Thinking allowed

trial Canadian Collects

The Anglic­an Church of Canada is tri­al­ling some new collects

The [Cana­dian] Gen­er­al Syn­od of 2010 man­dated Faith, Wor­ship, and Min­istry to estab­lish a Liturgy Task Force to work on the revi­sion of our con­tem­por­ary lan­guage litur­gic­al texts. This Task Force has, in turn, been author­ized by the Coun­cil of Gen­er­al Syn­od to release the first phase of its new texts for tri­al use and feed­back as they become avail­able. These draft mater­i­als — begin­ning with Col­lects for Sundays — are encour­aged for use where per­mit­ted by the dio­ces­an bish­ops. We ask that those who use them also par­ti­cip­ate in the pro­cess to feed back your eval­u­ation of the resources to the Liturgy Task Force for its con­sid­er­a­tion in the final edit­or­i­al phase.

The text of the Col­lects for use this year (Year A) ‘from Pente­cost to the Reign of Christ’ can be down­loaded as a pdf via the above link. Unlike the Col­lects in Com­mon Wor­ship which are determ­ined by the named Sundays after Trin­ity, these pray­ers are aligned to the Sunday read­ing cycle.

(Thanks to Phil­lip Tovey for draw­ing my atten­tion to this. Read­ers are wel­come to send sug­ges­tions of suit­able links either by email or as a com­ment on an exist­ing article.)


Parish Communion

It’s hard to ima­gine what the Church of Eng­land was like before the Par­ish Com­mu­nion move­ment — and yet the move­ment itself is vir­tu­ally unknown today. Through the major­ity of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury, cer­tainly right up until the 1960s, the move­ment was act­ive in pro­mot­ing its vis­ion of life and wor­ship in the Church of Eng­land, attract­ing sup­port from bish­ops and syn­ods. But it very quickly faded from the scene, so that even those of us who grew up in the 1960s Church may well not have come across it.

At the same time as the Litur­gic­al Move­ment was grow­ing across the Roman Cath­ol­ic Church, recov­er­ing a sense of the cor­por­ate nature of the liturgy, the Par­ish Com­mu­nion move­ment (as it came to be called) was born and grew in Eng­land. The two move­ments seem to have begun and developed inde­pend­ently, though even­tu­ally they came into contact. 

The his­tory of the Par­ish Com­mu­nion move­ment is told in Don­ald Gray’s book Earth and Altar: Evol­u­tion of the Par­ish Com­mu­nion in the Church of Eng­land to 1945 (Alcuin Club Col­lec­tions 68, 1986). Its roots lie in the Anglo-Cath­ol­ic reviv­al and the Oxford Move­ment, begin­ning with John Keble’s Assize Ser­mon in Oxford in 1833. The res­ult­ing interest in sac­ra­ment­al wor­ship led to an increase in the cel­eb­ra­tion of Holy Com­mu­nion, fre­quently with an increas­ing use of cere­mo­ni­al. Because of the require­ment of many Anglo-Cath­ol­ics that the sac­ra­ment should be received fast­ing, it became the cus­tom for the main cere­mo­ni­al cel­eb­ra­tion of the Euchar­ist in many such par­ishes to be almost entirely a non-com­mu­nic­at­ing act. Only the priest and per­haps one or two oth­ers would receive Com­mu­nion. For the rest of the con­greg­a­tion, attend­ing after Sunday break­fast just as they had pre­vi­ously atten­ded Mattins, this was a chor­al, cere­mo­ni­al and devo­tion­al high-point, but one in which they were pass­ive rather than act­ive par­ti­cipants. For the more ‘devout’ there would typ­ic­ally be one or more early cel­eb­ra­tions at 8am and per­haps 7am so that they could receive the sac­ra­ment before break­ing their fast. 

At the same time, Anglo-Cath­ol­ic priests were noted for their work in impov­er­ished and neg­lected areas, par­tic­u­larly in the slums and dock­lands of large Eng­lish cit­ies and ports, and vari­ous group­ings of Chris­ti­an social­ists and oth­er act­iv­ists came and went.

The Par­ish Com­mu­nion move­ment com­bined two main aims:

  • it strove to make the cel­eb­ra­tion of the Euchar­ist the primary ser­vice on a Sunday morn­ing in each par­ish church, and to insist that it was a ser­vice at which the con­greg­a­tion should receive the sacrament;
  • and it emphas­ised the link between that cel­eb­ra­tion of the Euchar­ist and social action

Social action was con­sidered to be very closely aligned with the Labour move­ment, which itself was grow­ing in strength dur­ing the first half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury. At a time when the Church of Eng­land was still very widely regarded as the Con­ser­vat­ive Party at pray­er, the Par­ish Com­mu­nion move­ment might be regarded as the Labour Party at pray­er.

