Worship in a Violent World: Deconstructing ‘Ordinary’ Liturgies

Siobhán Garrigan

This article is the skeleton of a paper presented to the bi-annual Ceiliuradh Conference, whose theme in 2003 was “Worship in a Violent World.”1 My brief was “to examine what ordinary liturgies might be saying on issues of worship in a violent world.” My co-presenter, Graham Ward, treated “extra-ordinary” liturgies.

As a Government of Ireland Humanities and Social Sciences Scholar in the year 2000, I studied the liturgical theology of the Republic of Ireland. I wanted to look at what this conference calls “ordinary liturgies” but to avoid talking solely about the Eucharist because, when theologians write about worship, Eucharist is often the exclusive focus. However, it was difficult to find communities that did anything other than Eucharist as ordinary worship. Where once many Church of Ireland parishes had regularly said Morning Prayer on a Sunday, they now celebrated only the Eucharist; where once an isolated priestless parish had a non-Eucharistic service it now had a Eucharist, with pre-consecrated hosts; where once the Ecumenical Women’s group in Mayo had met for prayer and sharing, it now met mostly for Eucharist; and where once Roman Catholics had observed numerous sacramental and devotional practices, the only one most now knew was Sunday Mass.

If the Eucharist has become our only way of worshipping, we have a ritual of remembered and, in some cases, re-presented violence as our normative practice. I have written elsewhere about the problems inhering in the actual Eucharistic practices in Ireland, arguing a connection between our particular ways of doing Eucharist (basically, without bread or wine being consumed by the assembly) and the particular violences we have yet to heal: famine in our recent past (so: guilt at eating bread) and intra-Christian war in our present (so: not being convinced that blood is redemptive). Here, I look not at our symbol-usage (bread and wine), but at our language-exchange. I want to argue that the mere fact of doing only Eucharist is a symptom of the same unresolved problems. Of all the stories Christians tell, we in Ireland tell most the all too familiar one about the political prisoner who had supper with his friends before being betrayed to the colonial government by an informer, held by the authorities without fair trial, tortured, and executed. And the way the story is told in our communities is by the ritual breaking of bread—the breaking of a body—and the ritual pouring of wine—the spilling of blood. The point of the story, the original Good Friday Agreement, is that only through this profound act of violence could we be liberated. Just how liberating this story is in our own context, where the bodies of political prisoners—and those they have, in turn, broken—are the greatest fuel for Ireland’s ongoing violence, is compromised by how ordinary it has actually become.

If the Eucharist has become our only way of worshipping, we have a ritual of remembered and, in some cases, re-presented violence as our normative practice. 

Let me begin, then, by saying that no liturgy should become “ordinary.” No assembly of Christian worshippers, whether it convenes three times daily in a monastery or once a week in a parish setting, no matter how often repeated, or felt to be familiar, is ever ordinary. Ritual Studies tells us that religious rituals are composed of “ordinary acts, extraordinarily practiced,”2 that is, although they are essentially composed of very ordinary things, their ritualized context is not ordinary relative to ordinary life. And theology tells us that, because Christian liturgy is the intentional manifestation of God’s commonwealth in our midst,3 it is a set of interactions of utter openness to an incarnate God, and there is nothing ordinary about an incarnate God, or about the realm that God breaks-in with every liturgical interaction.

Nonetheless, there is a distinction between liturgies performed frequently which may only be known over time, and those performed only occasionally, if at all, in a lifetime. The former contextualize the latter: if we come to know “ordinary” rituals over time, other, occasional rituals make sense: marriages, funerals, ordinations, special celebrations. Without the ordinary, there is no extra-ordinary.

Even with such qualification, there are at least three limitations of “ordinary” liturgy. For most Christians in Ireland, the ordinary is constituted by what happens in church on Saturday night or Sunday morning. For most Christians in the Republic of Ireland, it is Mass, and this is our first problem. In our own deeply sectarian context, it matters that my Catholic nephew said, “I notice you sometimes go to the Protestant Mass.” It doesn’t matter that he noticed—although it was surely the subject of conversation at home—what matters is that Protestants don’t necessarily do “Mass,” yet Mass is the only word he has for it. Mass is so ordinary that not to be Mass is not extra-ordinary, but non-ordinary. Extra-ordinary is seen as special. Non-ordinary is seen as, at best, different and, at worst, wrong. Hence, having an “ordinary” in a violent world is not necessarily benign because the opposite of ordinary is not extra-ordinary but non-ordinary. Non-ordinary people are frequently the victims of violence precisely qua non-ordinary; the same cannot be said of extraordinary people. The second problem is quite different: even within known codes of normativity, what constitutes “ordinary” liturgy often gets turned on its head. This can happen in two ways: the first is due to the illusion that liturgies are performed “by the book” (see below); the second is due to the hard-to-avoid circularity that comes when scholars try to deconstruct liturgy. Catherine Bell’s work has been important in pointing out how, when studying ritual, we have a strong idea of what we look for before we find it.4 Academics who analyze Christian worship thus tend to look first at liturgical texts and, from them, create an expectation of practice; when practice is unexpected, they declare it non-ordinary.

