Monday, December 30, 2019

Theological Foundations - The Articles of Religion

The theological foundations of Anglican were long accepted to be the Bible, the Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. To a greater or lesser extent modern Anglicanism, even in some of it relatively conservative manifestations, often bypasses or radically reinterprets several or all of these. As a result Anglicans have become very confused about their identity. The Articles are probably subjected to more revisionist treatment than the other three put together simply because a lot of modern Church-people think they are irrelevant, or have definite reasons for not wishing to accept that Anglicanism ever held the theological position held by framers of the Articles, so perhaps it is time for me to give a page or two to the History of the Articles of Religion (AOR).

The text of the AOR that you have in your 1662 BCP is that of 1571 when the Articles reached their present form. The version used in the USA is a very light revision of the 1571 text made in 1801. This, apart from the omission of Article XXI - Of the Authority of General Councils and the deletion of the Athanasian Creed from the text of Article VIII, do not differ theologically from the Articles of 1571. This suggests that at the very least the leadership of the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1801 were prepared to accept the theology of the English Reformation as it was then understood. The years immediately after 1801 saw an upswing in Evangelicalism (the old sort, not what passes for Evangelicalism today) which if anything strengthen the adherence of the Protestant Episcopal Church to the Reformation by creating a party that consciously sought to maintain and propagate Reformed theology. There can be little doubt that for most of the nineteenth century the dominant theology of the Evangelical Party in the PECUSA was that of Old Princeton, and that tradition was carried on well into the twentieth century by the Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Philadelphia. Whilst Princeton theology is at some distance from the Reformation - it represents a sort of early nineteenth century redaction of Reformed Scholasticism - it was a good deal nearer the mark than the Latitudinarian theology of the eighteenth century. But what about the Articles in their original context?

It may be stating the blindly obvious but the Articles had a long gestation. The first attempts to write an English Confession of Faith come within a couple of years of Henry VIII's break with Rome with the Wittenberg Articles, the Thirteen Articles leading to the Ten Articles of 1538, which attempt to take a middle road between the Humanist influenced by conservative Catholicism of Henry VIII and the Augsburg Confession, and these Articles probably represent the high water mark of Lutheran influence in England. The Ten Articles lasted less than two years before being replaced by the reactionary Six Articles of 1540, and there matters official rested until after Henry's death in January 1546/7, though the pressure on Protestants eased somewhat after the crisis of 1542/3. After Henry's death Cranmer and his circle produced "some Articles" in late 1547 that were intended to pave the way for reform, but it was not until late 1552 that a full English Confession was produced in the form of the Forty-Five Articles that Cranmer submitted for comment and revision, and which were approved by Parliament in June 1553 by which time their number had been reduced to forty-two. The ink scarcely had time to dry on these before Edward VI died, and the full scale reversion to Catholicism often referred to as the Marian Reaction takes place.

The Articles that were produced in 1552 were very similar to those produced ten years later, though they contain several articles specifically condemning in Anabaptist heresy, which were felt to be unnecessary at the later date. They are organised in the way that had been traditional since the time of Peter Lombard in that they begin with the doctrine of God. Gerald Bray in "The Faith We Confess" divides the Articles into the following sections; the Catholic Articles - 1 to 9; the Protestant Articles 10 to 34; and the Anglican Articles 35 to 39. I would go a little further and divide the Protestant Articles into those which apply to all Protestants - basically 10 to 23; and those which are more specifically Reformed 24 to 34. Not every article fits neatly into its assigned category, for example, all protestants would accept the teaching contained in Article 32 - Of the Marriage of Priests, but at least this scheme gives us pegs on which to hang the structure of the Articles.

The Articles themselves are very largely a product of the interplay between domestic and continental reforming forces. In the end, the teachings of Wycliffe only find a place in the Articles in as far as they reflect the ideas of later Reformers. Wherever possible Cranmer and his colleagues avoided taking sides in the dispute between the followers of Luther and those of Zwingli, Bullinger, and Bucer. For example Article 17 - Of Predestination, uses language that would not have been unacceptable to Luther, Melanchthon, Bucer, or Bullinger. When considering the sacraments, the Articles commit themselves to the Swiss camp, but not vehemently so. Bucer's language about a spiritual real presence is there, as is language reminiscent of Bullinger's understanding of the Baptism. On the whole they are conciliatory without loosing sight of the fact that the principle influences with England were committed to Reformed theology, but from whence did they get this reformed theology?

There can be very little doubt that Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Holgate, and the other protestant minded clerics of the 1530s and 1540s were a pretty independently minded bunch. Unlike the Scots who soon traded the Scots Confession of 1560 for the admittedly superior Second Helvetic Confession, the English Church seems to have displayed a certain insularity whilst still being engaged with the European mainstream of Protestant thought. We are told that Cranmer read slowly with a pen in his hand ready to mark any passage that caught his eye, and there is evidence of the same thoroughness in the other Reformers. Yet at the same time as they were engaged in their own studies of the Scriptures and of the early Fathers, they were reading the current Reforming literature, and corresponding with Reformers in Germany and beyond. The reign of Edward VI afforded Cranmer the opportunity to invite a number of these theologians to take shelter in England in the wake of the Schmalkaldic War. Bucer, Fagius, Laski, Occhino, and Vermigli all spent time in England and Fagius and Bucer were doomed not to survive the cold winters of Cambridge. Datheen, the Dutch Reformer also spent one of his periodic exiles in England 1551-53, and a number of lesser lights passed through England in the hopes of gaining patronage and employment during these years.

