Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Broad Orthodoxy

One of the difficulties that the Continuum has faced over the five decades has been a tendancy to want to unncessarily narrow the boundaries of what constitutes Anglicanism. Our biggest difficulty is that we fail to distinguish the wood from the trees with liturgical orthodoxy being confused for doctrinal orthodoxy. Now I would conceed that there is a link between orthodoxpraxis and orthodoxy, I would also point out that two of the most theologically peculiar congregations I have worshipped in had very proper, correct, and I have to add quite "catholic" ceremonial. That would lead me to believe that the two - right practice and right belief - are not quite so tightly bound together as we all like to think. I also have to confess that I am a veteran of the Liturgy Wars, and have seen and heard learned and experienced clergy derided because they did not hold their hands quite right at Mass, or have the correct red bound tome upon the altar. All of this seems to be a case of majoring on the minor stuff to the detriment of the Gospel of Christ.

If there is something that I would say characterizes the 'Old Anglicanism' it was the ability to tolerate differences of opinion without it spinning out of control into the modern cacaphony of diversity for diversity's sake. The difference was that until the 1950s, the tolerance rested no upon an indifference to doctrine - as it tends to do today - but upon a broad consensus as to what constituted the essentials of the Christian Faith, and what was a matter of local custom. The success of the Old Episcopalianism in the USA was very largely due to this tolerant orthodoxy. One parish might be 'High and Crazy,' the next 'Low and Lazy' and the three after that 'Broad and hazy' but they accepted the same Scriptures, Creeds, Sacraments and Ministry, they used the same Book of Common Prayer whatever their variances of ceremonial, emphasis and outlook.

Although to a large extent the UECNA started out as 'a Low Church jurisdiction' it has mainly been peopled by orthodox Broad Churchmen. Today we have some Anglo-Catholic congregations among us, and I certainly do not hear any complaints about that development in our spiritual life together. Anglo-Catholics, Central Churchmen, and Low Churchmen are able to peacefully coexist within the UECNA, and it is a bit of a mystery to me why this principled tolerance is not more widely accepted in the Continuum. After all, provided the service is not sloppy or irreverent and the Book of Common Prayer is used, then we have nothing to worry about so far as the efficiency and validity of what is being done is concerned as we share the same Scriptures, Creeds, Sacraments and Ministry.

Anglicans share with the Lutheran tradition - that other great 'Evangelical Catholic' tradition - the concept of adiaphora. External matters are indifferent, regulated to edify the faithful. However, back in the 16th and 17th centuries neither Lutherans nor Anglicans contemplated or foresaw the sort of erosion of traditional practice that took place between 1660 and 1810. The concept of 'adiaphora' was essentially a traditionalist one, allowing the customs and ceremonial of the Church, including its sacramental worship, to survive in the face of the attempts of the 'Hot Gospellers' to turn the Church into a lecture theatre. Familiar signs and symbols were used to enable the 'eye gate' as well as the 'ear gate' to be used in the service of orthodoxy. As a mentioned in a previous post (Northernness) the Old Lutheran service in Leipzig or Hamburg was quite Anglo-Catholic to our eyes, yet in a village church using the same Ordnung, the service would have been much simpler - adapted for local needs, but preserving the substance of the Faith entire.

This mention of 'local adaptions' serves to bring me to my next point which is that the frontline so far as Christian ministry is concerned is parish ministry. To use a vulgarism 'that is where it's at.' As we all know, every neighbourhood is not the same, and in the same way not every Anglican parish - never mind Christian congregation - is the same. Therefore there is a virtue in letting each parish develop along its own lines within the basic doctrinal and liturgical framework of the Church. One parish may choose to be Low - having Communion at the early service most weeks, and usually Morning Prayer as their main service. Another may have the staff and the tradition to have a High Mass. Still another will be content to hit the happy medium with a simple Sung Eucharist on Sundays. Yet for all these differences it is still the same Church.

