Expansive Language Liturgy

Sighs Too Deep for Words

Responding to members’ consistent requests for more expansive images in worship, a team of fifteen church leaders from Twin Cities congregations (Holy Trinity, Grace University, St. Michael’s, Edina Community, University Lutheran Church of Hope, and Bishop Ann Svennungsen from the Minneapolis Area Synod) commissioned a new expansive language liturgy. The group was inspired by the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women, the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women of color, and the 10th anniversary of the ordination of LGBTQIA+ leaders in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), as well as the ELCA’s newly published social statement entitled Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Call to Action.

After having spent time with the voices of feminist, womanist, mujerista, and queer theologians and musicians, and having been awarded a Ministry Imagination Grant from the Minneapolis Area Synod, the team then contracted with two writers—namely, Rev. Tamika Jancewicz and Rev. Emilie Casey. Their work began just weeks after Minneapolis, along with the rest of the world, witnessed the brutal murder of George Floyd. Given these circumstances, the commissioners felt called to create an expansive language liturgy not only relating to gender and sexuality, but also to race and culture and were pleased that these two writers, with very different social locations, graciously agreed to work together to create something that would bring a richness and depth that could not be achieved by one individual working in isolation. The commissioning team then searched for a musician and found Anne Krentz Organ to be the composer.

Together, Pastor Tamika Jancewicz, Pastor Emilie Casey, and Anne Krentz Organ shaped this liturgy entitled Sighs Too Deep for Words (Romans 8:26). This resource gives special attention to women’s experiences in scripture and in everyday life, and it invites embodied prayer. This is a liturgy rooted in scriptural accounts of the breaths, sighs, groans, and shouts of God, humanity, and all creation. The writers have aimed to craft language and music that is not only theologically rigorous and aesthetically beautiful, but also clear, adaptable, and singable. May we pray and sing without knowing exactly what to say, for it is when “we do not know how to pray as we ought” that the “Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”

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