Thinking allowed

Prayers for Manchester

The Liturgical Commission has received a number of enquiries today in the wake of yesterday’s events in Manchester, asking for resources for vigil services. In addition to the prayers tweeted by the Church of England Communications team, by a number of dioceses and by other individuals, the links below to the Church of England website give a number of appropriate prayers for the world/society here

and for individuals here

For those needing a complete order of service, pp. 443-448 of New Patterns for Worship has an outline headed “Facing Pain: a Service of Lament” — also downloadable from here

Some of the ‘Cross’ and ‘Lament’ (possibly also ‘Living in the world’ and ‘Relationships and healing’) resources from New Patterns for Worship might also be appropriate for inclusion in that service, or as stand-alone elements in your regular service.


Michael Perham

The Diocese of Gloucester has this morning announced that Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester between 2004 and 2014, died on the evening of Monday 17 April.

Michael Perham played a very significant role in the liturgical life of the Church of England, and was a member of the Liturgical Commission between 1986 and 2001. He was a contributor to the books that became Lent, Holy Week, Easter, The Promise of his Glory and Enriching the Christian Year, and then to Common Worship.

In the announcement, Bishop Michael’s successor as Bishop of Gloucester, Bishop Rachel Treweek writes:

It is with great sadness that I am writing to inform you that Bishop Michael died peacefully at home on Monday evening, April 17, following a special Easter weekend with all the family.

I last saw Bishop Michael on Tuesday 11 April during Holy Week. Not only was it good to share together in the Eucharist on that occasion but also to preside at the Chrism Eucharist on Maundy Thursday knowing that the Dean would then be taking Bishop Michael bread and wine from our service in Gloucester Cathedral with the love and prayers of the Diocese.


New Liturgical Commission

The Liturgical Commission of the Church of England has a five year term, and the term of the present Commission ends on 31 March 2016. The membership of the new Commission has now been published on the Church of England website here.

The Bishop of Exeter

The Bishop of Sodor and Man

Ms Shayne Ardron
The Revd Canon Dr Andrew Atherstone
The Revd Philip Barnes
The Revd Mark Earey
Ms Kashmir Garton
The Revd Canon Dr Christopher Irvine
The Revd Canon Dr Simon Jones
Mr Simon Kershaw
The Revd George Lane
Mrs Lucy Moore
Dr Bridget Nichols
The Revd Canon Dr Jo Spreadbury
The Revd Canon Dr Samuel Wells

The Commission is a permanent Commission of the General Synod of the Church of England. It has a four-fold purpose:

  • to prepare forms of service at the request of the House of Bishops
  • to advise on the experimental use of forms of service and the development of liturgy
  • to exchange information and advice on liturgical matters with other Churches both in the Anglican Communion and elsewhere
  • to promote the development and understanding of liturgy and its use in the Church.

I understand that the main focus for the next five years will be to encourage better standards in the preparation and conduct of worship. I hope to be able to provide regular updates on the work of the new Commission.


Consultation on Vesture

A resolution was passed at the July 2014 meeting of the General Synod asking that the Canons be amended so that clergy vesture be optional rather than mandatory.

The House of Bishops has now put out a short (6-page) consultation paper on this topic which can be read here.

The paper asks Synod members whether they support the amendment of Canon B8 to accomplish this, and if so whether it should follow the approach they present:

  • In relation to the Holy Communion and Morning and Evening Prayer on Sundays, the minister would be able to depart on a general basis from the normal requirements as to vesture, provided that he or she had first ascertained, after consultation with the Parochial Church Council, that doing so would benefit the mission of the Church in the parish.
  • In relation to the Occasional Offices, the minister would be able to depart from the normal requirement as to vesture, provided that he or she had the agreement of the persons concerned to do so. It has been suggested that the requirement for the agreement of those concerned might extend to weddings and funerals but not baptisms on the grounds that the latter generally take place in a main Sunday service and should therefore be within the minister’s discretion. Since, however, the prescribed forms of vesture would remain the norm for all three occasional offices it would seem more straightforward if the rights of those concerned were the same in each case.
  • Where the minister departed from the normal requirements as to vesture, the dress adopted by the minister should be seemly and not such as to be indicative of any departure from the doctrine of the Church of England.

The consultation is aimed at members of the General Synod who are asked to send in their comments by 15 April, so if you have views on this matter you should send them to your diocesan representatives. Copying them to the Clerk to the Synod Jacqui Philips may also help.


new National Liturgy and Worship Adviser

The Bishop of Exeter, Robert Atwell, the Chair of the Liturgical Commission has announced that Matthew Salisbury has been appointed to what is now a part-time position as National Liturgy and Worship Adviser of the Church of England:

Dr Matthew Salisbury has been appointed as the new National Liturgy and Worship Adviser of the Church of England. Dr Salisbury lectures in music at University College, Oxford and has considerable experience of writing and speaking about liturgy and worship. He also serves as the Chapel Warden at Worcester College, Oxford, where he regularly leads worship.

The Chair of the Liturgical Commission, the Bishop of Exeter, commented ‘…I am delighted that Matthew has decided to put his considerable talents to the service of the national Church. He combines enthusiasm for communicating liturgy to non-specialists with an interest in developing and promoting worship resources through new media. I am confident that he will be a great asset to the Church of England.’

Dr Salisbury will take up his new part-time role in Church House, Westminster (combined with his other existing responsibilities in Oxford) from early November, working alongside Sue Moore who has now taken on responsibility for day-to-day operations as Administrative Secretary to the Commission.


call for transgender recognition rite

Under the provocative headline “Should church introduce transgender baptism?” the BBC reports that the Revd Chris Newlands, vicar of Lancaster, has

asked the Church of England to debate introducing a ceremony akin to a baptism to mark the new identities of Christians who undergo gender transition.

The idea came after a young transgender person approached him, seeking to be “re-baptised” in his new identity. Similar ceremonies are already happening in some other Anglican churches.

This weekend, Nick Benn and his friends gathered at his church for a service to mark one of the most significant events in his life so far: the transition from his previous identity as a young woman, to a new life as a man.

At Lancaster Priory, Chris Newlands is keen for the Church to have an official liturgy to guide the clergy on such occasions. He wants the Church to be able to demonstrate its acceptance and love, and to help mark a milestone for someone transitioning from one gender to another.

Susie Leafe, director of Reform, is quoted, commenting on the question of ‘baptism’.

“The Bible gives us the notion that there is one baptism, so the idea of ‘re-baptising’ people is certainly something that would go against a lot of the deep theology of the Church and would be confusing.”


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 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.