What we try and encourage congregations to do in the UECNA is to be the Anglican parish in their community. In some places this will mean one thing, and in others another. Yet, to return once again to the theme of this post, if we maintain the basic doctrines of the Church, and use her liturgy then we should welcome a diversity of ceremonial usage as the sign of an active, growing, and vibrant Church. To my mind, a tidy house is a house for show; whilst a messy house, with evidence of hobbies, books and so forth, is a house that is truly lived in. In the same way I believe the Church should be something that is a little bit messy with High, Low, and Broad Church parishes all working together to bring people to Christ and to be the Anglican Church in the Communities they serve. That sort of determination to witness brings a certain amount of mess and imperfection, but it is the sort of mess and imperfection that goes with life. In a sense, we have to be, as St Paul wrote 'all things to all men' so that men and women can make a connection with the Gospel and with Jesus Christ who alone saves us. On the other hand, an outwardly perfect Church is inevitably a dead or a dying Church because everyone is afraid that they might make a mess and as a result they have become self-obsessed. Our ceremonial should be an expression of our parish's life in Christ, something that lifts upwards towards the throne of grace and not an end in itself. We need to recover that Broad Orthodoxy where, whatever our ceremonial preferences, our primary work together is to proclaim the Catholic Faith revealed in the Scriptures, Creeds, Councils, and Father which leads us to Jesus, who is the Wat, the Truth and the Life.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Why Central Churchmanship was - and is - important

One of the down sides to Anglican ministry is the tendancy of churchmen, and especially the clergy, to divide themselves into warring factions.  Most of my ministry before I joined the United Episcopal Church  was conducted against the background of the liturgy wars. This particular manifestation of fracteousness led to those of us who preferred to 1928 BCP being told by the self-appointed 'Liturgy Police' that we were doing it all wrong.  What used to really annoy me was the fact that the folks who called you out for being disobedience to Catholic Tradition did so for using the official liturgy of the Church. They also tended behaved as though they thought that if you used the right Missal or the right vestments people would come flocking in.  Occasionally, I used to consider telling them that I thought their point of view was delusional. However, I have a strong suspicion they would not have understood what I was on about.  What they seemed to miss that what makes folks keep coming to Church is the idea that they are loved and that they are involved in what the Church is doing, so in the end Churchmanship and Liturgical Fetishism does not matter, but a strong loving parish Community that gets on with being Anglican can really make a difference.

This brings me to why Central Churchmanship is important.  Its importance lies in its being 'Mere Anglicanism" with all that implies about loyalty the Church's formularies and ways of doing things.  So  So often today we are faced with hyphenated Anglicans - catholic-anglicans, anglican-evangelicals, Anglican-progressives, Charismatic-Anglicans, and so on and so forth.  It seems as though unhyphenated Anglicanism has gone out of the window, and along with it the glue that used to hold the Church together!  The trouble with so many of these hyphenated Anglicans is that they believe that their particular version of Anglicanism is the whole enchilada, and they have no room for, or tolerence of, other expressions of our common tradition.  This has contributed greatly to the dysfunctional nature of American Anglicanism, and it is only with the reemergence of a strong 'unhyphenated Anglicanism' that the Continuing Church can begin to resolve its problems and move towards greater unity and thereby gain in effectiveness.

I am not quite sure what exactly Archbishop Doren had in mind when he established the United Episcopal Church 31 years ago, but it is quite clear with the Constitution and Canons that he had drafted that whatever he envisioned in terms of Churchmanship in the short term, there was nothing to prevent the UECNA from becoming a church where 'mere Anglicanism' would be the dominant expression of our tradition.  It seems to me that, inspite of the pressure to merge, there is a need to build a proper foundation so that the whole structure does not crack and fall apart again.  There is a very real sense, in which this structure cannot be built by human hands at all, but rather by the Holy Spirit.  It seems to me that much of the time, because of our human dislike of messy solutions, the Holy Spirit is not given breathing room when we think about the church's future, and I would venture to suggest this is partly because so many folks seem to be obsessed with remaking Anglicanism in their own image.  However. just as remaking God in our own image leads to heresy, so remaking Anglicanism in the image of whichever party you belong to leads to something that just is not Anglicanism.

Of course, I am now going to prove what a hypocrite I am by following a pitch for the non-partisan approach, but pitching for my own outlook.  On the other hand pleading for 'mere Anglicanism' in the context of pleading for more cooperation and mutual forebearance cannot really be construed as true hypocracy as what I am asking for is a greater focus on what makes us Anglicans, that is, what unites us, rather than what divides us.   We need to focus on, and teach our common heritage in terms of the Bible, the Creeds, the Ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church, and also about the Prayer Book, the Articles of Religion and the history of Anglicanism so that we have a common platform, a common foundation on which to build.  In effect, we need to spend less time being different and more time being Anglican!