In order for the con­greg­a­tion to receive the sac­ra­ment before break­fast­ing the time of the ser­vice had to be one that was earli­er than the norm of Mattins or High Mass at 11am, but late enough for them to have a bit of a lie-in on their weekly day of rest. 9am or 9.30am became a pop­u­lar time. Par­ishes which still have their main Sunday morn­ing Euchar­ist at this time were quite likely ones that par­ti­cip­ated in the Par­ish Com­mu­nion move­ment. Fre­quently the ser­vice was fol­lowed by a par­ish break­fast. Not all those asso­ci­ated with the move­ment were insist­ent on fast­ing before com­mu­nion — but its lead­ers and advoc­ates were adam­ant on this point.

And what about ‘social action’? This oth­er import­ant part of the life of the Church was focussed on a weekly ‘par­ish meet­ing’, per­haps in the middle of the week, at which such issues could be dis­cussed and sup­port giv­en to vari­ous ini­ti­at­ives, wheth­er loc­al, nation­al or international.

What the pro­moters of the Par­ish Com­mu­nion emphas­ised was the cor­por­ate nature of the Church, the cor­por­ate nature of the Euchar­ist, and the essen­tial and cor­por­ate nature of the social action that was intim­ately bound up with them. The great mani­festo of the move­ment was a col­lec­tion of essays, The Par­ish Com­mu­nion, pub­lished in 1937, edited by the Revd Gab­ri­el Hebert. Momentum grew, and after the Second World War Par­ish and People was estab­lished as a group to cam­paign for the goals of the move­ment. With the real­ity of a major­ity Labour gov­ern­ment from 1945, per­haps the polit­ic­al angle of the move­ment changed. By 1962, when Par­ish and People was cel­eb­rat­ing the 25th anniversary of the pub­lic­a­tion of The Par­ish Com­mu­nion, the Chris­ti­an Social­ist Move­ment (CSM, recently renamed Chris­ti­ans on the Left) was being set up. There was much over­lap between the two groups, and the CSM fol­lowed on from a pleth­ora of sim­il­ar social­ist group­ings, but gradu­ally the two move­ments sep­ar­ated. By the end of the 1960s, hav­ing to a large extent achieved its litur­gic­al aims, Par­ish and People had faded, although it con­tin­ued to exist until the end of 2013.

What then did the Par­ish Com­mu­nion move­ment achieve, and what can be learnt from it? Primar­ily it reminded large chunks of the Church of Eng­land (and oth­er Anglic­an churches too) of the cent­ral­ity of the Euchar­ist, and of the import­ance of a cor­por­ate cel­eb­ra­tion at which all received the sac­ra­ment. It was suc­cess­ful in pro­mot­ing this ideal not only across much of the Anglo-Cath­ol­ic world in which it ori­gin­ated and across the more cent­ral groups in the Church, but also into the more cent­ral-evan­gel­ic­al parts of the Church, so that a par­ish com­mu­nion on a Sunday morn­ing came to be seen as the norm. It linked this fun­da­ment­ally with what it saw as the social justice agenda of the Church’s mis­sion — though as social­ism was tried in the sec­u­lar world this per­haps became a party-polit­ic­al pos­i­tion that did not always sit well with those who were hear­ing the litur­gic­al mes­sage. It fell short, per­haps, in a lack of atten­tion to evangelism.

These three strands — the liturgy, action for social justice, and con­cern for evan­gel­ism — are the areas that we shall explore in this blog. The social justice agenda itself will largely be left to our sis­ter Think­ing Anglic­ans blog: here our con­cern is how that is linked to the liturgy. Sim­il­arly the top­ic of evan­gel­ism itself will be explored in the con­text of the liturgy: of what we do in Church, how our build­ings serve us as loc­al centres of wor­ship, justice and evangelism.


baptismal texts: press comment

Updated Sunday morning

There is some press com­ment today on the draft bap­tis­mal texts pub­lished yesterday.

Reports say that “sin” removed in the ori­gin­al tri­al in Janu­ary has now been rein­stated, and that the response from par­ishes tri­al­ling the texts was pos­it­ive, with more than 90 per cent say­ing the con­greg­a­tion had been “more engaged” with the new liturgy and there was praise for its “unchurchy” language.