As a result, what theologians say happens in worship often does not; and the converse is equally true: the theology embodied and articulated in worship practices often goes un-remarked by theologians.5 The “ordinariness” dictated by the Book of Common Prayer or the Sunday Missal is often significantly altered by actual practices. In my research, recording Sunday services in many Irish churches, I was astounded at how often prayers were omitted or changed, key responses left unsaid, words to hymns dropped or changed, scripture cut or re-translated, common gestures —the sign of peace or genuflection— done in a multitude of ways, and communion withheld or avoided. None of these changes is accidental. When liturgical scholars notice that practices are being changed from established norms, they often remark that things are being “done wrongly”—rather than, “this is extraordinary,” or “this is a new sort of ordinary.”

So is ordinary liturgy what is prescribed or what is actually enacted? As a liturgical theologian, who privileges worship as the main place where theology is formed, I vote, not surprisingly, for the latter. But to say that “ordinary” liturgy is what is actually enacted, rather than what the liturgical text6 dictates, is to acknowledge a base-line contingency in practice. This makes ordinariness endlessly relative, which has two serious consequences: it leaves liturgy both prone to abuse and harder to study, because we have far greater rigour in interpreting texts than we have yet acquired in interpreting experience.

I shall return to this point in discussing my methodology for studying actually performed liturgy. But first, I briefly note a third problem with supposedly “ordinary” Christian liturgies. In Ireland various groups of Christians meet and worship together, ritualize together over time in Christ’s name and yet are usually considered extraordinary or non-ordinary by academic theologians. These include feminist Eucharist groups, ecumenical Bible study and prayer meetings, meditation services at reconciliation centers, gay and lesbian Eucharist and fellowship communities; services in hospitals, nursing homes, chaplaincies, and schools, priestless parishes developing Eucharistic and other services—regular gatherings of people performing developed repertoires of symbolic acts. Such liturgies are generally considered “marginal” in relation to the “ordinary” liturgies, marginal economically, geographically, by dint of sexuality, gender or other power dynamics —and yet for participants they are as ordinary as Sunday Mass to my nephew.

Or are they? When thinking about what he does at Mass, my nephew feels an entire society’s message of affirmation; when my feminist friend goes to her Sunday evening gathering of feminist Christian women, she lacks the same sense of cultural, political or social affirmation. Perhaps this is what makes Sunday worship in the mainstream churches “ordinary”: cultural and social power. And, as noted above, if that social and cultural power is constructed in a history deeply scarred by imperial violence and remains deeply enchanted with the mythology of violence, a profound danger resides in the affirmation offered my nephew.

The remainder of this paper will examine case studies from both mainstream and “marginal” locations. I suggest that our liturgies themselves sometimes contribute to and sometimes challenge our violent world, at times within one service. How effective they are in either regard depends largely on the way they conduct the social and cultural power that flows through them, because violence is usually the product of misplaced or abused power. None of the examples chosen is “about” violence as we usually think of it: the war, domestic or other “hidden” violence, biblical stories of aggression; rather, each case exemplifies human intersubjectivity expressed in liberative or non-liberative speech. The notion of violence is here more subtle: the violence of human relationship held, or not held, in balance.

Some preliminary explanation is needed about my methodology. Postmodern theories have exposed the instrumental categories in which liturgy has long been treated as not merely confining but dangerous: confining in their dualisms; dangerous in their esotericism, being the product and property of an educated elite and not the ritual practitioner. Louis Marie Chauvet’s work on sacramentality has thoroughly exploded the myth of a split between intent and action, arguing on the basis of Heidegger that reality is mediated by language and thus theology needs to locate its interpretation of things liturgical in the body—and not in ontology.7

The difficult question is how to interpret what the body knows? How do we access our ritual symbols, including speech? How, without falling back on instrumental categories, such as: the priest raises the host, which “means” x; the congregation recites the prayer, which “means” y; when x and y are enacted in tandem, z breaks through. In sum, how do we interpret experience instead of texts? When it comes to examples, even Chauvet, like most liturgical theologians, analyzes printed Eucharistic texts!

