Thinking allowed

Advice to "traditional worshippers"


In an art­icle Dear Tra­di­tion­al Wor­ship­pers blog­ger “Jonath­an” gets to grips with some of the issues between “tra­di­tion­al” and “con­tem­por­ary” wor­ship. Writ­ing from an Amer­ic­an Meth­od­ist per­spect­ive he lists some of the things that are lost by “con­tem­por­ary” worship,

It’s dev­ast­at­ing to see what’s happened to wor­ship in the church. You’re right. The blind­ness sur­round­ing the issue is astound­ing. The insist­ence that the com­mon trends of the day are most fit­ting for pub­lic wor­ship is wrong and short-sighted. It’s griev­ing that most churches now let Chris­ti­ans choose to not learn the his­tor­ic creeds, or the great tra­di­tion of hymns and songs, or the great priv­ilege of pray­ing togeth­er and read­ing Scrip­ture togeth­er. The com­mer­cial­iz­a­tion of our sac­red time, well, it’s noth­ing short of tra­gic. Yeah, we’ve sac­ri­ficed so much of who we are.

I know you feel like it’s been stolen from you. I know the pain runs deep. I know you’ve lost jobs, friends, fam­ily, con­greg­a­tions. I know you’ve paid a dear price.

I hear you. I’m one of you. I get it.

But he continues

But here’s the deal. We’ve become part of the problem.

It’s not enough to say “we like it.” That does­n’t mat­ter. The worst thing that “con­tem­por­ary wor­ship” did was come on the scene, label itself as a viable choice, and then get away with labeling the liturgy as a choice, also. But we can learn from the brokenness.

It’s not enough to say, “That was my mom’s favor­ite hymn.” Or, “It’s my pref­er­ence.” Or, “Those were some of my best child­hood memor­ies.” It’s got to be deep­er than that, or we’re just guard­ing our rel­ics, our museum pieces.

It’s not about sen­ti­ment­al­ity. It’s not about taste or pref­er­ence. It’s about meaning.

The bot­tom line is this. We don’t keep tra­di­tion because it’s tra­di­tion, or because it’s old, or because it’s comfortable.

We keep tra­di­tion because it’s worth doing. Because it anchors us. Because it’s big­ger than us. Because it reminds us that we’re not alone. Because it keeps us hon­est. Because it helps us avoid think­ing that this wor­ship thing is all about us. Because it builds up the church. Because it lets us bet­ter engage our minds with our spir­it. Because it helps us respond as the vis­ible community.

So maybe we need to rethink our plan of action.

And he goes on to list a dozen point where action can be taken.

Def­in­itely worth a read.


More Canadian trial liturgy

I noted earli­er the pub­lic­a­tion by the Anglic­an Church of Canada of tri­al Year A Col­lects ‘from Pente­cost to the Reign of Christ’.

The Cana­dian Church has added con­sid­er­ably more resources to that page in the inter­ven­ing peri­od. It now contains

  • Morn­ing and Even­ing Pray­er: Advent, Christ­mas and Epiphany
  • Tri­al Use Litur­gic­al Psalter
  • Tri­al Use Col­lects and Sea­son­al Pray­ers over the Gifts and after Com­mu­nion from Advent to the Bap­tism of Christ — Year B
  • Tri­al Use Col­lects and Sea­son­al Pray­ers over the Gifts and after Com­mu­nion from Advent to the Bap­tism of Christ — Year A
  • Tri­al Use Col­lects from Pente­cost to the Reign of Christ — Year A

In the Cana­dian Church each dio­ces­an bish­op can author­ize the this mater­i­al for tri­al use in their dio­cese, and the task Force encour­ages feed­back on their use.

(Thanks to Rod Gil­lis for draw­ing my atten­tion to the new mater­i­al. As before, I wel­come read­ers send­ing sug­ges­tions of suit­able links either by email or as a com­ment on an exist­ing article.)

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2014-15 Almanac

Each year since 2002 I have pro­duced a down­load­able cal­en­dar for the forth­com­ing litur­gic­al year, accord­ing to the rules of the Church of England’s Com­mon Wor­ship Cal­en­dar and Lectionary.

The 2014–15 Alman­ac is now avail­able for Out­look, Apple desktop and iOS Cal­en­dar, Google Cal­en­dar, Android devices and oth­er formats, with your choice of Sunday, week­day, euchar­ist­ic, office, col­lects, Excit­ing Holi­ness lec­tions, for Com­mon Wor­ship and BCP.

