Processions as a liturgical movement within the church are not a common feature of current church life and worship. They were a much bigger deal in the medieval period and, when considering the liturgical life of a typical medieval cathedral or abbey, a specialized book called a processionale is an important resource. Naturally, there is a Sarum processional and there were some in the late 19th/early 2oth Sarum Revival who were interested in bringing back the custom of processions, noticably Percy Dearmer.
I want to make on quick, rather random note on processions and their use in the modern church… I’ll do so by introducing this image that I just ran across and that reminded me of what I wanted to say on this topic. From the British Library, here’s a miniature of a bishop preaching from Harley MS 4425, f. 167v:
Note where he’s preaching from: a platform set on barrels…
What does this have to do with processions? Furniture. More specifically the kind of furniture that did and didn’t exist in major medieval worship spaces vs. the furniture that exists in American churches.
A cathedral is quite different in size than a modern American church. Too, the furniture did not have the same relationship to the space that ours does now. Namely—pews, pulpits, and other kinds of fixed furniture. Processions as envisioned in medieval sources work a heck of a lot better in a big space without fixed pews! Many of the modern processions I’ve seen or participated in end up with a long trail of people squeezed between a wall and long lines of set pews with very few being able to effectively “group” at a station. So—if we’re going to do this, how do we do it better?