Thinking allowed

Alternative Services

This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the enact­ment of the Pray­er Book (Altern­at­ive and Oth­er Ser­vices) Meas­ure 1965.

It was this Meas­ure of the old Church of Eng­land Assembly which for the first time enabled the Church to revise the 1662 ser­vices of the Pray­er Book and to make extra pro­vi­sion. Until that point only the 1662 Book (with minor amend­ments passed by Par­lia­ment in the 19th cen­tury) had been leg­al, and the Church’s great attempt after the First World War to revise the Book had twice been lost in Par­lia­ment after passing the Church Assembly. The Church’s response to that fail­ure was a resolve to nev­er again sub­ject litur­gic­al texts to Par­lia­ment­ary revi­sion. But it took nearly 40 years (with an inter­ven­ing World War) before this Meas­ure was approved by the Assembly (Bish­ops: 30 in favour, 0 against; Clergy: 200 to 1; Laity: 203 to 11) and then by each House of Par­lia­ment. The Meas­ure did not con­tain any litur­gic­al text, but provided a mech­an­ism whereby texts which were altern­at­ive to or addi­tion­al to Pray­er Book texts could be approved by the Church Assembly for use for a few years.

The first fruits of the Meas­ure were the author­iz­a­tion of large parts of the pro­posed 1928 Book, and these became known as the Altern­at­ive Ser­vices First Series. Almost sim­ul­tan­eously a Second Series began to be pub­lished and author­ized. These rep­res­en­ted the work of the new Litur­gic­al Com­mis­sion, and in many cases they depar­ted from the struc­ture of the Pray­er Book ser­vices, intro­du­cing the fruits of litur­gic­al schol­ar­ship and ecu­men­ic­al think­ing, but still using lan­guage that was lightly tra­di­tion­al. The First Series mar­riage and buri­al ser­vices con­tin­ue to be author­ized, and much of the Second Series Holy Com­mu­nion ser­vice con­tin­ues as Com­mon Wor­ship Order One in Tra­di­tion­al Language.

The Meas­ure provided for tem­por­ary exper­i­ment­a­tion over a small num­ber of years, and it was an essen­tial step on the route to the mod­ern lan­guage ser­vices of Series 3, brought togeth­er only 15 years after the Meas­ure in the Altern­at­ive Ser­vices Book 1980. By that time the Meas­ure had been replaced, repealed entirely by the Wor­ship and Doc­trine Meas­ure 1974. That Meas­ure enabled the Church to make pro­vi­sion by can­on law for the author­iz­a­tion of ‘forms of ser­vice’, and is the cur­rent leg­al basis for all litur­gic­al texts includ­ing the 1662 BCP as well as Com­mon Wor­ship.


Modelling Liturgical Presidency

A Tale of Two Con­trast­ing Consecrations

The ‘Octave’ from the feast of the Con­ver­sion of Paul (25 Janu­ary) to Candlemas (2 Feb­ru­ary) was an event­ful one for the Church of Eng­land. York Min­ster was the ven­ue for the two epis­copal ordin­a­tions (or con­sec­ra­tions) which were the focus of this event­ful­ness. It provided the Min­ster with a won­der­ful oppor­tun­ity to demon­strate why Eng­lish cathed­rals have exper­i­enced such growth over the past dec­ade. The fusion of space, music, move­ment and col­our merged to provide that elu­sive and indefin­able, but tan­gible, exper­i­ence we often describe as ‘trans­form­at­ive’. The bal­ance, pace (and tim­ing) left you with the crav­ing to come back for more.

Peter Moger, the Min­ster­’s Pre­cent­or, deserves buck­ets of sym­pathy and admir­a­tion in equal meas­ure. It requires a cer­tain degree of insight and exper­i­ence to craft acts of wor­ship such as these, where the over­all impact is mem­or­able – as opposed to being over­loaded and exhaust­ing. In a pre­vi­ous life, I was respons­ible for arran­ging sev­er­al con­sec­ra­tions in the south­ern province. I know the com­plic­ated ter­rain intim­ately: the recip­roc­al horse-trad­ing; the end­less tele­phone calls; the missed dead­lines; proof-read­ing in the wee small hours; man­aging con­flict­ing expect­a­tions; not to men­tion the sleep­less nights. These are all ines­cap­able in the build-up to these occa­sions. Des­pite the fail-safe rehears­al plan, there is always the poten­tial for ‘some­thing’ to go awry on the day – object­ors notwithstanding!

