The last forty years have seen the almost complete disappearence of Morning Prayer as the principal act of public worship in Anglican Churches. It was almost as though the Liturgical Movement, which in Anglican circles tends to be dominated by Liberal Catholics, had set up Morning Prayer and Holy Communion in opposition to one another rather than as complimentary acts of worship. The battle cry of the "Lord's service on the Lord's Day" was a very seductive one for the marginalized clergy of the 1970s who embraced a more sectarian understanding of the Church as it was pushed out of the mainstream of society.
At one time I used to think that the thought process behind the Liturgical Movement's replacement of early Communion and mid-morning Matins by Parish Communion or "Slow Mass" was unassailable, but I have come to revise my opinions somewhat. The Parish Communion or "Slow Mass" attempts to combine the elements of a substantial Liturgy of the Word with the Eucharist. As a result the traditional Fore Mass was expanded by the addition of an Old Testament Reading and a Psalm, and the intercessionary element was frequently expanded. As a result the usual hour's service on a Sunday morning consisting either of Matins with a fairly substantial sermon, or a Sung Eucharist with a more modest homily was replaced by a protean monster of a service that tries to do everything in one go, or alternatively by a Sung Eucharist which ends up being light on Scripture and preaching. With the Slow Mass/Parish Communion arrangement heaven help you if Aunt Aggie of "praying the newspaper" fame, and a baptism coincide; chances are you are in for a two hour session which ultimately is somewhat liturgically incoherent.
Anyway, to get back to the point, I have come to the conclusion that parishes need to provide both Eucharistic and non-Eucharistic worship in order to prosper. Please note, I am not suggesting that we neglect the Eucharist, but rather suggesting that we do not put all our eggs in one basket and reach out to those who are not yet ready for Communion.
The first concern that I have about the "Slow Mass/Parish Communion" as the only service is that it creates something of a closed congregation. Part of the reason for this is that, except for a few very Anglo-catholic parishes, Anglicans have an engrained aversion to non-communicating attendance at Holy Communion. Semi-churched Anglicans are at a distinct disadvantage in parishes where the Holy Communion is the main or only service simply because they feel they ought not to be there. In short, they are accidentally excluded and this creates a much sharper distinction between the churched and the unchurched, which is a mixed blessing in a missionary situation.
Secondly, Morning Prayer is a very Evangelical service. For a start, it has a very heavy Scriptural componant. Even with the rather limp-wristed lectionary of 1943, it includes one medium length or two short psalms, and two fairly substantial lessons, one from each Testament. In addition to this there is quite a bit of Scripture in the liturgy itself. It also gives room for a more substantial, expository sermon than can usually be preached at Holy Communion. I generally find that twelve minutes is about your whack at "Slow Mass" if you want toretain any hope of finishing within an hour and a quarter or an hour and an half, but it is perfectly possible to go 20-25 minutes without going much over the hour at Morning Prayer.
Thirdly, not everyone is the same in their approach to the sacrament of Holy Communion. For example, some of us have a strong preference for fasting Communion, which becomes difficult if the celebration of Communion occurs at an hour later than 9.00am. Inspite of all the Liturgical Movement propaganda I have digested over the years, I still prefer to go to an early celebration and receive fasting, then come back later in the day for Matins or Evensong and an expository Sermon rather than put myself around a condemned breakfast and go to a mid-morning Eucharist. Others prefer the "Slow Mass" format. Others still, the old-fashioned Sung Eucharist. What I am saying is that one size does not fit all, and that priests need to listen to their people, and the people need to be open with their clergy about what they think will build up the Body of Christ in their particular parish.
In the old days, Morning Prayer and Communion were often combined. In the Church of Ireland the usual format was Matins to the end of the second canticle, then the Communion service with the non-communicants being prayed for and allowed to depart after the Prayer for the Church Militant. This occured monthly, and on the other Sundays Holy Communion was celebrated early. By the way, the 1928 American Prayer Book allows this too. If you think I am romancing look it up, or read "A Prayer Book Manual" (Boston, MA, 1943) where it is mentioned as one of the options for integrating MP and the Eucharist. Other parishes tackled the need for both Eucharistic and non-Eucharist worship by having a mid-morning Sung Communion and a late Morning Prayer, as was the case in my home parish in the 1960s and 70s. Still others has ealy and late said celebrations either side of Morning Prayer. Wherever one was, experiments were made, or at least the local pattern for worship was allowed to evolve to meet the demands of both the existing congregation and those of evangelism.
I guess what I am asking is for the parish clergy take seriously the need for non-Eucharistic worship, and also appreciate the need for flexibility in scheduling the parish's worship. I am also asking both clergy and laity to appreciate the breadth and the richness that exists in both our Eucharist and Morning Prayer Liturgies and allow both the opportunity to draw folks to Christ. One size does not fit all, and our attempts to make it so has lost Anglicanism a lot of support and membership down the years. The Anglican Way is both Reformed and Catholic and as a result we have to make room for both expository peaching and sacramental worship in our spiritual lives. The Reformers hoped to combine both within the Communion Service, but in all reformed traditions - Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, and Anglican - the tendancy from about 1600 onwards has been for the two to inhabit different time slots and different services. Our belated attempts to re-realise the Reformers aspirations have not been altogether successful, so I would hope that we will have the courage to re-evaluate the teaching of the Liturgical Movement.