This all came to an end quite suddenly in July 1553 when Edward VI died of tuberculosis. The botched attempt to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne implicated Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley in treason to a greater or lesser extent, and these architects of the Article of Religion perished in the flames of Mary's persecution of Protestantism. Some of the rising generation of evangelical leaders laid low in England during Mary's reign, such as Matthew Parker and John Whitgift. Others scattered to the Low Countries, Germany, and Switzerland with appreciable numbers settling in Basle, Emden, Frankfurt, Geneva, Strasburg, and Zurich. This enabled the Reform-minded Englishmen, and women, to see the Reformed Church at work at close quarters. The preference for Reformed cities indicates the degree to which by 1553 Lutheran influence had waned in England. Men like Barlow, Coverdale, Cox, Grindal, Sandys, and Whittingham were already familiar with Reformed ideas before their exile, and tended to gravitate towards the cities where these ideas were practiced. Bucer's influence made Strasburg attractive, whilst Bullinger's made Zurich the natural home for others. Geneva attracted a small but vocal exile contingent which included John Knox, Pilkington, and Whittingham. Knox, of course, went back to his native Scotland to provide the moral and intellectual leadership to the Reformation there, whilst Pilkington and Whittington, along with Scory and Coverdale, to some degree provide the link between the exiles and Puritanism.

Bloody Mary died in November 1558 and was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth. Attempts have been made to depict Elizabeth as everything from a closet Catholic to an agnostic, but in as much as she had any strong religious views they were the product of the circle that educated her which included Sir Thomas Cheke and William Grindal (brother of the later Archbishop.) Both Cheke and Grindal were sympathetic to Reformed theology, and indeed, Cheke eulogized Bucer after his death in 1551. Matthew Parker, another member of the Bucer circle at Cambridge, also seems to have had an association with Elizabeth that predates her accession. It would reasonable to assume from her education and associations that she favoured the sort of moderate Reformed settlement that emerged between 1558 and 1571. Elizabeth's choice of Bishops seems to confirm her preference for moderate men. Matthew Parker went reluctantly to Canterbury; Thomas Young to York; Edmund Grindal to London where he was reluctant to discipline the proto-Puritan element among the clergy; Robert Horne to Winchester; and James Pilkington to Durham where he did his best to push Protestant views in an Catholic-leaning environment. Other prominent sees went to men like Richard Coxe, who had led the Prayer Book faction in Frankfurt, and Nicholas Bullingham who seems to have been a reliable upholder of the settlement even though he was a lawyer not a theologian by training.

After re-establish the use of the BCP in 1559, and cleansing churches of much of their remaining Popish imagery from 1560 onwards, official attention then turned to the establishment of a confession of faith. Cranmer and Cheke's 42 Articles of 1553 were the obvious starting point. Of the 42 three were removed as being redundant, and Article 7 re-written with most of the 'donkey work' of revision falling on Matthew Parker and John Jewel. The combination of Parker and Jewel ensured there would be no radical alterations in the Articles. Parker had lain low during the Marian reaction, whilst Jewel had ended up in Zurich. Elizabeth I suppressed Article XXIX as being offensive to Lutherans until 1571 at which point the present English text, albeit without Charles I's somewhat peculiar preface of 1628, became the primary summary of the Church of England's teaching. In theology and outlook they smack more of Bucer's Strasburg, or Bullinger's Zurich than either Wittenberg or Geneva. They avoid speculative points wherever possible, and it is only by close comparison to the First (1536) and Second (1564) Helvetic Confessions, the Belgic Confession (1561), and the Scots Confession (1560) that their moderate Reformed tone can be detected.

The Articles have proved a remarkably enduring document, and have been endlessly interpreted, misinterpreted by way of commentary down the centuries. Although large parts of the Anglican Communion have decided to relegate them to the category of an historical document, some provinces, for example, Nigeria continue to regard them as important in defining the nature of Anglicanism. Although some Continuing Church, such as the ACC have bypassed the Articles of Religion, other continuing Churches such as the United Episcopal Church, and the Reformed Anglican Church continue to see them as significant statements that encompass the basic framework of Anglican theology.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Old High Church Ethos