So why am I so hung up on Central Churchmanship?

A lot of the answer lies in what it says about Anglicanism.  One of things that creates instability in Anglo-Papalism, Evangelicalism, the Charismatic Movement and Liberalism is the fact that they all seem to be looking to something outside of Anglicanism in order to find their validity.  In the case of a lot of Anglo-Papalists they have at least one eye on Rome - usually, in the USA, the Rome of Pius XII.  Many Evangelicals and Charismatics seem to behave as though they believe 'Big Box Revivalism' to be the one true Faith.  The Liberals look either to Christian Socialism (with Socialism as the dominant party,) philosophical relativism, or psychology as being the bigger truth to which Anglicanism must conform.  Then they are surprised when folks pass through their versions of Anglicanism to join either what they are pointing to - Rome, the Big Box, the Polit Bureau or the Academy - or to some more focussed Christian tradition.  Central Churchmen, on the other hand, should be saying, "this is Anglicanism and this is what we do.  Come join us!"

Of course, there is a sense in which Anglicanism should always point beyond itself.  We need to direct attention away from ourselves towards Christ as every Christian should.  We also need to point beyond ourselves and reference our theology against that of the Early Fathers and Councils so we do not lapse into heresy or revisionism.  But other than that we need to just get on and be Anglican.  We have a glorious tradition that we do not need to muchj about with.  The decline of Anglicanism in America in some respects reflects the declining confidence that we have displayed in our own tradition.  We need to reverse that, and one again get on with being the Church.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Reformed Face of Anglicanism

The English Reformation is often glossed over by modern Episcopalians, especially those of an Anglo-Catholic bent. Yet there is no denying that reformation of the Church of England fits in, doctrinally, with the moderate end of Reformed Christianity. Cranmer evolved theologically from a Roman Catholic interested in the new learning, firstly into a Lutheran, and then, because of the shift in his views on the Eucharist in 1547, into a moderate exponant of the Reformed Faith. Cranmer's personal journey of faith left its mark on the Church of England in the form of a Liturgy that remains to this day more closely allied to Lutheran practice, but that liturgy is couple to a doctrinal stance that is broadly, but decidedly Reformed. You could almost say that the Church of England reverses the the position of the Landeskirche of Saxe-Wurttenburg, which, like several other Lutheran churches in Southwestern Germany has a Reformed Liturgy coupled to a Lutheran Confession.

Although modern Anglicans try to ignore the fact, both the Edwardian and Elizabethan Settlements took a reformed stance. The creative phase of the English Reformation covers the period 1538 to 1565, which is precise the time frame in which the Reformed Faith, as exemplified by Geneva, takes over from the more moderate reform of Luther. However, the English Reformation was not quite as radical as that of Geneva in its final form, and this did much to set up the tension between Churchman and Puritan in the later years of Elizabeth I's reign. However, it has to be understood that the quarrel between Whitgift and Cartwright, and later generations of churchmen and puritans was not an argument between theological systems, but a disagreement (to use a mild word for it) within the Reformed Faith.

The 42 Articles of 1552 and the 39 Articles of 1563, both commit the Church of England to the fundamentals of the Reformed Faith. Both sets of Articles affirm the centrality of Scripture, and take a monergist position on Justification. Both sets of Articles affirm that the Church of England accepts the doctrine of predestination and election as a 'comfort to the faithful' but warn against over much speculation concerning that doctrine. Indeed a casual reading of the Wurttemburg Confession of 1551, the Second Helvetic Confession, the Scots Confession of 1560, and the XXXIX Articles of Religion reveal them to be cut from the same bolt of cloth. Although the Lambeth Articles of 1595 never received royal sanction, they do reflect the theological reality of the Church of England in the later years of Elizabeth I's reign. It was a Calvinist Church, but one with Bishops and a Liturgy. The double pre-destinarian theology of the Lambeth Articles may not have found favour with the Queen and with the moderates, but apart from a few eccentrics - whose opinions the Article were meant to refute - the English Church was commited to a reformed and predestinarian theology. This is a contrast to today where may Anglicans identify as Reformed Catholic, but their Reformed Catholicism is not that of the Articles, but a form of Old Catholicism. This is a direct consequence of the attempts made by Anglo-Papalists and Anglo-Catholics to Unreform the Church.