The Times: Sin makes return in revamped baptism
The Daily Tele­graph: ‘Sin’ is back but ‘the Dev­il’ option­al in new Church of Eng­land bap­tism service
The Guard­i­an: No dev­il in detail of Church of England’s new bap­tism ser­vice
The Daily Mail: Church puts the ‘sin’ back into tra­di­tion­al bap­tism services

Sunday update: Tim Stan­ley blogs for the Tele­graph Hey, Church of Eng­land: if you want to become a Chris­ti­an, you have to renounce the Dev­il — an art­icle that con­tains numer­ous errors of fact, but which does rep­res­ent the Church’s dilemma.

(Some of these reports are behind paywalls.)


Additional liturgical materials for baptism: texts

The bap­tis­mal texts to be con­sidered by the Gen­er­al Syn­od next month are now avail­able on the Church of Eng­land web­site. This mater­i­al is sched­uled to be con­sidered on the after­noon of Sunday 13 July.

Fol­low­ing the peri­od of exper­i­ment­al use, vari­ous changes were made by the Litur­gic­al Com­mis­sion and sent for con­sid­er­a­tion by the House of Bish­ops. The text agreed by the Bish­ops is now pub­lished as GS 1958 and includes an Intro­duc­tion, the pro­posed texts them­selves, and a pro­posed timetable for author­iz­a­tion. The timetable is:

July — Novem­ber: Revi­sion Com­mit­tee meets

Feb­ru­ary: Revi­sion stage at the Gen­er­al Synod
May: House of Bish­ops (if no fur­ther revi­sion stage)
July: Ref­er­ence to Con­voc­a­tions and House of Laity (if required)
July: Final approv­al at Gen­er­al Syn­od (if no fur­ther revi­sion stage)


Thanksgiving for the institution of Holy Communion

Today is appoin­ted in the cal­en­dar as a day of thanks­giv­ing for the insti­tu­tion of Holy Com­mu­nion. Appen­ded to that descrip­tion are the Lat­in words by which the Thursday after Trin­ity Sunday is more com­monly known among those who actu­ally cel­eb­rate it — Cor­pus Christi, the Body of Christ.

The fest­iv­al day has been over­laid with all sorts of rite and cere­mo­ni­al that emphas­ise a par­tic­u­lar aspect of some beliefs, namely that the ele­ments of bread and wine, after the priestly pray­er of con­sec­ra­tion really are the body and blood of Christ, and there­fore are to be adored in the same way that we might adore Christ or a rel­ic of Christ. For Anglic­ans this kind of beha­viour has to con­tend with Art­icle 28 which con­tains these words

The Sac­ra­ment of the Lord’s Sup­per was not by Christ’s ordin­ance reserved, car­ried about, lif­ted up, or worshipped.

The his­tory of this day is that it com­mem­or­ates the Last Sup­per. Maun­dy Thursday also com­mem­or­ates the Sup­per, but com­ing in Holy Week and begin­ning the great Three Days of the paschal feast, there are oth­er things that rightly take pri­or­ity. So with the three paschal days com­plete, and the fifty days of East­er­tide com­plete, and the old week (or octave) of Pente­cost com­plete, this is the first Thursday avail­able for the com­mem­or­a­tion. Pente­cost no longer has an octave of its own, being regarded as the last day of East­er­tide rather than primar­ily a feast in its own right, but the Thursday after Trin­ity Sunday is too well-estab­lished to move the com­mem­or­a­tion a week earlier.

After the Reform­a­tion the feast ceased to be cel­eb­rated in the Church of Eng­land. Not until New­man wrote Tract 90 of the Oxford Movement’s Tracts for the Times was a ser­i­ous argu­ment made against the inter­pret­a­tion of Art­icle 28. New­man argued that the Art­icle did not for­bid the reser­va­tion of the Sac­ra­ment, it just said that it was not cre­ated by ‘Christ’s ordin­ance’. This argu­ment led many Anglo-Cath­ol­ic par­ishes to restore Reser­va­tion of the Sac­ra­ment, and to intro­duce Cor­pus Christi pro­ces­sions and adoration.

So what, as Anglic­ans, should we cel­eb­rate this day? 

