Most of the history of the Church concerns its institutions with its canon law, social and political operations, the degree of subjection to forces such as regional or national patriotism, the struggles to be independent of the secular forces to which the Church is often bound. Yet the point of the Church in its own self-understanding lies in faith in God who became and is present to believers in Christ and through the experience of the Holy Spirit. This is not very visible in the meetings of synods or the decisions of primates, but is pre-eminently the case when Christians in a particular place assemble together to worship, to give thanks for their creation and redemption, to pray for forgiveness, renewal, courage, and humility, but especially to hear the word of God and to celebrate the covenant signs in water, bread, and wine as means of divine grace and as ordered rites which provide both form and vitality to the disorder of human life. Characteristic of Christian worship is a dialogue between God and the people of God. The forms which this takes are called liturgy, which is not so much a precise and prescribed pattern of sentences as a pattern of symbolic words and actions through which the presence of the Lord is realized.
At the same time liturgy is expressive of the Christian story, that is, a narrative commonly formulated in a creed or confession of faith. Therefore liturgy is often intimately associated with belief or doctrine, though not with its more technical formulation. Normally the vocabulary of liturgy is severely limited; certain words and turns of phrase become characteristic vehicles of prayer and aspiration and, because of the spiritual desire which motivates them, tend towards verbal beauty, lost when the meaning is translated into more everyday and less poetic terms. Liturgy is an act of a community. But often human beings do not find it the easiest thing to be trying to pray if too much is going on around them, and they long for silence and solitude. A consequence of this in the past has been the feeling among the clergy that so sacred a text as the central eucharistic prayer of consecration and offering, in Latin the 'canon of the mass', in Greek 'anaphora', should be mumbled, not said aloud, because it has mystery at its heart. Nevertheless it is obvious to any student of ancient eucharistic