Now I have to conceed at this point that not all Anglo-Catholics reject the Reformation, and, as you will have noticed if you have read older posts on the Old High Churchman, some are indeed sympathetic to the positive principles of the Reformation, but there has always been what I call 'the Hurrell Froude' element who speak of the Reformation as a 'limb badly set.' I have to be very honest and say that I do not concur with their very negative view of the Refomation as I believe in taking our formularies of our Church at their face value. That is to say, in reading the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Homilies, and the BCP in their natural, grammatical sense. In doing that one comes to the unavoidable conclusion that Anglicanism is indeed a Via Media, but not between Catholicism and Protestantism, but between Lutheranism and Calvinism. It is also pointless to deny the evidence of a continuous series of prominent clergymen in the Anglican tradition who have been Reformed in their theology. Even after the Restoration, when Calvinism was clean out of fashion, Bishops like Edward Reynolds of Norwich and George Morley of Winchester held to their Predestinarian views and a basically Reformed theological framework. Therefore the Calvinism of early Evangelicals - like George Whitefield, Augustus Toplady, and Samuel Walker was not an innovation, but a manifestation of a reinvigorated, living, Calvinist tradition in the Church of England.

From the time of the great Revival of the mid-eighteenth century through to today there has been no lack of professors of the Reformed faith in the Anglican tradition. Folks like Henry Venn, Charles Simeon, C R Sumner, J C Ryle, Charles McIllvaine, William Meade and John Johns all identified with Calvinism, but were unstinting in their devotion to the Church of England or the Protestant Episcopal Church. Growing up in the Church of England I could rely on the fact that about 10% of the clergy, even in a relatively liberal diocese, would be Reformed in regard to their dogmatic theology. Given that pedigree it seems gratuitous to try and exclude those of us who hold to Reformed principles from the Anglican Continuum. However, there are those who have done their best to do so, and such unofficial doctrinal and liturgical 'tests' have done their share to promote schism in the Continuum. This seems a particular pity when one realises the power to convict and convert that has always been God's particular gift to the Evangelical and Reformed clergy of the Anglican Church.

I hope that you have gathered from the remarks I have made above that I regard the Reformed face of Anglicanism not as an anomoly, but as an essential element in our Anglican tradition. Anglicanism has Reformed roots, and when we deny those roots we are in a sense denying who we are. There is no doubt that God has not finished with the Anglican version of the Reformed tradition, but it needs a home. We also need to get back to the old Anglican Evangelicalism, an ordered, discipline, liturgical, but above all Biblical and Refomed tradition offering to men and women the gift of eternal salvation in Christ Jesus. I think it would be good for all of us if we sought out too books by J C Ryle which are intended to strengthen and inspire. The first is entitled 'Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century' which gives potted bios of such Anglican Evangelical luminaries as Henry Venn, William Grimshaw, and Daniel Rowlands. The other is 'Old Paths' a collection of essays about the Reformed faith which will do much to clear up any misconception one might have about the nature of the Reformed Faith.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


C S Lewis had a great interest in the cultural values, folklore, and traditions of the various northern European peoples, and he asserted that there were some basic qualities that united the folks of the North. He referred to this as 'northernness.' However, I want to talk about a different sort of 'Northernness' - the 'High church Lutheran' liturgical tradition that prevailed throughout northern Germany, Denmark-Norway, and Sweden-Finland until the third quarter of the eighteenth century when the prevailing rationalism of the age began to erode traditional liturgical uses.

Luther was the quintessential conservative radical. Although his return to St Paul, St Augustine and the Early Father's marked him out as a radical - in the best sense of the word - his liturgical ideas were conservative. Firstly, he retained much of the old Mass either in Latin in the Formula Missae; or in metrical German paraphrases in the Deutsche Messe of 1526. Also he allowed a certain amount of freedom over liturgical forms, so although some churches stuck very close to the Wittenburg norms, others veered in a more or less traditional direction. Generally they tended to be more conservative in Northern Germany, and less so in the Southwest - Wurttemburg, etc..