Ethos is a word that seems to have been popularized, at least in Church of England circles, by the Rev. John Keble. It refers to that combination of ideas, principles, practices, and precepts that guide an organisation or individual very often as an unspoken or unwritten code which everyone seems to follow, but cannot quite define. Although the word was popularized by a Tractarian, it is without doubt that there was an ethos guiding the Old High Churchmen as well. At its worst, it was not much more than seemliness, at best, it could provide the basis for a very deeply felt religious experience, but not one that wore its heart on its sleeve. Much of this stemmed from where the old High Churchmen were educated, and where they liked to 'hang out.' They were creatures of the older Public School, the Oxbridge College, and the Cathedral Close created an atmosphere where public worship and private devotion were valued, but display was very decidedly not welcome. Even in the country vicarages to which they were preferred after completing their University careers and serving their curacies, they cultivated the same conservative principles with the same reserve and seemliness that had been so much part of their environment growing up. You could almost say that they originated by their way of living the jibe, "Change? We're Anglicans, we don't do change!" The fact that they were Establishment Men was both a blessing and a curse to the Old High Churchmen. The curse side of it was that they were too much associated with Toryism, but in a sense that was a defect of a virtue. The Old School Tories were paternalistic, and at least in theory, believed firmly that the rich a responsibility to the poor, and that every man was bound together in a mutual interdependence in which every man in his station contributed something to the stability and prosperity of the nation. Unfortunate in the 1820s and 1830s this made them look like agent of repression, as the new industrial middle class started to want to claim their share in the government of the country. This dismantling of the Anglican Parliament in 1828/9 followed by the Reform Act of 1832 put High Churchmen rather too publicly in the position of being the opponents of Reform, and this brought down a good deal of hostility on the Church. However, the wisest of them realised that the Church needed to put their house in order before the Whigs did it for them. As a result, a series of Ecclesiastical Commissions led principally by Charles Blomfield, the Bishop of London, piloted through a series of moderate reforms, equalizing the income of the Bishops, making provision to equalize the population of the various dioceses, streamline cathedral chapters, and making arrangements for the augmentation of the income of the poorest parishes, whilst at the same time making it easier for the Bishops to divide overly large parishes, and build new churches. The Tractarians for the most part opposed this sort of common sense reform, not so much because they opposed reform per se, but because the Old High Churchmen chose to do it through Parliament, rather than wait for the creaking machinery of Convocation to be revived and reformed. It took them a while to adjust to the consequences of the Reform Act, and a government that was no long theoretically, as well as practically, Anglican. In the end they compromised with the new realities, sighed for the old certainties, but made sure that the new were as little inconvenient as possible. They also believed that the State was by definition Christian, and in the case of England, Anglican. When it came to their faith, they took it from the Bible, the Prayer Book, and the Articles of Religion, seen through the writings of men like Daniel Waterland, all of which tended to inculcate a rather studious, sturdy, and sacramental Protestantism. That does not mean to say that they were not unaware of the Catholic roots of Anglicanism. Van Mildert was probably the man who made Charles Lloyd aware of how much the Prayer Book owed to the Breviary, and he in turn passed that knowledge on to the Tractarians. Van Mildert also believed that the English Reformation had made the Church of England Protestant in order that it 'might be more fully and properly catholic.' For the Old High Churchman the Reformation was both a rediscovery of Biblical theology - a theology which was supported and illuminated by reference to the Early Fathers, and also a time when the abuses of the Middle Ages were sloughed off. They shared the Latimer and Ridley as heroes with the more Evangelical brethren, but they also revered Laud and Charles I as high principled, if occasionally wrong-headed, martyrs to the cause. The eighteenth century had shorn services of some of the Beauty of Holiness that the Laudians had insisted upon in the 1620s and 30, and their Caroline Successors had revived at the Restoration in 1660. Copes had fallen into disuse except at Westminster Abbey by the late 1760s, and had the occasional use of incense to sweeten church buildings had disappeared by the 1780s, but old customs such as bowing at the Holy Name (in the Creed, at least, if not elsewhere), at the Gloria Patri, and to the Holy Table when entering and leaving the Church still survived widely. High Churchmen tended to cultivate Church Music, though they were often somewhat hampered by the life tenure customarily extended to organists and lay clerks, and they made some early, if ill-advised attempts to put their cathedrals into better repair. They also restored parish churches. Both churches in my home town received considerable attention in first two decades of the 19th century long before the rage for church restoration hit c. 1850, and it is not unusual to see significant work done in the years immediately following the Napoleonic Wars. Where it is hardest to pin down High Churchmen is on the subject of what constituted their personal religion. In one sense the proverbial archetypal Georgian sermon text "To fear God, and to keep His commandments; that is the whole duty of man" would cover the greater part of it. They were brought up as Christians, they believed it was their duty to be Christians, and to that end they worshipped, prayed, and gave alms. They even gave thought to missionary work through SPCK and SPG, and the education of the poor through the National Society. In that respect, their religion had a very practical cast but even this was hidden behind a shield of reserve. They hoped that folks would be led to a more sincere profession of Christianity by quiet example, rather than by preaching, exhortation, and that favourite Evangelical weapon, the tract. Perhaps illustrative of the difference of attitude is the shock of the then Evangelical J. H. Newman at seeing his new friend, the High Churchman, John Keble slip a copy of 'The Whole Duty of Man' into a draw rather than leaving it around to do people good. Although both went on to other things, most famously, the Tracts for the Times, the incident is illustrative of the difference between the Evangelicals and the Old High Churchmen in the 1820s, and also the basically unassuming, and reserved cast of the Old High Church spirituality.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

It Has Been a While

Looking at the blog schedule it seems that it was June when I last ran off at the fingers, and it is not mid-February. A couple of posts have been started and forgotten about, so perhaps I have not had anything compelling to say. Certainly, last year was an exciting one, in that we moved to Virginia and settled in the Shenandoah Valley. This was an extremely good move for both of us because although we both loved the wide open spaces of the west, we also hated the wide open spaces of the west, so the time had come to move somewhere a little more densely populated, but not too densely populated. The Shenandoah Valley with small towns every five to ten miles fitted the bill wonderfully, and we are very happy here. Perhaps the lack of blogging is a sign that I now have people to talk to - not in depth, but those random everyday contacts that make us human - which was something a bit lacking where we lived before.