Down­load is free, dona­tions are invited.


Liturgy and the 100 best Christian books

Is a story about some­thing which didn’t hap­pen news?

The Church Times has recently pub­lished its list of “100 best Chris­ti­an books”.

Amongst these 100 works there is not a single volume con­tain­ing or con­cern­ing liturgy. The closest is per­haps at num­ber 37 The Pray­ers and Med­it­a­tions of St Anselm.

This might be con­sidered a strange omis­sion in a list, par­tic­u­larly in an Anglic­an com­pil­a­tion, although the com­pilers delib­er­ately decided to exclude the Book of Com­mon Pray­er (mean­ing pre­sum­ably the 1662 edi­tion) and favour­ite hymn books. Even so, it is sur­pris­ing that there are no books about liturgy and litur­gic­al prac­tice included.

So I invite read­ers to make sug­ges­tions of books of or about liturgy that they think might have been included, and why.


worship or performance

This week’s edit­or­i­al at Anglic­ans Online pon­ders the ques­tion When is a ser­vice wor­ship and when is it per­form­ance?.

Our friend enjoys the cleans­ing end-of-the-day, begin­ning-of-the-week feel to Com­pline on Sunday even­ings. She, like us, views the ser­vices of the Daily Office as wor­ship­ful expres­sions of our beliefs and faith. Ima­gine her sur­prise when she sat down with the pew sheet: The second word on the inside cov­er was ‘per­form­ance’.

Com­pline as per­form­ance? She brought us the pew sheet. We read it through. Unfor­tu­nately, this time the sung ser­vice of Com­pline seemed to be replaced with a con­cert based on Com­pline. Soloists were named, a long bio­graph­ic­al sketch of the con­duct­or was included. No men­tion was made of the his­tory or role of Com­pline in the wor­ship life of our tra­di­tion. No men­tion of wel­com­ing the con­greg­a­tion to a time of pray­er. Per­haps we are being too picky. Per­haps it is enough the ser­vice is being offered no mat­ter the circumstances.

We were left to pon­der: When is a ser­vice wor­ship and when is it per­form­ance? Does it mat­ter? Should it matter?


Liturgical presidency

The term ‘pres­id­ent’ sig­ni­fies an import­ant shift in litur­gic­al think­ing. The words ‘priest’ and even ‘min­is­ter’, used in the 1662 Book of Com­mon Pray­er, appear to have a per­fectly clear and adequate mean­ing. But bib­lic­al under­stand­ings of priest­hood encom­passed ideas of a spe­cially-selec­ted per­son who might carry out func­tions on behalf of people from which they might even be excluded. The Holy of Hol­ies of the Temple was reserved for the priest­hood, who per­formed their func­tions largely in secret. 

A pres­id­ent acts in the midst of a gath­er­ing of the people of God. The most ancient Chris­ti­an churches are mod­elled on the spaces for civil gath­er­ings of the Roman Empire. This is our mod­el for the set­ting of the Eucharist.

Through­out Chris­ti­an his­tory, there has been a ten­sion between the roles of priest (min­is­ter­ing on behalf of the people in a holy place) and pres­id­ent. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, with the norm for the West­ern Mass being the daily duty of clergy, priest­hood was para­mount, and pres­id­ency could vir­tu­ally disappear.

  • The priest might be alone, save for one server
  • He had his back to the people
  • Some of the pray­ers were silent, or even delib­er­ately secret
  • Lat­in, a reli­gious lan­guage used to address God, was used in pref­er­ence to the ver­nacu­lar used to address the people
  • The priest might be sep­ar­ated from the people by a screen, a choir formed of a reli­gious com­munity or both
  • Women were kept away from the altar, and only men would serve

The Reform­a­tion began a reversal. In the BCP, Eng­lish is employed, and the priest must speak aud­ibly. But Cranmer’s idea of a gath­er­ing around the holy table set length­wise in the church with the pres­id­ent at the ‘north side’ soon lost its mean­ing when the tables were returned to the spaces formerly occu­pied by medi­ev­al stone altars.

