Thinking allowed

The Coronation of English and British Kings and Queens

(Coron­a­tion of King George VI, 1937, painted by Frank Salis­bury; Roy­al Col­lec­tion Trust)

Begin­ning with the coron­a­tion of James I in 1603 there have been six­teen Eng­lish-lan­guage coron­a­tions of Eng­lish, or from 1714 Brit­ish, mon­archs. Before that, upto and includ­ing the coron­a­tion of Eliza­beth I, the ser­vice had been con­duc­ted in Lat­in. The sev­en­teenth, for King Charles III, is sched­uled to take place on Sat­urday 6 May 2023.

As a small boy, over half a cen­tury ago, I was cap­tiv­ated by a souven­ir of the 1937 coron­a­tion of King George VI and Queen Eliza­beth which belonged to my grand­par­ents, and which con­tained the text of the ser­vice along with copi­ous illus­tra­tions and some his­tor­ic­al notes. From 1994 I have col­lec­ted cop­ies of the order of ser­vice of every coron­a­tion back to that of George IV in 1821, along with repro­duc­tions and edi­tions of the earli­er ser­vices back to 1603, as well as the music edi­tions that have been pub­lished since 1902.

For some time I have thought of pro­du­cing an his­tor­ic­al edi­tion of the coron­a­tion ser­vice with the dif­fer­ent texts in par­al­lel columns, mak­ing it easy to see the changes that have been made over the cen­tur­ies. This is a bit com­plex to pro­duce as a book (and per­haps not com­mer­cially viable) but a web page is easi­er to cre­ate, and can have oth­er help­ful fea­tures such as hid­ing or show­ing dif­fer­ent sec­tions of the page. So now there is a new page at that con­tains the text of all the coron­a­tion ser­vices from 1953 back (cur­rently) to that of George II in 1727. Work on adding earli­er texts continues.

In each column the texts are aligned so that cor­res­pond­ing rub­rics and spoken words match across the page. Indi­vidu­al columns can be hid­den, mak­ing it easy to com­pare dif­fer­ent years. Hid­ing rows, or sec­tions of the text across all columns, is a fea­ture that will be added soon.

The coron­a­tion of King Edward VII and Queen Alex­an­dra sched­uled for June 1902 was post­poned because of the king’s ill­ness. When it did take place in August, a num­ber of modi­fic­a­tions were made to place less stress on the con­vales­cent king. Both the June and August texts are included in par­al­lel columns.

With the Coron­a­tion of King Charles and Queen Cam­illa sched­uled for next year, I hope this will be a use­ful his­tor­ic­al archive.


Liturgy for the reburial of a king

The remains iden­ti­fied as those of King Richard III were re-interred yes­ter­day in Leicester Cathed­ral in a ser­vice broad­cast live on Chan­nel 4.

The order of ser­vice for the re-inter­ment is avail­able as a pdf file on this page, or (dir­ect link to pdf) or here.


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.


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.


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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