Luther also encouraged the retention of the traditional vestments, the Eastward position, and chanting. He also sought to simplify, not eliminate, the ceremonial of the Mass. The typical North German Lutheran Mass tended to be made up of the following elements

Prayer for the Church
Lord's Prayer
Agnus Dei and Communion
Final Collect
Aaronic Blessing

The German language version omitted the Preface and the Sanctus, and usually the Introit and Gradual were only sung where there were choristers used to singing in Latin. As time passed the service was increasingly prefaced with a general confession and absolution. This type of service was also the common service of the Church in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and their possessions, though in Scandanavia the Formula was the usual model for divine service even for vernacular liturgies where one would have expected the Deutsche Messe to be the pattern.

Gunther Stiller in his book "J S Bach and the Liturgical Tradition in Leipzig" has compiled a huge amount of material about the orthodox Lutheran liturgy in Saxony in the 1730s. It is clear that Leipzig enjoyed public worship on the grand scale. Though usually there were only two or three ordained ministers taking part, the setting was splendid. Mass vestments in the form of cassock surplice and chasuble were worn, Latin was used for the ordinary of the Mass, the Collect, the Proper Preface, and the Sanctus. On great feasts there were two cantatas sung; one before the Creed, the other during Communion - and there were often several hundred communicants who had made their private confession to one of the clergy when supplying their names to the curate as intending communicants for the next Eucharist. Even the Sanctus Bell was in use! It also points to the vitality of the orthodox Lutheran tradition in Saxony, presenting a picture far removed from that presented by Pietist and Rationalist propagandists.

The Thomaskirche in Leipzig represented the Lutheran liturgy at its most splendid, but cities like Lubeck, Hamburg, Roskilde, Copenhagen, Trondheim, Stockholm, Uppsala had similar large scale "high church" liturgies which survived late in the 18th century. Although Rationalism was ultimately triumphant in Germany, the Danes, Nowegians and Swedes all resisted its encroachments preserving the orthodox Lutheran liturgy into the modern age. This "High Church" Lutheranism presented the Lutheran version of the Cathedral tradition found in England, and like England, the parish church service was much simpler. However, the Deutsche Messe of Luther, and the Agendas used in other local Lutheran Churches retained the Mass as the main service, and in principle that Mass was to be a Sung service. England due to the Puritan aggression had lost much of it sunging tradition in its parish churches, but it is evident from the Rubrics of the 1559 and 1662 Books of Common Prayer that that had not been the intent of the Reformation and Restoration Convocations and Parliaments. They intended to preserve something of the solemnity of the old forms, whilst embrace a thorough reform of the Church Service.

The message that I am trying to get across here is that there is nothing against the Prayer Book, or unprotestant about having a beautiful Church service with fine music and colourful traditional vestments. However it is uncatholic to use a liturgy not allowed by the Church. I hope that over the next few years an increasing number of Anglican clergy will quit fooling around with the Missals and return to the Book of Common Prayer. I also hope that when they do so, they will return to the ornaments and the ceremonial of 'the second year of King Edward the Sixt' and put into effect the liturgical intentions of our Reformation.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bridging the Gap

One of the advantages that conservative like myself have is that we usually get to sit back and work out how something is going to develop before we throw ourselves into a situation. We tend not to be 'blow about by every vain blast of doctrine' but at our best we work for continuity and stability in the Church as it preaches the Gospel to every generation. I also think it is very important for those in leadership positions in the Church to have an overview not just of what is going on in the here and now, but also the trends leading to where we are now, and we also need a certain ability to 'read the runes' of where the church is going.

Well, what I am trying to say is that Traditional Anglicans have a major problem right now. Put in simple terms we have married the spirit of the age - in our case, the 1950s - and we are very close to finding ourselves widows in the next. Increasingly we look like 'the Museum Church' not 'the Living Church' which is precisely the same problem that the Episcopal Church, which is married to the Seventies. Neither approach is bring folks to the Church, though it has to be conceeded that the Continuum is loosing people at a far slower rate than TEC. At least it seems that fifty years out of date is far enough to be somewhat timeless, not just old.

