Thinking allowed

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