Douglas McKelvey finds what matters in every moment
Words by Christine Van Dyk
My family grew up in the shadow of a steeple rising above the “first” church of our town. We went to Sunday school, took Communion with plastic shot glasses of grape juice, and learned Scripture through stories told on felt board. It’s where my faith began, and yet at times, I had the sneaking suspicion it was not the only “way.”
While I knew all the verses of Just As I Am, I’d never held a Book of Common Prayer or said the Apostles’ Creed. Anything remotely liturgical was suspect—rituals were considered rote and ancient traditions seen as mystical—the implication being that the Jesus of those things was less than the one found at the end of an altar call. So, imagine my surprise when I stumbled across a book of liturgies called Every Moment Holy and discovered a faith that was alive and present throughout all of life, not just the Sundays.
Every Moment Holy grew out of the imagination of Douglas McKelvey. Originally from East Texas, the author, lyricist, and scriptwriter moved to Nashville to join Art House America, which explores the intersection of faith and the arts. Throughout his career, he’s written more than 350 song lyrics for artists such as Switchfoot, Kenny Rogers, and Sanctus Real.
Years ago when writing a novel, Doug grew frustrated and decided instead to create a liturgy to focus his thoughts on the Creator. When he asked Andrew Peterson, his friend and the founder/president of The Rabbit Room, to recommend a topic, he could not have been more surprised by the answer: beekeeping.
“A light bulb went off in my head,” he said. “I grew up thinking there was this big divide between the sacred and secular parts of life. But what if every moment we live is set within the context of eternity? If that’s the case, then even the smallest moments are part of what God is doing in and through and around me.”
There’s a liturgy for doing laundry and feasting with friends, another when you’re frustrated with a child and, yes, one for keeping bees. These seemingly ordinary moments become holy when considered from another perspective.
“There’s a sense of awe at the edge of the Grand Canyon that becomes an impulse to worship,” Doug said, “but God is no less active in day-to-day moments like standing in line at the DMV or having to change a diaper for the fifth time.”
The liturgies can be read responsively or used for personal contemplation. Some have multiple speaking parts for reading in a group, such as the blessing my friends and I read at a wedding shower.
The success of the book was followed by a second edition that focuses on the harder seasons of life, with liturgies for death, grief, and hope. It began when Doug posted an invitation on social media that read, “If anyone needs a prayer for coping during the holidays, message me.”
“In the space of a day or so, I had two hundred responses,” he said.
One woman described losing her son two weeks prior, another revealed she wouldn’t be there to read the book when it was published because she had only six months to live.
“It seemed right to sit in that grief with them,” Doug recalls. “I began to notice how many people my life intersected with and how many of them had deep wounds. A few of these people became gatekeepers for the prayers. They made sure I was accurate in the telling and sensitive to the trauma.”
The feedback of people who had walked the hard road became invaluable. When a liturgy was beyond Doug’s experience, the gatekeepers had to sign off. For example, the specificity of the liturgy for a house fire came from the experience of his friends who prayed standing among the remains of their home.
While the everyday joys of life and the pain that is common to us all are at the heart of Every Moment Holy, the idea isn’t new.
“It’s a practice we see in the early Church,” Doug said. “Celtic believers had prayers for covering the coals of the hearth fire and milking the cows. They moved through their days with a pervasive sense of God’s presence.”
Some liturgies in Every Moment Holy are written for daily recitation, while others are for special, memorable, and even tragic occasions. They are a reminder the divine is ever-present—as much with our failures as our successes, inhabiting our happiness as well as our sorrow. So, whether you find yourself at a birthday celebration, paying the bills, or finally removing your wedding ring, there is a liturgy that speaks to that and echoes the truth that God is indeed with you for every moment—and every moment is holy.
The third volume in the series arrives this holiday season. It features new and historic liturgies, written by more than sixty contributors, touching on everything from yard work to meeting those of different cultures to preparing oneself to exercise. As do the previous editions, it serves as a companion and guide for the everyday pursuit of holiness.