Thinking allowed

Remembrance resources

Church House has released this picture and video to mark Remembrancetide.

The video can be viewed here on YouTube


2016-17 Common Worship almanac

Once again my annual Almanac, or calendar and lectionary, is published.

Each year since 2002 I have produced a downloadable calendar for the forthcoming liturgical year, according to the rules of the Church of England’s Common Worship Calendar and Lectionary, and the Book of Common Prayer.

The 2016-17 Almanac is now available for Outlook, Apple desktop and iOS Calendar, Google Calendar, Android devices and other formats, with your choice of Sunday, weekday, eucharistic, office, collects, Exciting Holiness lections, for Common Worship and BCP.

Download is free, donations are invited.


Further resources for the Queen’s 90th birthday

Church House has published online a set of Liturgical Resources for the Celebration of HM The Queen’s Ninetieth Birthday containing: Notes of Guidance; an outline service; collects and graces; and suggested readings.

The resources are available as a PDF here.

The notes say:

It is hoped that many churches and communities will be able to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of Her Majesty the Queen. This leaflet contains, by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter, the Outline of the Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving which will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday 10 June 2016. Churches are invited to use elements of this outline in their own preparations, especially the bidding prayer, intercessions, and act of thanksgiving in the appendices. In addition to the resources below, St Paul’s has commissioned the Master of the Queen’s Music, Judith Weir, to compose a choral anthem, I love all beauteous things, which can be used in the context of a celebration service and is now available.

Also included here are the Collects which The Queen has been pleased to approve for use in services celebrating her birthday, and Graces for use at church and community gatherings. Finally, the Liturgical Commission suggests a number of appropriate readings suited to a celebratory service.

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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.


Thanksgiving for the Queen’s ninetieth birthday

The Liturgical Commission has prepared two collects (one in traditional language and the other in modern language) for use at services celebrating the ninetieth birthday of HM the Queen, which falls on 21 April this year. These have been approved by the Queen, and the Commission has asked that they be circulated as widely as possible. The Commission has also provided two graces for use at church and community gatherings such as street parties.

Heavenly Father, who hast brought our gracious sovereign Queen Elizabeth to the completion of her ninetieth year, and dost gather her people in celebration of the same: grant that we, rejoicing before thee with thankful hearts, may ever be united in love and service to one another, and her kingdom flourish in prosperity and peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Heavenly Father,
as we celebrate the ninetieth birthday of Her Majesty the Queen,
receive our heartfelt thanks
for all that you have given her in these ninety years
and for all that she has given to her people.
Continue, we pray, your loving purposes in her,
and as you gather us together in celebration,
unite us also in love and service to one another;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bountiful God, giver of all good gifts,
we give thanks for the many years and long reign of our Queen;
Bless our food, our neighbourhood,
and our enjoyment of each other’s company.
Help us to learn from Queen Elizabeth’s commitment to her people,
so that our community may be strengthened
and all may flourish.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, the King of love.

Gracious God, give our Queen continued wisdom and strength
to carry out the promises she has made;
and bless (this food, and) those who are gathered here,
that, sustained by service for others,
we may faithfully serve you, all the days of our life.
[With words from The Queen’s First Christmas Broadcast, 1952]


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.


2015-16 Almanac

Each year since 2002 I have produced a downloadable calendar for the forthcoming liturgical year, according to the rules of the Church of England’s Common Worship Calendar and Lectionary.

The 2015-16 Almanac is now available for Outlook, Apple desktop and iOS Calendar, Google Calendar, Android devices and other formats, with your choice of Sunday, weekday, eucharistic, office, collects, Exciting Holiness lections, for Common Worship and BCP.

Download is free, donations are invited.


Thanksgiving for the longest reign

The Liturgical Commission has drafted two prayers for use to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II becoming the longest-reigning monarch in British history, on 9 September this year. These have been approved by Buckingham Palace, and the Commission has asked that they be circulated as widely as possible.