For the Reformers there were few clear mod­els of pres­id­ency at hand, and this meant that the BCP does not provide adequate guid­ance. The BCP Euchar­ist begins, not with an act of litur­gic­al pres­id­ency, but with the private devo­tion of the priest. The priest alone says the Lord’s Pray­er, and the people are not even invited to respond with the ‘Amen’. They respond only after the Col­lect for Pur­ity. It seems as though the first task of the priest in this ser­vice is not pres­id­ency, but, once he has pur­i­fied him­self with his devo­tions, to admon­ish the people by remind­ing them of the Ten Com­mand­ments. Tra­di­tion­ally, the priest only turns to face the con­greg­a­tion at this point. What pic­ture must go through his mind as he turns from the vis­ion of saints in a sun­lit east win­dow to the people below in the nave? Is he Moses, com­ing down the moun­tain from his encounter with God to deliv­er the law to a dis­obedi­ent crowd of golden calf worshippers? 

Pres­id­ency is also not very evid­ent at the begin­ning of the BCP Order for the Buri­al of the Dead. The priest intones a series of bib­lic­al texts as the coffin is brought into church, start­ling the con­greg­a­tion with a boom­ing voice from the back declar­ing that ‘I am the resur­rec­tion and the life’. It isn’t a good pres­id­en­tial act. And Morn­ing Pray­er opens not with a greet­ing, but with the recol­lec­tion of ‘the wicked man’. That glor­i­ous address to the con­greg­a­tion, ‘dearly beloved brethren’, is lost in what appears like a great deal of fin­ger-wag­ging. The leg­acy of cen­tur­ies of inad­equate mod­els of pres­id­ency enshrined in the texts of the BCP has giv­en those called to min­is­ter a poor mod­el of how to lead wor­ship. What is more, the need to keep to a faith­ful adher­ence to the words of the Pray­er Book, without addi­tions, made it dif­fi­cult to assert a pres­id­en­tial role.

Today the pres­id­ent at the Euchar­ist is bid­den to address the people and greet them in the name of the Lord, invit­ing their response by estab­lish­ing the entire body as a gath­er­ing for wor­ship. This, crit­ic­ally, requires the use of mod­ern Eng­lish. The reten­tion of ‘King James Eng­lish’ at this point is dis­astrous because, whilst we might like to address our cre­at­or rev­er­en­tially as ‘Thou’, for the con­greg­a­tion to use the same expres­sion (and with thy spir­it) when respond­ing to the vicar sounds quite over the top. (The post Vat­ic­an 2 Span­ish trans­la­tion of the Lat­in Mass got it right when the people’s response was ‘Y con tu espir­itu’ rather than the respect­ful address in the third per­son used when speak­ing defer­en­tially to superiors.)

For­tu­nately Com­mon Wor­ship encour­ages flex­ib­il­ity in the open­ing greet­ing. The pres­id­ent may add oth­er words of greet­ing, and may then, after the greet­ing, give fur­ther words of intro­duc­tion in order to enable and enrich the par­ti­cip­a­tion of the entire gath­er­ing. The bap­tism party are acknow­ledged, and the can­did­ate is named. Returned former parish­ion­ers can be wel­comed, and sig­ni­fic­ant vis­it­ors are poin­ted out. The pres­id­ent may intro­duce him­self or her­self and name oth­ers who will take a sig­ni­fic­ant role in the ser­vice. The occa­sion for cel­eb­ra­tion is high­lighted. In short, the pres­id­ent ini­ti­ates ‘The Gath­er­ing’ of all who will share in wor­ship and sets out the journey.

With this begin­ning, the con­greg­a­tion will look to the pres­id­ent to keep them on course through­out the ser­vice. The days when the liturgy pro­ceeded without announce­ments, hymns were simply lis­ted on the board, and the reg­u­lar wor­ship­pers always knew what came next are over. That sep­ar­a­tion of ‘sheep’, who knew what would hap­pen next, and ‘goats’, who were com­pletely at sea, is unac­cept­able. The pres­id­ent real­ises the import­ance of includ­ing every­one so that they are able to par­ti­cip­ate; kneel­ing, sit­ting, stand­ing, speak­ing without embar­rass­ment. This has the advant­age of allow­ing flex­ib­il­ity into the ser­vice without giv­ing the impres­sion that some­how things have gone wrong when the usu­al order is varied.