The problem is how to interpret our actions, symbols, and very un-written lives. One of the few critical theorists to take this problem seriously is Jürgen Habermas. Habermas noted that for the late twentieth century the dominant scientific method for interpreting experience was Parsons’s idea of action as the basic unit of social analysis. Theologians felt the force of this prevailing orthodoxy acutely: most Christian churches introduced liturgical reforms during this period and almost without exception, their documents described liturgies as actions and revised the rites to accentuate action. Habermas criticized the effects of “action” as an analytic category (although worship was not at issue), because it obfuscated uneven power relationships. He developed a theory based on the proposal that interaction, not action, was the most basic unit of social analysis: no action can occur independently of its immersion in interaction.

Most significant for theology is this position’s radical reconceptualization of the subject. The individual acting subject—you or I, he or she—is no longer seen as a unit, but the product of a greater, more basic, unit, all subjectivity having been revealed to be intersubjectivity. In liturgical terms, this removes any notion of an individual acting subject, be it the “unit” of the individual worshipper, congregation, or presider, and replaces it with the “unit” that is the very interaction of worshipper with fellow worshipper, with presider, and with God.

How does this help us interpret our experience? First, contrary to much modernist thought, it affirms that experience can be interpreted: what is often deemed “inaccessible” is described as such in order to mask its governing power relations. In his legal and political theory, Habermas critically examines how our whole “lifeworld” has been colonized by capitalist economic ethics. His insistence that experience can and must be accessed is central to his campaign to limit the governmental and corporate power abuses. This stance alerts us to the possibility that those who claim that rituality cannot be accessed are protecting something: clericalism, perhaps, a particular view of priesthood, a sense of power, denominationalism—or, in Ireland, colonialism or sectarianism. Second, this position offers a new model for interpretation, a means of accessing experience.

Habermas, like Chauvet, maintains that language mediates reality, but proposes that by studying not language-meaning but language-usage we can interpret a particular reality. Habermas claims that all our interactions are rooted in a set of “formal pragmatics,” a network of claims to validity —to (1) truth, to (2) trustworthiness and to (3) appropriateness/ truthfulness. These three claims refer respectively to (1) the propositional content of any statement, to (2) the social and moral right of its speaker to speak, and to (3) the speaker’s sincerity. In any given interaction, all three validity claims are in play, but usually only one is explicit.

Habermas perceives that previous social sciences divided the world into actors and actions, interpreting each from the perspective of purposiverational action. This has resulted in social structures determined by “power over” models, producing the violence of oppressive personal relationships, and, in many cases, the violence of the state. These very structures can, however, be undermined by a more nuanced interpretation of the language-exchange used to construct them. Such interpretation reveals a sub-structure that holds the seeds of more equal communicative action and hence social relations free from violence, verbal or physical.

This theory’s strength lies in the fact that reason, and its appeals to truth and justice (or other “norms”), is situated only in everyday communicative action. Hence, the theory is profoundly postmetaphysical. Habermas is saying that the idealizations we make in daily rounds, developed through speech, afford the rational grounds upon which we found our values. The validity claims transcend their particular social location not by appeal to an abstract ideal, but by virtue of their immersion in the rational world we inhabit and express through our raising and redeeming of those very claims.

In practical terms, then, this theory exposes the conditions of possible understanding that are negotiated through the raising and redeeming, or refusing, of validity claims. With liturgies in particular, this allows us to see made explicit what might ordinarily seem implicit if we interpret actions as actions and not as interactions, or speech as semiotics and not as intercambio, ex-change.

Consider one basic liturgical interaction. “The Lord be with you” expects the response, “And also with you.” In case studies of Roman Catholic Masses, I was astonished to notice the frequent omission of this interchange, scripted to initiate any Mass. Often, the priest simply said, “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” followed immediately by “Let us pray.” Before reading Habermas I would not have considered this change from the text; but, the lenses of communicative action suggested that omitting the greeting obscured who was speaking to whom, because interaction between presider and congregation had not been established. With this realization, it came as less of a surprise to note that often the congregation did not respond “Amen” to the priest’s “In the name of the Father….” If the trustworthiness claim that ought to have been negotiated in the greeting—yes, you speak in the name of the Lord—is not established, then the truth claim—of our collective participation in the triune God—is weakened.

