, though, that freedom and innovation are also baptist distinctives.
The Christian liturgy has never been static; and we are constantly working to adapt our worship in ways that make it meaningful to our present situation. This is particularly true on the issue of inclusive language, an area where we seek to preserve a tradition of faithfulness while overcoming one of patriarchy.