Prayers for use when HM The Queen becomes the longest reigning monarch in British history (9 September 2015)

A Collect for use after the Collect of the Day at BCP services
Almighty God, who hast set our gracious sovereign Queen Elizabeth upon the throne of this realm, and given her to surpass all others in the years of her reign: Receive our heartfelt thanks for her service to her people, confirm and encourage her in the continuance of the same, and keep her in thy heavenly wisdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who took the form of a servant for our sake, and reigneth now in glory with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

A modern-language prayer drawing on Philippians 2
Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ exchanged the glory of a heavenly throne for the form of a servant,
we thank you that you have given Elizabeth our Queen a heart to serve her people,
and have kept her devoted in this service beyond all who were before her:
encourage us by her example to serve one another, and to seek the common good,
until you call us all to reign with Christ in your eternal kingdom. Amen.


A community of forgiveness and reconciliation

bread and cup

Reading the gospel accounts it is clear that Jesus spent a fair amount of his ministry eating. Whether he’s having private meals with his disciples, picnicking on a hillside with a few thousand listeners, inviting himself or getting himself invited to dinner, or barbecuing fish on a beach, the gospels record a substantial number of mealtime occasions. Clearly there must have been many, many more meals which are not specifically recorded, but which are part of the same pattern.

For Jesus some of these meals were teaching opportunities, occasions to share with his fellow diners a story or parable or some other teaching. But they were more than just this. Quite a few of the meals are in the houses of outcasts — tax collectors, collaborators, the ritually unclean, adulterers, and other sinners. Jesus preached the good news of joy, peace, social justice, freedom from our slaveries; that in God’s kingdom our sins can be forgiven, are forgiven.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray: ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’ (Matthew 6.12, Luke 11.4); and he also taught them: ‘if you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven’ (John 20.23). Forgiveness and reconciliation happen when people forgive each other. When other people forgive us for the wrongs we have done to them then we are forgiven; and when we forgive others for the wrongs they have done us, they are forgiven. Jesus, in his life and death, in his teaching and in his actions, lived a life of forgiveness and reconciliation, even at the last, and inspires us to try and emulate that life: living in the kingdom, forgiving and being forgiven. In this way we are reconciled to one another and are at one with God. In God’s kingdom such forgiveness is freely available: all citizens of the kingdom will willingly and freely forgive the people who have wronged them, and no one will bear grudges or hurts. And everyone will be forgiven. (Of course, in God’s kingdom everyone will strive not to do wrong or cause hurt, but that’s another part of the story.)

So when Jesus sat down and ate with outcasts he showed — to everyone who was prepared to see it — how near God’s kingdom was, how it was already here among us. He showed how it was possible to live in God’s kingdom of social justice and reconciliation. Forgiveness was actualized. In the social aspect of sharing a meal together and being prepared to accept one another, to give and to receive forgiveness, to be reconciled to one another: in doing these things we can glimpse the kingdom, and indeed not just glimpse it but enjoy a foretaste — the kingdom in action, right here and now.

And that brings us back to the liturgy. Jesus’s disciples continued to share their meals as an enactment of the justice and peace of the kingdom of God, and in doing so they recognized the continuing presence of Jesus as they broke bread together. This meal continues to this day, whenever Christians gather together and share bread and wine in remembrance of Christ: Christ is present, forgiveness and reconciliation are given and received, the kingdom is brought into existence.

This then is our vision of the Eucharist. It is a vision that the Church sometimes seems to understand only very dimly, perhaps because the Eucharist — and Christianity in general — has become overlaid with so many ideas and practices that add ‘religious’, ‘ceremonial’ and ‘ideological’ complexity. Some of those layers can be helpful, and others may be less so. Here we are concerned primarily with liturgy, and how the kingdom of God is proclaimed and lived through the liturgy. How does the Eucharist exemplify the kingdom? What kinds of practice are useful? What do we need to recover, in our language and our ceremonial? What do we need to preserve, or enhance, what do we need to lessen or jettison? How has the liturgical revision of the last hundred years helped or hindered? Quite likely we shall conclude that there is no single answer, but different emphases in different contexts, with some limits, and suggestions for a range of ‘normal’ usage.

But this is our starting point: the proclamation of the good news and the recognition of the presence of Christ in the shared meal where all are welcome, where the hungry are fed, and where sins are forgiven.

‘Your kingdom come on earth, as in heaven: give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.’

illustration by Leigh Hurlock, from Gathering for Worship, Canterbury Press, 2005, 2007; used with permission.