Christian liturgies are a complex matrix of communicative interactions. Sometimes the presider and the assembly interact (Peace be with you…), sometimes the entire assembly speaks directly to God (Our Father/Mother, who art in heaven…), sometimes presider, assembly and God are differentiated in a three-way exchange (Lift up your hearts; we lift them up to the Lord…), at other times congregants speak one with another (as at the sign of peace). In my studies, sometimes these interactions tend to communicative action—and then, through the very equality of relationship they enact, they present a powerful counterpoint to the world’s violence. However, at other times these interactions tend toward strategic action and, I suspect, contribute to violence.

Case Study 1

First, an example of communicative action from a Roman Catholic Church in County Mayo:

About 70% of the congregation, who had had their heads bowed for the whole Eucharistic prayer, even when bells rang at certain points, and who had said neither the Sanctus nor the acclamation, joined the presider at the conclusion of the prayer as he said, “Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever, Amen.”

Given the lack of congregational verbal participation in the Mass up to this point (less than 30%), the fact that so many people spoke these words is significant. But it is also significant because the words are prescribed for the priest alone, the congregation being required to consent just with a final “Amen.” So their speaking this prayer with the presider is a trustworthiness claim: it is literally claiming the right to speak, claiming that the truth of these words and their rightness at this time make it compelling for the whole assembly and not just one person to speak them. For these words to be truthful, the speaker must be the whole assembly, not the presider alone.

Conditions of Possible Understanding (CPU): Certain prayers cannot be spoken by the presider on the congregation’s behalf (even if they are scripted to be so; and even if other prayers, scripted to be said by the congregation, are in practice said by the priest alone); the Christological truth claim being made in this prayer can only be understood if uttered—it cannot be negotiated and consented-to by means of the “Amen” response alone.

Case Study 2

Second, an example from an assembly of gay men worshiping together in Dublin:

The reader, seated, read an extract from Ephesians, ending with “This is the Word of the Lord.” The congregation responded, “Thanks be to God” and everyone, prompted by the missalette, immediately sang the hymn, “All People that on Earth Do Dwell.”

This exchange works on several levels: the singing responds directly to the reading; it is a full-voiced redemption of the truth claims inhering in Ephesians. However, it also qualifies the congregants’ interpretation of the reading by challenging the truth claims made in it: here the people sing “All people that on earth do dwell,” emphasizing the inclusivity of God’s engagement in creation. The simple act of singing in unison is also an act of consensus-formation. For one of the other hymns I noticed two people not singing; for another of them a man sitting close-by changed all the “father” imagery to “god” or “creator”; so the unison with which this truth claim is raised, challenged, and redeemed is not to be taken for granted.

CPU: First, God’s revelation must be recognized as being for all people—there must be an explicit test of its inclusivity; second, consensus can be expressed by singing together.

Case Study 3

Third, an example from a Church of Ireland parish in Co. Galway which had, up to this point in the service, enacted the rite exactly as scripted in their service book:

At the signal for the peace to be passed, everyone who shook hands with me said something, and they nearly all said something different, to me or to one another, including: “Peace,” “Peace be with you,” “Peace, NAME,” “The Peace of Christ,” “Hello, NAME,” “Good to see you,” “Hi,” and “Nice to meet you.”

This interaction was unusual, because it was not the case that one spoke while another listened; rather both took one another’s hand and spoke simultaneously. The variety of greetings is also unusual, as it departs from the “Peace be with you” suggested in the order of service. This too is a truth claim, responding to the priest’s words a few moments earlier, “Peace be with you,” expressed as a desire to provide grounds to justify their response “And also with you.” The fact that the community felt as free with their words and movement as they did (i.e.: freedom to change the script) reflects the diversity of participants (each giving a slightly different greeting) and their unified vision for their activity (each greeting not just their neighbor but as many people as possible). As speakers they desired to say an authentic word; as hearers they desired to hear as many co-worshippers as possible.

CPU: Community/communion is a live thing, it is not taken for granted; it must be forged and affirmed through one-to-one interaction: touch, eye-contact, greeting, listening; every time, with as many fellow-worshippers as possible.

Each case exhibits communicative action: negotiating leadership roles, expressing consensus, forging relationships through various verbal and non-verbal interactions, interacting directly and openly with one another and with God. There is no restraint to one’s ability to negotiate, no coercion to act in an undesired way, no manipulation to do or say something one does not believe. Not every aspect of all Christian liturgies is quite so liberative, as the following examples demonstrate.

