The King, The Goat, and the Book of Common Prayer

The King, The Goat, and the Book of Common Prayer September 12, 2022

I was looking at Facebook when I caught the picture out of the corner of my eye of. . .a goat. Turns out that the proclamation of King Charles III throughout the United Kingdom took a particular local turn in Wales, where the Royal Welsh regiment that led the march prior to the proclamation marched alongside their mascot, a goat.

You can read more about the goat here (he gets a rank and a salary and a radio and one of his colleagues formerly got to eat two cigarettes a day.)

There’s been a lot of criticism surrounding the death of HM The Queen and the accession of HM The King. (OK, he isn’t my liege lord, but he is the liege lord of my husband and kids.) Some of it has to do with the ritual and ceremony of the various occasions. Ritual and ceremony are odd, and we are told they seem odder to us now than they used to in former times. People wear things they don’t normally wear and say things they don’t normally say and use titles they don’t usually use and recall many things that happened a long time ago. For the first time – because this was all last done 70 years ago – some of these things are being televised, giving even more people an opportunity to say how odd it all is.

As an Episcopalian, I have a front seat to a lot of fights over liturgy. I used to have a front seat to different fights in United Methodism. Episcopalians are less likely than United Methodists to say that liturgy is stupid or odd or ungodly, but they are just as likely to tinker with it in the interests of educating modern people, and getting more so all the time.

When I was a young and eager post-Vatican-II-influenced liturgy geek with an idealistic mania for displacing my elders, I used to think you could use liturgy for education. Now I know I was wrong. First of all, there are no modern people. There are just people. Secondly, liturgy can and will teach you, but that’s not why you do it. You do it so that it gets into your bones, so that it holds you up in times of tragedy, so that it gives you words that are not your own to say to God when you can’t come up with any words of your own.

You also do it because it’s profoundly silly. The best liturgy is the one you take seriously, but not too seriously. Whenever you think you might be earnestly in charge – of your life or the worship service or the passage of time or the government of nations – you need to take a step back and think how goofy everything really is. The Prayer Book is gloriously goofy. So are vestments. So are proclamations. So are marches, with or without goats. The best ritual is just silly enough to get us out of the way. The goat is just here to help us see that.

 

Image: Unsplash.


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