Some may object that they do not want what can appear like an unne­ces­sary run­ning com­ment­ary on a famil­i­ar ser­vice. But the new­comers must be invited in. Indeed, this idea is para­mount in gos­pel stor­ies which provide mod­els for the Euchar­ist. At the feed­ing of the 5,000, when the dis­ciples want to send the people away, Jesus gath­ers the crowd to sit on the grass to be present for the break­ing of bread. 

The pres­id­en­tial role of Jesus at the Last Sup­per, as Pas­sov­er is cel­eb­rated, is clear in every depic­tion of the event. The ris­en Christ takes that role again, at Emmaus, and on the shores of Galilee when he invites the dis­ciples to ‘come and have break­fast’. Jesus presides at the break­ing of bread, and gives us the mod­el for the Chris­ti­an Euchar­ist. The mould, of the old priest­hood at the Temple, is broken, for the veil of the Temple has been torn apart. It is not the busi­ness of the Chris­ti­an priest­hood today to try to put it back.


Worship Matters: an evening event

News of an even­ing with Gra­ham Kendrick for wor­ship lead­ers and wor­ship groups organ­ized by LICC (the Lon­don Insti­tute for Con­tem­por­ary Christianity)

Wor­ship Matters:
Lead­ing Wor­ship for the Front­line — 18th September

Wor­ship mat­ters. It expresses our under­stand­ing of God, shapes us as dis­ciples and is the core activ­ity of churches. So what does it mean to lead wor­ship in a church that wants to take whole-life dis­ciple­ship seriously?

Join Gra­ham Kendrick for Wor­ship Mat­ters: Lead­ing Wor­ship for the Front­line — an even­ing that offers insight, ideas and encour­age­ment for wor­ship lead­ers and wor­ship­pers, who want wor­ship to engage with the every­day exper­i­ences of life on our Frontlines.

Why not invite mem­bers of your wor­ship team to begin a con­ver­sa­tion togeth­er about how your church’s exper­i­ence of wor­ship can be developed to embrace a whole-life perspective.

Hos­ted by Neil Hud­son, Dir­ect­or of LICC’s Ima­gine Pro­ject, the even­ing will also include input from Ant­ony Bil­ling­ton, LICC’s Head of Theo­logy, who will offer some bib­lic­al-theo­lo­gic­al reflec­tion on whole-life wor­ship. You will be equipped and encour­aged as you return to your loc­al churches.

Things you need to know:

Date: Thursday 18th Septem­ber, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Ven­ue: LICC, St Peter’s, Vere Street, Lon­don W1G 0DQ
Cost: £8 (£6 con­ces­sion) — includes light refreshments
This event will be streamed live across the inter­net, if you can’t make it to Lon­don why not con­sider host­ing your own group and engage with us on the night via livestream?

Book Now 


Uses for an altar table

Holy Table at St Michael and All Angels Church in Uffington, Lincolnshire


The role (and oth­er aspects) of the altar or holy table will be con­sidered in some detail in a future post. But this story in today’s press is of some interest.

The Daily Tele­graph reports that Lin­coln dio­cese has banned [a church] from using altar to serve cups of tea.

Accord­ing to the report

Wor­ship­pers at the St Michael and All Angels Church in Uff­ing­ton, Lin­colnshire, wanted their oak altar to double up as a place to “serve refreshments”. 

Update: Law and Reli­gion UK provides some more details. Per­haps most sig­ni­fic­ant is that the altar is one in a chapel, not the church’s main altar, pic­tured above and in the Tele­graph report. The peti­tion was to place a table in the chapel which could be used to serve refresh­ments, and which would be used occa­sion­ally as an altar.

But the Chan­cel­lor of the dio­cese, Mark Bishop, 

decided the altar could only be used for wor­ship, not to serve snacks.

Rul­ing that “an inter­change­able use for the altar” was cer­tainly not accept­able, he said a “decent table of wood, stone or oth­er suit­able mater­i­al” should be provided in every church or chapel for cel­eb­ra­tion of Holy Communion.

He added: “The table, as becomes the table of Lord, shall be kept in a suf­fi­cient and seemly man­ner, and from time to time repaired, and shall be covered in the time of Divine Ser­vice with a cov­er­ing of silk or oth­er decent stuff, and with a fair white lin­en cloth at the time of the cel­eb­ra­tion of the Holy Communion.