Case Study 4

First, again from the same Roman Catholic parish in Mayo:

The celebrant began, “In the Name of the Father [the majority of the assembly made the “sign of the cross” with their hand, but did not speak] and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. I want to welcome today Fr. X as concelebrant of this Mass. Fr. X is originally from Ballyglass and I know you would want me to welcome him on your behalf. He is stationed on the missions in Nigeria and he’s here visiting for two weeks and we’re delighted he will concelebrate mass with me today, so, you are very welcome Fr. X. Today we hear the story of Jesus’ forgiveness of Peter; let us keep this in mind as we pray to God our Father, I confess to almighty God….” Less than 10% of the congregation joined him in saying the prayer of confession.

Firstly, the presider does not greet the congregation, as the Roman Catholic missal prescribes (minimally: “The Lord be with you”: “And also with you”). This establishes the priest as sole speaker rather than priest and congregation as partners. Secondly, the subsequent monologue confirms first impressions: the priest makes the sign of the cross and immediately says “Amen” without pausing, or lowering his voice, booming through the p.a., to allow the congregation to join him. By so doing he raises a truth claim (that we gather in the triune name of God) but denies the congregation the opportunity to assent or challenge. Thirdly, the presider then immediately welcomes at length the concelebrant “on your behalf.” The priest has not yet established dialogue with the people on whose behalf he claims to speak and they get no opportunity to challenge or affirm because he moves swiftly on. Fourthly, instead of saying “Let us pray” he instructs the congregation to remember his theme for the day. But, fifthly, “we” do not pray. Most congregants do not respond verbally and those whose mouths seem to move can nevertheless not be heard because the presider’s voice is so loudly amplified.

Case Study 5

And from the Church of Ireland parish, from the sermon: then he said, “You see, you can’t just take it in as it’s read, you have to read it over and over, over days. And that might mean you actually have to open your Bibles. Now that would be a novelty, wouldn’t it.” He paused for a second. Most people in the congregation, who had been looking directly at him, were looking down. He cleared his throat and carried on.

In Christian worship, the sermon is a direct challenge from the assembly to the presider to give grounds, it is a truth claim. Earlier liturgical acts prove the preacher’s trustworthiness; what remains is to justify the truth claim made in reading the gospel. In the exchange described above, speaker and hearer alike recognize that the truth claim was not in fact being justified.

The priest’s comments betray his assumptions about his addressees. It is one thing to challenge an assembly who have given the mandate to preach; it is another to make assumptions about the faith practices of that assembly and issue a sardonic rebuke. In the subsequent pause and the throat-clearing cough, we see that the priest himself needed to interrupt the dialogue, to register the breach of trust manifest in his words. The loss of eye-contact also signaled the rupture.

Case Study 6

And, finally from an Irish-speaking church in a geographically and economically marginal location on the west coast:

The priest began the offertory prayer and the people did not say any of the three responses written for them, but the priest did. The sound of money jingling was heard right dethrough till the collection at the end of the prayer. It was impressive then, that when the Eucharistic prayer began a moment later, the congregational responses to each and every part were said strongly.

The congregation refuses their lines one minute, but says them loudly and clearly the next. This is no accident. There is a relationship between the audible offering of the people’s money and their refusal to assent to the offering of bread and wine. Communicative interaction breaks down at the obvious level during the offering prayer, with the priest saying the congregation’s part in their place when they fail to do so. It is not the case that the priest always speaks the congregation’s part—in the Eucharistic prayer he is entirely quiet while the people say their pieces in full voice. At the offertory, the priest, overriding obvious resistance, speaks on the congregation’s behalf. It may be canonically legitimate in the Roman liturgy, but in terms of communicative action it is a violation, a distortion because their resistance (and the uncertain reasons behind it) is gagged.

In case studies of numerous worship services in Ireland, there were hardly any that did not include a similar example of strategic action, although it must be said that they were far less frequent in the marginal locations. Why, when worship can be the very location in which communicative action, actions that free us from any and all forms of domination, is it so often also the space where both subtle and overt forms of domination and coercion are reinforced? I think we can borrow from Habermas’s vision of a politics free from systemic distortion and hope for the same in our liturgies.