Now I am sure that by this point you are expecting a sales pitch for music groups, drum kits, "Rite 3," burlap banners, name tags, and charismatic carryings-on. Well, not quite! For a start, name tags and burlap banners are so 90s, man! Rite 3 is pretty old hat as well. That was 'happening' when I was a student in the late 1980s. No, what I am getting at is that Continuing Anglicans need to build a bridge to the culture, not that of the secular left, but that of wider Christianity in the USA. We need to have a bridge in place so that some of those who are semi-churched, the unchurched, and those who attend 'shallow churches' can cross into a fuller and deeper expression of Christianity, and in many ways, the path to doing this is through music.

I have to be honest and say that I am as apt to reach for the garlic and a crucifix when someone mentions 'praise and worship music' to me as the most rigid of Spikes. The other thing that I have realised is that the 1928 Prayer Book is not a stumbling block, but some of the music that we use - well, let us just say "Oh Dear!" We have moade the mistake - at least in the USA where we have an official hymnal - of Canonizing a Hymn Book. To an Englishman - where we have never had an official hymnal - I have to say this seems a little - erm - odd. I think we need to remind ourselves of an eighteenth century Evangelical Anglican (Whitefield? Newton? One of the Wesleys?) who said, "why should the devil have all the best tunes?" so why have we chosen to freeze our selection at one point in history omitting not just many good new songs, but many old and valuable hymns?

At University I heard and sang a lot of the then current P&W music, however I remember only two or three of them twenty years later. There is a sense in which they are musical ephemera. On the other hand, I do remember the old Wesleyan standards such as 'O for a thousand tongues to sing' ,"And can it be" and so forth, which I learned alongside the P&W music. I think you can see the case I am making - that we need to bridge the gap.

However, bridging that gap is an exercise that needs a little bit of thought. I honestly think we had it right so far as Anglicanism was concerned, when I was a student. The church I attended did P&W music until the beginning for the formal liturgy, then we had a very simple formal liturgy - with not too many men in funny frocks, and during this formal liturgy traditional hymns were used; then during Communion and after the service they used P&W music again. It seemed to bridge the gap. However, I do know one way of really fouling up the sort of bridge approach that I am taking about and that is to use the Praise Music that was current when I was a student in the late 1980s - which is precisely what so many churches do!

One interesting phenomomen that I have observed in churches that offer both traditional and more contemporary is that as folks become more committed and more comfortable with "the Church thing" they tend to move across to more traditional services. I really do not see why continuing Anglicans have such a block with letting the musical side of worship evolve while the liturgy, which does have enduring value, remains fixed. It seems to me that where there is a real need for it, many churches could benefit from having a traditional service and a slightly more contemporary one to reach out and make a new generation of Anglicans. We all know that the old ones are dying off fast enough.

At the end of the day we belong to the Church, not the Hymnal and Prayer Book Preservation Society. Our function, our great commission is to "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them whatsoever things I commanded you..." Are we achieving that by clinging so firmly to everything from the past? Or do we need to build that bridge? I believe that we need to build that bridge before it is too late, and we become just another footnote in religious history.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Easter Vigil

Note: This post is intended to be a discussion starter which I am putting up here to get you all thinking about two issues. Firstly, whether the structure of the Easter Vigil as given in authorized Anglican sources is real the best and most authentic. Secondly, how do we fit the Vigil into parochial worship. So, have at it - but only when you have read the article!

From the mid-1960s onwards there have been various official attempts to revive the 'Easter Vigil' as a living part iof parochial worship in the Anglican tradition. In general, the forms officially set forth - for example by the Scottish Episcopal Church in 1967 and the Episcopal Church, USA, have followed the forms set forth by Rome in 1955 and follow this format

Blessing of the fire
Blessing and lighting of the Paschal Candle
Procession and lighting of congregation's candles
The Four Prophecies interspersed with psalms and collects
Blessing of the Font
Renewal of Baptismal vows
The Eucharist

The first part of the service is a bit of a disaster mainly because it isolates the Exultet, from the lighting and blessing of the candle itself. It becames 'a big sing' for the deacon or celebrant and perhaps the dullest part of the whole service, which is a pity given the beauty and antiquity of this chant. I believe it would be far better to restore the use of the 'Hasta' or 'Trident' to light the candle during the Exultet restoring this action, along with the ancient ceremonies to this chanting of this prayer.