My con­cern is with the strik­ingly dif­fer­ent man­ner in which litur­gic­al pres­id­ency was mod­elled at the two con­sec­ra­tions. The pre­text for this dif­fer­ence is well known and hardly needs rehears­ing here. How­ever, it was more than appar­ent that, behind all the agon­ised exeges­is of the Five Guid­ing Prin­ciples and the desire to mod­el gen­er­ous restraint, some­thing vital was lost in the second of the two con­sec­ra­tions. The cohes­ive shape and flow of the liturgy felt as if it was creak­ing under the weight of unreal­ist­ic expect­a­tion – pre­cisely because the pres­id­en­tial mod­el­ling seemed disorientated.

The first of the two con­sec­ra­tions (Libby Lane’s) was a mod­el of how to order an epis­copal ordin­a­tion. Reac­tions to the ser­mon have been mixed; but there is no doubt about the theo­lo­gic­al, eccle­si­olo­gic­al and litur­gic­al assump­tions which under­girded the rite. A sense of cohe­sion was self-evid­ent in the Arch­bish­op’s pres­id­ency, com­ple­men­ted by the appro­pri­ate litur­gic­al min­istry of oth­ers. As the intro­duct­ory note to the Euchar­ist in Com­mon Wor­ship acknowledges:

The unity of the liturgy is served by the min­istry of the pres­id­ent who, in presid­ing over the whole ser­vice, holds word and sac­ra­ment togeth­er [my ital­ics] and draws the con­greg­a­tion into a wor­ship­ping com­munity. The pres­id­ent … expresses this min­istry by say­ing the open­ing Greet­ing, the Abso­lu­tion, the Col­lect, the Peace and the Bless­ing. The pres­id­ent must say the Euchar­ist­ic Pray­er, break the con­sec­rated bread and receive the sac­ra­ment on every occasion.

The Arch­bish­op’s mod­el­ling of this ideal felt organ­ic, innate and con­trib­uted to a sense that, as the con­greg­a­tion was car­ried by the peaks and troughs of the liturgy, as dif­fer­ent voices spoke, silences emerged, pro­ces­sions moved and music intens­i­fied the pray­ers and hopes those present, the unam­bigu­ous centre of grav­ity was the Arch­bish­op as litur­gic­al president.

In the second con­sec­ra­tion (Philip North’s) it was far less clear how the unity of the liturgy was being served. Some will say, inev­it­ably, that the lack of pres­id­en­tial cohe­sion exper­i­enced on this occa­sion was an all-too-real reflec­tion of the uncharted eccle­si­al, litur­gic­al and theo­lo­gic­al ter­rit­ory being nego­ti­ated. But need it have been so?

Quite often, it felt as if the fun­da­ment­al ques­tion of how pres­id­ency of the whole liturgy would be expressed to give unity and cohe­sion to a great cel­eb­ra­tion, sank under the accu­mu­la­tion of so many oth­er com­pet­ing demands. The leg­al and canon­ic­al rights of the Met­ro­pol­it­an were well emphas­ised, as were ques­tions of who would, and would not, lay hands on the can­did­ate; not to men­tion the per­il­ous pro­spect of tread­ing a safe path through all the media dis­cus­sion about pur­ity and taint. The (doubt­less unin­ten­ded) out­come was that the Archbishop’s stated desire to mod­el ‘gra­cious restraint’ was under­mined by the appar­ently ran­dom man­ner in which he seemed to appro­pri­ate aspects of the pres­id­en­tial role.

Instead of there being a centre of grav­ity in the liturgy, there was an impres­sion of two bish­ops com­pet­ing for the same space in a litur­gic­al game of music­al chairs. The one who greeted the con­greg­a­tion, absolved them and then blessed them at the con­clu­sion of the liturgy, did not recite the Euchar­ist­ic Pray­er, break the con­sec­rated bread, or invite the con­greg­a­tion to receive com­mu­nion. The notion of the unity of word and sac­ra­ment being embod­ied in the pres­id­ent was frac­tured. The focus of litur­gic­al unity was obscured.

I am left ask­ing why the Bish­op of Chichester could not have been gran­ted the Arch­bish­op of York’s com­mis­sion to preside over the whole rite. The Arch­bish­op was always going to be a vis­ible par­ti­cipant, exer­cising his min­istry at key moments (as preach­er and as Ordin­ary who received the oaths of due obed­i­ence). Such a litur­gic­al ges­ture of gra­cious restraint, and respect for theo­lo­gic­al con­vic­tion, would not require him to cede his author­ity as Met­ro­pol­it­an in his cathed­ral. But it would have enabled him to allow the unity of the liturgy to be served by the pres­id­ent, where the hold­ing togeth­er of word and sac­ra­ment is embod­ied in one bish­op, who is the centre of grav­ity for the wor­ship of the whole people of God.