The clue is in the title giv­en the day in Com­mon Wor­ship: a day of thanks­giv­ing for the insti­tu­tion of Holy Com­mu­nion. We give thanks for the exist­ence of Holy Com­mu­nion. In his book Din­ing in the King­dom of God (Arch­diocese of Chica­go, 1994), Roman Cath­ol­ic priest Eugene LaVerdiere argues that rather than focus­ing on the Last Sup­per as the insti­tu­tion of the euchar­ist, we would do bet­ter to remem­ber that the ori­gins of the euchar­ist lie in a long and com­plex series of events that has the Last Sup­per … as their cli­max. LaVerdiere recog­nises that we may not con­sider all the meals in the gos­pel to neces­sar­ily be cel­eb­ra­tions of the euchar­ist, but ‘they all have some­thing to say about the eucharist’.

Sadly, the euchar­ist, and our under­stand­ing of it, can be a very divis­ive thing. One does not have to look very far to find some who find it largely unne­ces­sary (or at least, that it is unne­ces­sary to cel­eb­rate it very often), and on the oth­er hand some who think that a priest say­ing par­tic­u­lar words over bread and wine is the essence of the Church. No doubt I para­phrase each pos­i­tion a little unfairly — if so I apo­lo­gise. But my point is that even if this is an unfair rep­res­ent­a­tion of what each believes, it is how the oth­er per­ceives them.

How do we escape from this? The view expressed in this blog is that the euchar­ist is indeed fun­da­ment­al to our life as Chris­ti­ans; that where the euchar­ist is, there the Church is; that the fre­quent cel­eb­ra­tion of the euchar­ist is giv­en us as a means of growth and nur­ture. But it is also our view that this does not neces­sar­ily mean the euchar­ist as we have come to know it; how it exists today as a ritu­al­ized, ves­ti­gi­al meal, almost sep­ar­ated from real food and drink, in danger of sep­ar­a­tion from a real under­stand­ing of the pres­ence of the liv­ing Christ. Our devo­tion to the euchar­ist com­pels us to con­sider a third way, in which we look for a real bible-based sac­ra­ment­al­ity, com­bin­ing it with a tra­di­tion­al focus on its cent­ral­ity (envis­aged of course by that Arch­bish­op whom Anglo-Cath­ol­ics love to hate, Thomas Cran­mer), and bring­ing to bear our God-giv­en reas­on to try and recon­cile these views. 

And as we have said before, our euchar­ist­ic joy com­pels us to go out unto the world and share that joy by help­ing to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and free the oppressed.

That said, I shall, with slightly grit­ted teeth, be swinging a thur­ible later today in a Cor­pus Christi pro­ces­sion, com­plete with rose petals, can­opy et al. Hmmm.

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New Chair of the Liturgical Commission

Fol­low­ing the resig­na­tion of the Rt Revd Steph­en Plat­ten as Chair of the Litur­gic­al Com­mis­sion it has been announced that the new Chair is to be Robert Atwell, Bish­op of Exeter. He will take up this pos­i­tion in Janu­ary 2015.

I can find no announce­ment of this from the Church of Eng­land, but the latest issue of Prax­is News of Wor­ship indic­ates that it was announced at a meet­ing of the Litur­gic­al Com­mis­sion in early May, by the act­ing Chair, Robert Pater­son, Bish­op of Sod­or and Man.

Robert Atwell is the author of a num­ber of litur­gic­al books includ­ing Cel­eb­rat­ing the Saints and Cel­eb­rat­ing the Sea­sons as well as the recent The Good Wor­ship Guide. Pre­vi­ously Vicar of Prim­rose Hill, and then Bish­op Suf­frag­an of Stock­port in the dio­cese of Chester, he was con­firmed as Bish­op of Exeter on 30 April, and will be enthroned in Exeter Cathed­ral in July.

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Cathedral Evensong

Gerry Lynch writes Why is Cathed­ral Even­song Grow­ing and What Does It Mean? — an art­icle that was pub­lished in the May/June 2014 edi­tion of Salis­bury Cathed­ral News.

He con­cludes:

Even­song is not neces­sar­ily undemand­ing. It gives tre­mend­ous space for daily study of Scrip­ture, and dis­cip­lined pray­er sus­tain­ing a life of Chris­ti­an service.

Maybe Chor­al Even­song needs to grow in depth and geo­graphy. Can we help more par­ish churches provide a week­day Even­song, per­haps weekly in lar­ger towns and monthly in rur­al areas? And can we help people grow in depth and know­ledge of faith when we see them mainly across the choir on Tues­day nights, and nev­er on a Sunday?


Liturgical Basics

There is a whole list of top­ics that I hope to intro­duce into ‘Think­ing Liturgy’. Before doing that I want to sketch out a little litur­gic­al his­tory and a little litur­gic­al inter­pret­a­tion. It will only be a sketch because some of it will be the basis of some of those future art­icles, so the detail will be post­poned until those art­icles are writ­ten. But it’s only fair that read­ers should see a little of one of the key premises.