I have to admit that even though it is the beginning of Lent I do not have anything that is particularly setting my fingers in fire. We have had the annual Facebook debate on what colour to use in Lent, and I had a happy time up in the peanut gallery proving that a little learning is a dangerous thing. Basically, the conclusion of the matter, at least for me, has long been that the great colour debate is a nineteenth century, first world problem that we are still rehashing. So far as Lent is concerned there is plenty of precedent even within the relatively straightened confines of England for violet (Exeter), ash (Sarum), or black (Lichfield, and Post-Reformation use), so you pays your money and takes your choice! We have also had the 'to ash, or not to ash' debate, which is solved in the UECNA by allowing the use of the 1967 Scottish Episcopal "Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Holy Week" materials, so you can either follow the BCP and not, or use the Booklet and do ashes. It also serves to remind us of how good we Anglicans are at arguing about adiaphora - to borrow a useful Lutheran word - and not considering the weightier matters of the Law, or rather Gospel.

Lent is a penitential season, and although being of the Reformation Tradition we talk far more about repentance than penance, the state of mind rather than the act, there is no getting away from the idea that Lent is a time in which we need to slough off old bad habits, and take on new good habits. This is all through the Grace of God, of course. The greatest dangers to Christian living today seem to be much the same as ever - being so busy that we forget God, or being so lazy that we do not get to Him. We are also, as a society, intolerably distracted. We seem to give too much attention to a lot of little electronic devices with small screens that seemed to be designed to suck our brains out! Certainly the idea of an electronics fast has been gaining popularity in recent years, and some of my more interesting online friends seem to disappear about this time every year. It certainly is a reminder to me that "anti-social media" takes up a lot of our lives these days.

So what about Lent? I guess it is the usual - cuss less; eat less; spend less time watching telly, Facebooking, texting, whatever... and also prayer more, read Scripture more, attend Communion as often as we can, show Him forth in Good Works as a sign of justifying faith. Lent is a time to be mindful of God, so let that be out goal through the coming forty days.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Low Churchmanship

It occurred to me the other day that the term 'Low Church' is just as much of a putty nose as 'High Church.' Over the centuries it has been used to describe those who were for the exclusion of James, Duke of York from the English throne, and minimized the differences between Churchmen and Dissenters; it has been used for the 18th century Latitudinarians; 19th century Evangelicals; and early 20th century Liberals - at least here in the USA - or the so-called Virginia Churchmanship. In the later 20th century, Low Church began to reacquire some of the Evangelical connotations it had before, but this time tinged with the Charismatic Movement. That said, the neo-Evangelicals do tend to use the Evangelical label for themselves, rather than the old Low Church label - perhaps because the older leaders of ACNA and AMiA still remember when "Low Church" meant liberal. In the UK, where I grew up, Low Churchmanship could mean either mild Evangelicalism, or what I have heard described as "Liverpool Low" a sort of Prayer Book Protestantism that still has a memory of being Evangelical long ago, which one also used to find quite widely in parts of Ireland.

In the last 50 years, liberalism has generally drifted higher in churchmanship, with ceremonial replacing doctrine as Liberalism has drifted further from historic Christianity. In most dioceses in the USA, the old Low Church liberals have been replaced among the clergy by women and men who are largely broad in ceremonial, and Revisionist in theology with "the culture" having at least as much influence as Scripture, Tradition, and Reason in the formation of their theological opinions - or the lack of them. However, the old Liberalism still respected Scripture, whilst accepting open inquiry as to its history, origins, and meaning, and could say the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds with more-or-less a straight face. This is a long way from where a large part of the Episcopal Church is today. There liberalism of a William Lawrence or a Henry Knox Sherrill is a long way from that of a Frank Griswold or a Catherine Jefferts-Schori, not least because it accepted the fundamental validity and rightness of Western Christian culture, and of a Classical education. Today's liberals seem to be locked into the tyranny of Relativism, and a major collective guilt-trip about being white, wealthy, and western to the extent that they seem to want to commit theological, cultural, and economic suicide.

Personally, I tend to view Low Churchmanship in terms of what it owes to both "rational orthodoxy" and, at a distance, Evangelicalism. Please note that when I say 'Evangelical' I mean the religion of Moore, Meade, and Ryle - a moderate, evangelizing, Calvinism based upon the Bible, the Articles, and the BCP - NOT American style revivalism. This makes a huge difference because it means that it is a form of Evangelicalism that is not dominated by subjective feelings with a limited theology based upon the Bible, but the evangelical expression of the great Augustinian theological tradition in its Calvinistic variant. In short it is Evangelicalism with a fully developed theology, which although it encompasses the Biblicism, Crucicentrism, Activism, and emphasis on Conversion that is common among all Evangelicals, it has a solid theological foundation. In some respects this preoccupation with theology has been both the glory and the curse of old-school Anglican Evangelicalism. A lot of people seem to live on their emotions, and as a result of this the order and restraint of Anglicanism seem foreign, but on the other hand, this orderly approach to Evangelicalism has produced some great "saints" such as William Wilberforce, John Newton, Henry Martyn, and a host of others who strove valiantly for the cause of Christ.