At a less the­or­et­ic­al level, it is largely assumed that cathed­rals exem­pli­fy good prac­tice. And they do – York Min­ster included. But I have this awful feel­ing in the pit of my stom­ach that quite a num­ber of clergy, lay read­ers and oth­ers from the Black­burn Dio­cese (and fur­ther afield) will have come away from York Min­ster on Candlemas day think­ing that the mod­el of ‘pres­id­ency’ they wit­nessed at Philip North’s con­sec­ra­tion is a good thing (even down to wear­ing cum­ber­some copes instead of the tra­di­tion­al Euchar­ist­ic vest­ments usu­ally worn for the Euchar­ist in the Min­ster). ‘Let’s give it a try next Sunday,’ they will be thinking!

Much par­ish wor­ship in the Church of Eng­land is less than the trans­form­at­ive exper­i­ence it should be at present, pre­cisely because there is a lack of theo­lo­gic­al insight; a paucity of spa­tial and artist­ic ima­gin­a­tion; but most of all, con­fu­sion about what con­sti­tutes good pres­id­ency – and how good pres­id­ency enables the whole people of God to fully cel­eb­rate the mys­ter­ies of faith in the sac­ra­ment of unity. If this can be under­stood – and mod­elled prop­erly – before the next con­sec­ra­tion of a tra­di­tion­al­ist bish­op, it will be for the bet­ter health of the mis­sion of the entire Church of England.

Simon Reyn­olds is the author of Table Man­ners: Litur­gic­al Lead­er­ship for the Mis­sion of the Church (SCM, 2014).

Photo by Clive Lawrence, copy­right Dio­cese of Blackburn


Additional Texts for Holy Baptism (GS 1958A)

The Agenda for the Feb­ru­ary ses­sions of the Gen­er­al Syn­od was pub­lished recently. On Thursday after­noon, the Altern­at­ive Bap­tism Texts return to the Syn­od after the revi­sion com­mit­tee stage:

The fol­low­ing items (full details of which are con­tained in Spe­cial Agenda II – see page 9) will be taken:

600 Altern­at­ive Bap­tism Texts (GS 1958A)
– Report of the Revi­sion Com­mit­tee (GS 1958Y)

and the note on page 9 says:

Art­icle 7 Business
Con­sid­er­a­tion of a Report by the Revi­sion Com­mit­tee (GS 1958Y)
The Chair of the Revi­sion Com­mit­tee (the Bish­op of Truro) to move:
600 ‘That the Syn­od do take note of this Report.’

1. Notice of motions for re-com­mit­tal under the pro­vi­sions of Stand­ing Order 77(a) must be giv­en in writ­ing to the Clerk to the Syn­od by not later than 5.30pm on Tues­day 10 Feb­ru­ary 2015 (Stand­ing Order 10©). Any such motions will appear on a Notice Paper.

2. If no such motion is car­ried, the litur­gic­al busi­ness will auto­mat­ic­ally stand com­mit­ted to the House of Bish­ops under Stand­ing Order 77(f).

The texts (GS 1958A) and the report of the Revi­sion Com­mit­tee (GS 1958Y) can be found with oth­er papers for this group of ses­sions here.


Liturgical dates for 2015

There is a tra­di­tion of announ­cing at this time of the year the prin­cip­al dates of the eccle­si­ast­ic­al calendar.

Greg Kandra at ‘Don’t for­get to chant the date of East­er this Sunday’ lists the dates and the usu­al formula.

Of course nowadays you can just use a prin­ted alman­ac – or even an online one such as mine.


Religious Architecture

It is inten­ded to say quite a bit at Think­ing Liturgy on the sub­ject of church archi­tec­ture. Mean­while, here is an inter­est­ing col­lec­tion of pic­tures of

PHOTOS: See the award win­ners for stun­ning reli­gious architecture

Take a visu­al jour­ney of sac­red spaces around the world through the win­ners of the 2014 Inter­na­tion­al Awards Pro­gram for Reli­gious Art & Archi­tec­ture, giv­en out by Faith & Form, the inter­faith journ­al on reli­gion, art and architecture.

A five-mem­ber jury of artists, archi­tects, litur­gic­al design­ers and clergy handed out 32 awards from 134 submissions.

From the press release:

“Jury mem­bers agreed that reli­gious art and archi­tec­ture are flour­ish­ing through­out the world, and that artists, archi­tects, litur­gic­al design­ers, stu­dents, and oth­ers are explor­ing ways to bal­ance tra­di­tion with new demands of reli­gious prac­tice. The land­scape of sac­red space is chan­ging, along with dra­mat­ic shifts in organ­ized religion.”

The designs will prob­ably not be wel­comed by all, and they include places oth­er than Chris­ti­an ones. They are also largely, but not exclus­ively, North American.