“It would be com­pletely inap­pro­pri­ate for an altar to be used occa­sion­ally for the cel­eb­ra­tion of Holy Com­mu­nion, but more fre­quently ‘for the ser­vice of refreshments’.

“The oblig­a­tion of the Church­war­dens is to ensure that the Lord’s Table is kept in a ‘suf­fi­cient and seemly man­ner’ and I am quite sat­is­fied that what is pro­posed does not amount to that.”


Liturgy for the reburial of a long-dead king and a liturgical re-ordering project

There prob­ably aren’t many examples to hand for the author­it­ies at Leicester Cathed­ral, who will be com­pil­ing the ser­vice for the re-buri­al of Richard III, sched­uled for Thursday 26 March 2015.

In a press release last week the Cathed­ral author­it­ies say that

  • On Sunday 22 March the Uni­ver­sity of Leicester will trans­fer the mor­tal remains into a lead-lined coffin and they will travel from Leicester to Bosworth
  • In the even­ing, the remains of Richard III will be received into the care of the Cathedral
  • They will lie in repose for 3 days
  • They will be rebur­ied on the morn­ing of Thursday 26 March
  • The next days, Fri­day 27 March and Sat­urday 28 March, the tomb stone itself will be put in place and revealed and there will be a ser­vice to mark the com­ple­tion of the reinterment.

The reburi­al ser­vice will be broad­cast live on Chan­nel 4, with high­lights being shown in the evening.

Fur­ther details can be read on the Cathedral’s Richard III site.

We hope that litur­gic­al mater­i­al asso­ci­ated with these events will be avail­able to link to near­er the time. Here is what the Cathed­ral is say­ing right now:

[T]his raises inter­est­ing ques­tions about lan­guage. Ves­pers of the Dead is not famil­i­ar today and ser­vices were in Lat­in. Pray­ing for the dead can be a con­tro­ver­sial issue, but, des­pite the con­dem­na­tion in the Art­icles of Faith, is part of Anglic­an prac­tice, although not for all. And in law the Church of Eng­land is a con­tinu­ous body since Sax­on times, there­fore we are the suc­cessor of the Church to which Richard belonged, so an Anglic­an funer­al is entirely right, how­ever we choose to diver­si­fy with­in that. … So what we shall do with Richard, is sculpt some­thing which both recog­nises tra­di­tion and Richard’s faith, but speaks also to the mod­ern world.

Mean­while the Cathed­ral is appeal­ing for £2.5 mil­lions for the re-order­ing pro­ject which will include a fit­ting set­ting for the King’s remains. Some details of the reorder­ing can be found at the Leicester dio­ces­an web­site and at the BBC. Although full draw­ings and images of the cur­rent plans do not seem to be gen­er­ally avail­able, inform­a­tion of the 2013 plans sub­mit­ted to the Cathed­rals Fab­ric Com­mis­sion can be found in some detail here. My under­stand­ing is that the only sub­stan­tial change from the earli­er plans is in the plinth on which the tomb slab will be placed.


Marking the centenary of the start of the First World War

The Church of Eng­land has pro­duced a set of Litur­gic­al Resources for use at ser­vices com­mem­or­at­ing the anniversary of World War One. They are avail­able here as part of a sec­tion of the web­site ded­ic­ated to the com­mem­or­a­tion.

  • Read­ings, Pray­ers, Hymns, Art and Music:
    Word / PDF
  • An out­line for a ser­vice around a First World War memorial:
    Word / PDF
  • Prop­ers for a Requiem Eucharist:
    Word / PDF
  • Vigil Ser­vice for either 3 or 4 August, 2014:
    Word / PDF

A candle-lit vigil of pray­er and an act of sol­emn reflec­tion to mark the cen­ten­ary of the start of the First World War will be held in West­min­ster Abbey on 4 August 2014. The ser­vice is one of a num­ber of events being announced by the Gov­ern­ment to mark the cen­ten­ary of the Great War. Draw­ing upon Sir Edward Grey’s fam­ous remark that “the lights are going out all over Europe”, the Abbey will mark the cen­ten­ary by mov­ing from light into dark­ness, until one candle remains at the Grave of the Unknown Sol­dier, which will be extin­guished at 11.00pm to mark the moment at which Bri­tain entered the war.

West­min­ster Abbey has now pub­lished the Order of Ser­vice for the Vigil Ser­vice. It can be found as a pdf file on this page. You can access the pdf dir­ectly here