Let’s start with a little — only a little — history.

For many read­ers, I expect that litur­gic­al his­tory is neatly encap­su­lated by Gregory Dix’s The Shape of the Liturgy. This pivotal book, first pub­lished in 1945, out­lines Dix’s thes­is that the fun­da­ment­al form of the Euchar­ist was a ‘Four Action’ shape of Offer­tory, Con­sec­ra­tion, Frac­tion, Com­mu­nion — or if you prefer, Tak­ing, Bless­ing, Break­ing, and Shar­ing. Dix sug­ges­ted that all the vari­ous forms of the Euchar­ist could be traced back to this ori­gin­al pat­tern uni­ver­sally used in the earli­est Church, itself deriv­ing dir­ectly from an ini­tial sev­en actions found in the New Test­a­ment accounts. This concept of a Four-Action shape was very influ­en­tial in post-War litur­gic­al revi­sion and it can be seen in the work of the Litur­gic­al Com­mis­sion of the Church of Eng­land from the pub­lic­a­tion of Series 2 in 1966, through Series 3 in 1973 to the Altern­at­ive Ser­vice Book 1980 and on to Com­mon Wor­ship in 2000. In these two later books the concept is mod­i­fied some­what, so that two of the four actions are regarded as more sig­ni­fic­ant and two as less so: ‘tak­ing’ is pre­par­at­ory to ‘bless­ing’ and ‘break­ing’ to ‘shar­ing’.

More recent litur­gic­al schol­ar­ship has ques­tioned Dix’s premise (as did some at the time). There is really no evid­ence that there was a single ori­gin­al euchar­ist­ic struc­ture, let alone that it fol­lows Dix’s Four-Action shape. In par­tic­u­lar, Paul Brad­shaw, in his book Euchar­ist­ic Ori­gins lays out what we have as the earli­est evid­ence of the Euchar­ist. There are essen­tially three points to make, and the first two effect­ively demol­ish Dix’s shape. First, that actu­ally there is very little evid­ence; and secondly that the evid­ence we do have is diverse — in the earli­est sur­viv­ing records dif­fer­ent groups do dif­fer­ent things. Even­tu­ally some of these pat­terns and prac­tices merge or dis­ap­pear under vari­ous influ­ences. But as far back as we can go, prac­tice is even more var­ied than it later became, and there is no reas­on to think that a single mod­el under­lies this.

For our pur­poses, I want to draw out a third point. This is what I like to call the ‘Monty Python got it wrong’ com­ment. Monty Python is not neces­sar­ily renowned for theo­lo­gic­al accur­acy, but in one of their com­edy sketches the Pope sum­mons Michelan­gelo and cas­tig­ates him for his paint­ing of the Last Sup­per which con­tains sev­er­al major inac­curacies; Michelan­gelo, rather than repaint the pic­ture, sug­gests that it be retitled the Pen­ul­tim­ate Sup­per on the grounds that there must have been one, and there is no record of what happened at it; the Pope retorts (in a line that has stuck with me for 35 years) ‘the Last Sup­per is a sig­ni­fic­ant event in the life of our Lord; the Pen­ul­tim­ate Sup­per was not’. Clearly, as John Cleese’s Pope says, the Last Sup­per was a sig­ni­fic­ant event. And it clearly has an impact, a major impact, on our euchar­ist­ic think­ing. But my con­ten­tion is that it isn’t true to say that earli­er sup­pers, earli­er meals, were not significant.

These meals, and the scrip­tur­al record of some of them, are the back­ground to the early Chris­ti­an Euchar­ist. In Jesus’s earthly min­istry, he ate and drank with his dis­ciples and oth­ers; or to put it anoth­er way, when his dis­ciples and oth­ers ate and drank Jesus was present with them. And after his death, his fol­low­ers con­tin­ued to exper­i­ence his pres­ence; most espe­cially they exper­i­enced his pres­ence when they broke bread together.

In this blog, I want to explore what this means for us today. How does this affect what we think we are about when we cel­eb­rate the Euchar­ist, and how does it affect the way that we go about cel­eb­rat­ing the Euchar­ist? What does it mean for our words and actions, for our hos­pit­al­ity, for our teach­ing and mis­sion? What does it mean for our archi­tec­ture and church order­ing even?

Oth­er points of view are of course pos­sible, and we shall explore some of those too.

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