One thing that seems more needful today than ever is an Evangelicalism that is theologically rooted. Much of what passes for Evangelical, or more accurately Revivalist, religion in the USA today is not in any meaningful sense Christian even though it claims the name. Joel Olsteen, Benny Hinn, and many of the popular TV revivalists pedal a religion which embraces one of more of the major Christian heresies of the first Four Centuries, and is as much theatre as anything else. I guess one can say it is a case of zeal without discernment, and certainly without theology. It is the religion of emotion, and that religion of emotion will not survive well when the inevitable intellectual conflict with Islam arises in our local communities. Ill-catechised Christians will be easy meat for Islamic proselytizers, just as they are for the door-knockers Mormon and Jehovah Witnesses. I wonder how long it will be before I get someone on my doorstep who introduces himself as 'Bubba Ali' and tells me that he is from the Staunton Mosque and would like to talk to me about Jesus...

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Well, Your Grace, How Should It Be Done?

That question appeared recently in the comments to a recent article on this Blog, and I have to say that I do not have a simplistic answer. The main thing is to assert an honestly Anglican identity, which means we look firstly to the Book of Common Prayer in its entirety, then to the Canon Law of the Church, and lastly to the preferences of the congregation that we serve. Unfortunately, we cannot do this without both a certain amount of historical knowledge, and a certain amount of unlearning of common custom which has often grown up as 'window dressing' rather than meaningful ceremonial incorporating elements at variance with the genius of the BCP.

For my own part, I would have to say that Anglican ceremonial has to fall between two poles. On the Protestant end one has to acknowledge the authority of the 1604 Canons, and that whilst they are no longer binding in the USA, they do provide us with a brief summary of what was considered the minimum in the Church during the days of what some authors call 'The Puritan Aggression.' Although much was allowed to fall by the wayside, it has to be remembered that the Communion Table was to be covered with a frontal that went down to the ground - hence the Laudian fall which envelops the altar - and covered with a fair white linen cloth for the Communion. Surplice, tippet, and hood were required in parish churches, and the use of the Cope was not to be omitted in cathedrals for the Eucharist. A proper pulpit and font were to be provided, along with service books, a chalice and paten, and registers. As for ceremonial, the sign of the cross, and the ring are explained, and bowing at the Holy Name of Jesus is required. The result ceremonial is austere, but reverent. On the Catholic end is the Ornaments Rubric of the 1559 BCP which was reiterated in 1662. This particular rubric is a bit of a mystery wrapped inside of a riddle, but the Royal Commission of 1906 seems, for very good reasons, seems to have concluded that the 1559 BCP's rubric was intended to reinstate the vestments used under the 1549 BCP, though if you take its wording literally, you will discover that the 1549 BCP was actually introduced in the third year of King Edward the Sixt. However, in addition items mentioned above, the alb, chasuble, and cope are legal, along with the bishop's crozier, mitre and almuce.

Whilst I tend to prefer a simple liturgy, I have no quarrel with those who prefer the Alcuin Club, and Percy Dearmer, called the 'English Use.' This adapted late mediaeval ceremonial to the Book of Common Prayer (note order of priority) taking into account the decisions of the competent courts. In some respects, the most enthusiastic adherents of this approach were the cathedrals, and the greater parish churches simply because it stood for ENGLISH or Prayer Book Catholicism against the values of that eccentric communion with its headquarters on the Vatican Hill. Certainly, in places like Lincoln Minster in the 1980s, the ceremonial used had a certain massive dignity, but it was not fussy. The altar party entered in albs, and apparelled amices, with the celebrant, deacon, and sub-deacon in copes. Other cathedrals used chasubles, dalmatics, and tunicles, but at Lincoln it was the cope. On arrival at the altar all bowed with the celebrant going to north side of the altar, and the deacon going to north side, and subdeacon to the south side of the broad step now inhabited by the Novus Ordo coffee table of more recent usage! The celebrant would read the service at the altar facing East, first at the north side, then from the middle; with the subdeacon and deacon stepping out to read their own particular elements of the liturgy, the Gospel being accompanied with lights and cross. Little more was done in the Prayer of Consecration than to do the manual acts prescribed by the BCP, and everyone retired again at the end of the service in good order. Matins and Evensong appeared rather more austere - I used to refer to the 'off duty' clergy as the 'Black Pudding Club' as they would attend in cassock and gown, not cassock, surplice, and tippet - and the officiating clergy kept their movements to a minimum. The overall impression was one of the BCP being done decently, and in order.

On the other hand, I do tend to think that Low Churchmen can drop into sloppiness if they do not watch it. I tend to prefer "Central Churchmanship" in parish churches, even though I think something a bit more elaborate is appropriate for cathedrals. Surplice and stole or a simple set of Eucharistic vestments for the Communion service, and surplice and tippet for Matins and Evensong is my usual comfort level, but I am not really that hung up on ceremonial, except that my "Anglo-Irish" ancestry gives me a hearty aversion to ceremonial exuberance. What I am hung up on is loyalty to the Book of Common Prayer as written. Unless one's bishop has authorized additions such as the Benedictus qui venit, they really should not be used, and even then, there is a lot to be said for following the BCP as written, not least of which is that it cuts one free from the liturgical fidgets. Certainly, when I encounter an (over) elaborate service where the former Congregation of Rites has as much, if not more, influence than the BCP, I am inclined to want to cross the threshold again. We had a Reformation, and the rite which was reformed was in many respects much simpler than that of 16th century, never mind 19th century, Rome, to which some folks spend so much time and energy trying to approximate the reformed rite of the BCP.