In conclusion, I would like to draw attention to three areas of potential re-construction: the first is leadership. We urgently need to renegotiate our notion of liturgical presidency to be clear about the limits and responsibilities of the power we invest in our leaders and the power we retain for ourselves. We need to question where the authority of our interactions resides. In my studies of Roman Catholic parishes, the presider often abused power by saying or doing things that violated the assembly’s ability to speak; however, just as often, congregations constrained their presider to an isolated and over-powered position by not bothering with liturgical responses, not challenging when given the chance to challenge and not redeeming validity claims when directly asked to do so. These behavioral patterns are deeply ingrained in us by history, the product of a profoundly ambivalent political relationship between people, government and ecclesiastical hierarchy—and this ambivalence has only been strengthened by the fact there is now a clerical sexual abuse case pending in nearly every parish in Ireland.

One of the most consistent differences between marginal and mainstream conditions of possible understanding exposed in liturgies was that in the marginal locations, leadership was nearly always challenged, defined or otherwise negotiated within the ritual. By modeling the exercise of largely unaccountable power in our mainstream liturgies, we give the unaccountable power that causes violence in society a real sense of legitimacy. We make it sacred.

The second area involves the grammar of the dialogue itself. We need to start small, with the basics of our intersubjectivity. Much valuable work has been done in recent years on how liturgical language can exclude, suggesting possibilities for non-patriarchal and gender-inclusive language and for greater emphasis on hospitality. We also need to ensure that in using this language and in our gestures, music, song, sound, and speech, we focus on dialogue. If there is no such thing as subjectivity without intersubjectivity, then let’s pay greater attention to our interaction.

In terms of language-exchange, the behaviors that engender communicative action are seemingly simple, but extremely difficult to practice: do not interrupt one another, except, of course, to stop a violation; do not be anonymous in your speech actions; always allow for a response; make space for the other; be imaginative; be authentic. It is simple stuff, basically boiling down to: do not talk over one another (but it is too often the case that, to be heard, the worshipper battles: loud microphone, no time for responses, no space to locate her story in the community’s story). It is far, far easier said than done; but as the “practice non-violence” movement has taught us for twenty years, it is in such seemingly insignificant interactions, and not by purchasing a gun, that violence enters our world.

Thirdly, and lastly, the Eucharistic liturgy itself should no longer be considered a “unit,” a subject, but, rather part of an intersubjective unit of all acts of worship. At its most basic level, this unit is the whole of life; but a specific way of redeeming the truth claim that violence is liberative would be for us to consider the Eucharist not as our ordinary liturgy, but only in tension with and in relation to other acts of corporate worship. It is always already related to Baptism, but this relationship could be more explicit in our worship practices. Could we develop its relation with Morning Prayer, grace before meals, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Evensong, or ecumenical Bible study groups? It is inevitable, if we celebrate the Eucharist in isolation, that only part of its story will be told.

It will also mean that only a part of God is known. The significance of deconstructing liturgies along these lines is not that we develop a mandate for their renewal; but that we come to know God more fully, to worship God more passionately. What the ordinary interactions of ordinary liturgies show is that like non-violence, God is, as often said, in the details.

Siobhán Garrigan is Assistant Professor of Liturgical Studies and Assistant Dean for Chapel at Yale Divinity School. She is author of the forthcoming Beyond Ritual: Sacramental Theology after Habermas. Before coming to Yale, she taught courses on worship, theology, and creativity as part of the Religious Studies faculty at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. Her ecumenical work has led to her co-coordination of the first Irish interchurch conference, Fís.

1  I am profoundly grateful to Edward Kessler (Cambridge) and Natalie Wigg (YDS) for their reactions to and criticisms of the paper.

2  R.L. Grimes, Deeply Into the Bone: Re-inventing Rites of Passage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000) 346.

3  See the discussion of the theologies of J.B. Metz and Christopher Rowland in Siobhán Garrigan, Beyond Ritual: Sacramental Theology after Habermas (Abingdon, Oxon: Ashgate, 2004).

4  See Catherine Bell, Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

5  A notable exception is the work of my colleague here at Yale, Martha Moore-Keish. Borrowing from the methodologies of Ritual Studies, she has developed a system of interviews, surveys and observation of a congregation over time which has revealed Eucharistic theologies of remarkable depth and complexity. “Reading Local Eucharistic Theology” [A presentation to the Liturgy Symposium at Yale, November 3, 2003].

6  Although I say “text,” I include the worship norms of those Christian traditions which, while describing themselves as non-text based in their worship practices, nevertheless have a strong sense of a “norm” in their patterns of meeting for worship. In an Irish context, I am thinking mostly of the Elim Pentecostal and the fast- growing Evangelical Fellowship churches.

7  See Louis Marie Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament:A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence (Collegeville MN: Liturgical Press, 1995).