Liturgical purists will scoff.
But since I doubt very many of them are reading this blog, I will come right out and say it: I love Holden Evening Prayer.
If you are not a Lutheran of a certain stripe, you are probably scratching your head right now. Holden Evening Prayer (or “Holden”, as the initiated often call it) is an evening prayer setting written by Marty Haugen for the worshiping community at Holden Village, a retreat center in remote Washington state.
“Isn’t that the lost act of Damn Yankees?” one of my Facebook friends quipped. And he has a point–there is something just a little jazz hands about Holden.
But it is also one of my first Lutheran memories. My first Lutheran Lent (my family joined an ELCA church when I was 13) was set to the music of Holden Evening Prayer, as were many of the Lents that followed. On Wednesday nights, whether at my first Lutheran church, the Lutheran church I lurked at in college, or the Methodist church where Lutherans and others gathered in Milwaukee, I let my prayers rise up like incense. I sang the prayers that stayed with me through the week, as I hummed them while doing the dishes, reading the newspaper, walking to class.
One of my favorite things about liturgy is the way it carries our faith through time and space. I love that the liturgy I sang in Evanston, Illinois and Northfield, Minnesota and Milwaukee, Wisconsin is one I can sing in rural Litchfield and rural Cosmos, too. I love that when I came home from singing it last night, I came home to post after Facebook post by people who had just sung it, too.
Most of the folks at First and Beckville have not been singing Holden Evening Prayer for all of their Lutheran lives. This is only the second year that I have led it. So, our prayers are rising up more tentatively than usual.
But they are rising up alongside the prayers of congregations across the country, singing the same liturgy and praying the same prayers. And, jazz hands or no, there is something very lovely about that.