I really do not want to be prescriptive about ceremonial, but I do think we need to keep two ideas before us. Firstly, we are Anglicans, not wannabe anything elses. Secondly, the function of worship is to offer glory and praise to God, so every time we approach the altar or the reading desk we need to remember "I must decrease; He must increase!" That means that the church's ceremonial should minimize the individuality of the priest, and take him into the liturgy as an integral part thereof as the 'minister' and not the focus of public worship. For this reason I object in the strongest terms to the westward facing position at communion, and to the practice of individualizing or omitting the accustomed vestments. The minister should stand at the Lord's Table or the reading desk not as Pastor Bob or Fr. Jim, but as just another minister of Word and Sacrament.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Nineteenth Century Revolution in Public Worship

I have before me is an 1820s pew plan of my home parish church. It was drawn just after a reallocation of seats in 1823, and a partial re-seating of the church. Visible in the minds eye are the groined plaster vault added in 1803; the high backs of the box pews, some of which incorporate mediaeval bench ends; the three decker pulpit attached to the second nave pier almost halfway down the nave; a few memorials and benefaction boards, along with some painted texts showing through later coats of whitewash; and the lower part of the chancel arch is filled with a good 15th century screen with the Royal Arms. The Decalogue, the Lord's Prayer, and the Apostles' Creed, are on boards at the east end of the chancel, where there is a wooden communion table with a marble top (no worries in those days about stone altars!) surrounded on three sides by a rail. The chancel has two pews in it for the families from the two big houses on this side of the parish, and the rest with benches for the Communicants at the monthly communion service. Velvet cushion adorn the pulpit and a frontal of the same material covers the Communion Table. There are candles and candlesticks on the Holy Table, but they are never lighted. The whole impression is one of both the dignity and the sleepiness of the late Georgian Church.

Barton was a High Church parish, or at least so the parsons liked to think. Matins, Litany, Ante-Communion and a sermon were offered in one church in the morning, and Evening Prayer and a Sermon in the other in the afternoon every Sunday. Morning service was also offered on Tuesdays and Fridays, presumably a sort of echo of the Wednesday and Friday services required by early Georgian visitation articles, with the resident gentry of Barton providing the attendance for these service. Unusually the church has an organ - a small two manual instrument without pedals - which is sited in the western gallery, with the singers and accompanies the metrical psalms, the occasional new fangled hymn, and the limited number of rustic anthems familiar to the St Peter's musicians. As services alternate between the two churches, both are probably used four times in two weeks, with the curate living in the little double fronted vicarage in front of the Church. Within a couple of years the curate will be the nephew of the Vicar, who will move to the more palatial surroundings of the former Rectory, Bardney Hall, on his accession to the incumbency, and let the Vicarage to his aging mother.

Morning service would have been a fairly sombre affair. The bells would start ringing at 10.00am, and would give the countdown to morning service. If you lived on the Waterside you had better grab your hat and go as soon as you heard the bells, as it is fully a mile to the parish church. Closer residents could wait for the 15 or even 5 minute signals. Just before 10:30am a voluntary would be played by the organist, and the clerk and minister would take their places on the lowest, and middle levels of the three decker pulpit and begin wait to begin the service. The minister would give out a sentence or two of Scripture, read the exhortation at the beginning of Matins, lead the General Confession, give the Absolution, and then the Lord's Prayer would follow. Matins proper would begin with "O Lord, open thou our lips" and it is likely that few besides the clerk would make the response "And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise." And so it would continue through the Venite, the Psalms, the first lesson, the Te Deum, the second lesson, and so on, until the third collect. At which point the service may have been punctuated with a Metrical Psalm. After that, the Litany, another Psalm, and then the ante-communion ending with a psalm during which the parson changed from surplice to gown, the sermon, and another psalm or hymn before the blessing, after which another voluntary was hear from the organ, and all departed.

Once a month, the minister would go to the altar after the sermon, where bread and wine had been placed before the service. Whilst this took place, most of the congregation would exit, with the Communicants gathering in the chancel for the Communion service. The minister would return to the vestry and exchange gown for surplice, and then stand at the north end of the Table to lead the Communion. He would lead the congregation in the general confession, with the first rail of communicants already knelt at the rail, then after the Humble Access he would remove the linen cloth from the elements, move them a little to the north end of the altar, and whilst reading the Prayer of Consecration, perform the manual acts. The communicants would then receive the consecrated leavened bread, and the undiluted port before being dismissed with a sentence of Scripture and returning to their seats. The ceremonial would be simple, even bare, with the communicants departing quietly after the blessing. The services had been this way for a hundred years, maybe longer, and although parsons came and went in their generations, folks thought that things would continue pretty much the same way forever.

If we return to the same church, fifty years later (1873), the place had been revolutionised! Parson Hogarth has been there some 15 years, having arrived hot foot from the Tractarian fever swamps of London. When he had arrived in 1858, he inherited a restoration programme that had completely altered the church inside. Dear, kindly, affectionate, ineffectual Parson Holt had decided to have the church made over more-or-less according to the Ecclesiologists principles, and the leading men in the town had raised funds for this to happen. A London architect had been consulted, but he wanted London fees, so the work had gone to a Cuthbert Brodrick, a Yorkshire architect with offices in Leeds and Hull. Out went the plaster vault, the box pews, the gallery, even the old altar, and organ, and in came the new. The pews were uniform in design and height, which had led to the destruction of all but one of the surviving mediaeval bench ends. The organ now stands at the east end of the north aisle behind the newly minted choir stalls, and the reading desk and pulpit have been split and now stand south and north of the chancel arch respectively. The local builders had knocked out the bottom panels of the fifteenth century screen, whilst beyond the old red clay pavers, and white wash have given away to three colours of glazed tiles, with some almost convincing pseudo-mediaeval choir stalls for the Communicants. The old stone and wood communion table has been replaced by an altar table raised on two steps, whilst the east end has encaustic tile up to widow bottom level. The new five panel reredos contains the Lord's Prayer, Commandments 1 to 4; a sacred symbol in Gothic Letters; Commandments 5 to 10; and the Creed, whilst underneath it runs the legend - again in tile "THIS DO IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME." All very different to 1823, and moreover, there is now gas lighting in the church in the form of trident burners over every third pew, so service can be held in the evenings.

The services have also changed. Communion is now twice a month, and it is also twice a month at the Waterside Mission. Matins, Litany, and Sermon follow at 10:30am and Evensong and Sermon at 6:30am. Services are also held morning and evening at the Mission room. The services themselves have also changed. Metrical psalms have largely gone, replaced with Hymns Ancient and Modern. The first attempts are being made at chanting the services, somewhat marred by the raw voices of the choir. However, parson Hogarth moved too far too fast when he first came to the parish, so has been forced to revert to celebrating at the north end after a premature experiment with the eastward position. His celebration of Holy Communion in association with the burial of the dead five years since had also proved to be 'too far; too fast' for the locals, and prompted some of the locals to join the Church Association, or transfer their allegiance to the Methodists, not to mention the adverse articles and letters in the newspapers of the time under headings such as "Ritualism in Barton." However, being a canny Scot, the Rev. Mr. Hogarth has abstained from pushing his luck since then, and the Vicarage his home to him, his wife, and their brood of children, one of whom, David, is to become an archaeologist and associate of T. E. Lawrence. Curates come and go, and doubtless he discusses various plans for the future with his wife, and curate, but for the time being, things will remain as they are. He can rest content that having introduced daily offices and more frequent celebration of Communion he has made a good beginning at bring Barton into line with Tractarian ideals. It will be up to his successor, Canon Moore, to complete the revolution that Hogarth started. By the end of the century, the other church, St Mary's, will have been restored, and there will be two celebrations of Holy Communion on Sundays, a celebration on Thursdays, and also on Holydays. A surplice choir will have appeared, and a new organ will have been installed in both churches. By 1914, Eucharistic vestments will have been introduced, but Matins and Evensong will remain the main services down the 1960s when the Parish Communion Movement comes to Barton to effect the next revolution.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The View from the North End

Quite a few years ago, someone was making a bit of a to-do about celebrating Holy Communion from the north end of the Communion Table claiming that it had not been done since before 1914. I pointed out that that situation was peculiar to the USA, and that, as it happened I had celebrated at the north end regularly in England, using the 1662 BCP, until moving the USA in 1999. I think you could say he was surprised to find out that there are still places where the north end was the norm!

The actual rubric in the 1552, 1559, and 1662 Books of Common Prayer says that the priest shall stand at the north side of the Table. Between 1560 and 1645, most parishes would have been able to take this literally as the Communion Table was placed down the length of the chancel, with the ends east and west, and the communicants knelt around it, often in the old choir stalls. This method of proceeding was recommended by Parker's 'Advertisements' of 1564, though the Chapel Royal and some cathedrals continued to use the Eastward position. However, from about 1615 onwards, the fashion grew for leaving the Communion Table at the east end of the chancel, with its ends north and south, and railing it off. This meant that the 'north side' rubric could not be obeyed as originally intended. Two solutions were adopted. A few adopted the custom of standing before the altar on the gospel side, facing east, and this arrangement can be seen in a Restoration era print, but seems to have faded out of use by shortly after 1700. More commonly, priests took to the north end of the Table and celebrated from there.

The Restoration Settlement reiterated both the Ornaments Rubric, and the 1604 Canons. This essentially led to a return of the situation that had obtained in the 1630s. Communion Tables were very generally arranged altar-wise at the east end, and when Communion was celebrated, the priest took his place at the north end of the Table after the sermon, if he were a Low Churchman, and at the beginning of the ante-communion, if he were a High Churchman. Communion Tables in those days were usually about 6 feet by 3 feet, and were placed inside a railed enclosure, and furnished with a 'Laudian' frontal that completely enveloped the altar, a white linen cloth for the communion, and an alms basin and a pair of candlesticks. Altar crosses were uncommon before about 1865, and candles were not lit unless required for the purpose of giving light. The Communion plate of those days consisted of a large paten - usually on a stem, a pair of chalices, and a flagon usually made of pewter or silver, though some fine old gold plate sets still exist.

On the whole the heyday of the North end was from 1660 through to about 1900-1920, when the Eastward position became generally acceptable. However, in Ireland, in the Free Church of England, and among Conservative Evangelicals the north end position remained the norm right down to the 1990s, and even today. In England today it is probably most commonly seen in the North, especially in the Yorkshire Bible Belt, but is probably unknown in Wales and Scotland. In Ireland, north ending is commoner in Ulster than in the other three provinces, mainly due to the North's Evangelicalism. Sodor and Man had a high proportion of north enders down to the 1990s, but the trend now is to bring the Table forwards and stand in a cramped space behind it.

In the USA
North end was the norm through the colonial period and down to the 1840s, though from 1831 the BCP rubric said "right side" not "north side." This somewhat ambiguous direction seems to be a reference to the position of the vestry behind the altar in many churches, a position that would make the "north" side the right-hand side of the altar. As with England the earliest cases of eastward facing celebration occur in the late 1840s with the innovators doubtless arguing the 'right' meant 'correct' in this context. However, the major change over to 'ad orientem' celebration seems to occur between 1890 and 1914 as the old Evangelical Movement collapses. Some REC churches maintained the use of the North End, but within PECUSA it was pretty much gone by 1925. Indeed, the "before the holy table" rubric in the 1928 American BCP implicitly forbids the North end position, so its use should really be confined to the English and Canadian books.

I am going to assume that the Church is arranged with the Communion Table in the usual position at the end of the chancel, with the ends north and south, and that there is a credence Table. The priest is assisted by a deacon, there is no music, and the rite is that of 1662.

Before the service, the sufficient bread and wine are placed in the paten and chalice for the anticipated number of communicants, and placed in the middle of the Holy Table and covered with a linen cloth. Alternatively, the elements are placed on the credence together, together with some additional bread, a cruet of wine, and the collection plate or alms basin. There are Prayer Books on stands at either end of the Table, one for the priest, the other for the deacon. The clergy will be vested in cassock, surplice, tippet, and possibly hood. The surplices will be long and full.

The priest and the deacon enter, go to the rail, and pause without bowing before entering the sanctuary. The priest goes to the north end, the deacon to the south. The priest reads the Lord's Prayer, and the Collect for Purity with his hands together in prayer facing south. He then takes the book and turns to the people to rehearse the Commandments with the response being said after each commandment, or after the 4th and the 10th only.

The priest then turns back to the Table and says 'Let us pray' and reads the Collect for the Queen, and the Collect of the Day again facing south. The deacon then takes his service book and faces the congregation and reads the Epistle. Alternatively, he may go down to the chancel gates or lectern and read from there. If the celebrant is preaching, he then goes to the pulpit to read the Gospel, as the deacon returns to the sanctuary and sits in his chair on the south side of the Holy Table. The Gospel is read from the pulpit, and is followed by the Creed, notices, and sermon. At the end of the sermon, the priest reads the offertory sentence, and then returns to the Holy Table whilst the sidesmen take the offering.

The alms are presented at the altar, the deacon having collected the alms basin from the Credence before handing it to the priest who puts it on the Epistle side of the Table. After this the celebrant removes the cloth from the elements, and assisted by the deacon makes any adjustment to the quantity of bread and wine that may be required. (If the paten and chalice containing the elements were placed on the credence, then the deacon brings them to the Holy Table at this point.) The priest goes to the north end, turns to the congregation, and says 'Let us pray for the whole state of Christ's Church militant here in earth.' He then reads the Prayer for the Church. The exhortations are usually omitted, and then priest will turn to the congregation and read "Ye that... meekly kneeling upon your knees" before kneeling and letting the deacon lead the people in the General Confession. The priest then stands and raises his hand without making the sign of the cross whilst he gives the absolution. The deacon reads the Comfortable Words, after which the priest says the dialogue beginning 'Lift up your hearts,' before turning to the Table at "It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty..." The congregation joins in at either "Therefore with angels and archangels" or at "Holy, holy, holy" and recite with the minister until the Amen at the end of the Sanctus. The minister then kneels for the Humble Access, which he usually reads alone. A brief pause then follows whilst the elements are transferred to the north end of the altar for consecration. The prayer of consecration is read somewhat carefully by the priest facing the Table (i.e. south) at the north end with only those manual acts mentioned in the 1662 BCP being performed. At the end of the prayer all say "Amen" and then the clergy receive communion, followed by the laity, the priest administering the bread, and the deacon the Cup. Very often communion is administered by tables with everyone remaining in place until the minister dismisses that rail/table with a verse of Scripture.

When all have received, the remaining elements are placed in the middle of the Table and covered with the linen cloth. The clergy return to the ends of the Table, and the priest leads everyone in the Lord's Prayer. He then reads the Prayer of Thanksgiving, before all join in the Gloria in Excelsis. Lastly he gives the blessing facing the congregation with his hand or hands raised. The remaining consecrated elements are consumed after the service.

There are quite a few variants, but that is the basic format of the north end celebration. When music is used, the most common sections to be sung are the responses to the Commandments, and the Sanctus. As for hymns - at the beginning, between the lessons, before the sermon and at the collection of alms, during communion, and at the end of the service were fairly common. Also, in Evangelical parishes, it was pretty common to start the Communion service at 'Ye that do truly...' when it follows Matins or Evensong.

Final Thoughts
The north end celebration sounds a little awkward, but in fact works very well. My own point of view is that it has the advantage of allowing the people to see the manual acts without awkwardness on the part of the celebrant. It also avoids placing the presbyter 'centre stage' as happens with celebration facing the people. It emphasizes the ministerial aspect of the presbyterate, with the clergyman standing to the side, and letting the action of the Eucharist be seen. The disadvantage is that it arose by accident, and is without ancient precedent, but when celebrating the 1662 BCP Communion office it represents a valuable, historic Evangelical alternative to facing the Holy Table.