Another problem occurs, at least in those parishes which use the BCP forms for the sacraments, with the blessing of the font and sprinkling of the at least from the point of view of the ancient Western liturgy with the renewal of baptismal vows. This seems to fit awkwardly with traditional western Baptismal theology in there is a sense in which one is repeating that which congregation following the renewal of Baptismal Vows. Anglican practice since the Reformation has been to bless the water anew for every baptism. This makes the blessing of the font redundant so far as the Anglican liturgy is concerned. I also believe that the Renewal of Baptismal Vows, although popular, fits awkwardly with the character of Baptism which is a once only sacrament conferring an indelible character upon the soul.

It seems to me that there is a case for Reforming the Easter Vigil after the model of that used in the old Dominican Use. This omitted the elements not needed in a friary, which, strangely enough, are those not needed in an Anglican parish. The form of the service should therefore be:

Blessing of the new fire
Exultet with the lighting of the Paschal Candle, etc.
The Four Prophecies with attendant tracts and collects
The Litany
(The Eucharist)

The final question that occurs to me is, do we celebrate the Eucharist?

I think in the end this is a matter that has to be decided by every parish for itself. In my parish, because of the low attendance at the Vigil, it always seems to fall flat. What is intended to be a great festal Eucharist ends up being a simple Sung Mass with about a dozen folks present. I suspect that in many parishes the tradition of the Easter Sunday morning celebration of the Eucharist is too entrenched to be dislodged. Coupled with this there is also a danger of making it seem too much like Christmas Eve, and one constrant criticism of liturgical traditions is that there is not enough variety in our services. Of course, if you can bring it off, the Vigil should culminate in a Solemn Eucharist, but I think that it most parishes it would be better to use the Vigil as a stand alone service of preparation for the High Celebration on Easter morning.

The final and weightiest consideration is what the Prayer Book provides. The BCP provides Morning Prayer, Ante-Communion and Evening Prayer, and then Easter day begins with Morning Prayer as usual. We have no permission from the Book of Common Prayer to replace or rearrange any of these elements.

I would therefore suggest that in most parishes the following timetable might be found satisfactory:

9.00am Morning Prayer
9.30am Ante-Communion and Sermon
Church cleaning and preparation for Easter ending with
Evening Prayer early in the afternoon.
After Dark - The Easter Vigil

9.00am Morning Prayer
10.00am Solemn Celebration of Holy Communion
7.00pm Evening Prayer

I have yet to bring this off in my own parish - Evensong being the sticking point - but I think it reflects a version of the Easter ceremonies which is, at least, not turning the Prayer Book inside out, and reflects the realities of our parochial ministry. The major difficulty with the 'reformed' Easter Vigil is that it is a product of the library, the classroom, and the monastery rather than the every day hurly-burly of parish ministry. I have often thought that the biggest and most valid criticism of the Liturgical Movement of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s is that so few of its proponants were parish ministers with the result that their demands are often unrealistic when transferred into the parochial setting.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Some Thoughts on the Good Friday Liturgy

The Book of Common Prayer devotes quite a large amount of space to Holy Week and Easter. There are no less than 36 pages given over to the lessons for this time of the year, and if a parish is able to follow the BCP closely there should be, at the very least Morning Prayer, Holy or Ante-Communion, and Evening Prayer daiuly from Palm Sunday to Easter Tuesday. This is only fitting, as Holy Week culminates in that greatest of all feast - Easter.

Surprisingly, however, many Anglican parishes tend to rather shine off the Prayer Book provision for Holy Week and substitute non-liturgical devotions such as "the Three Hours" and "the Seven Last Word from the Cross" for the apointed liturgy. When one remembers that the former started with the Jesuits, and the latter, if I remember correctly with the Redemptorists, as supplements to the appointed order in the Roman Catholic Church, then one might see why one might thing them a little inappropriate as a substitute for the appoint liturgy of the Church. Back in the days when the Three Hours became popular, the Good Friday Liturgy culminating in the Mass of the Presanctified was required to be celebrated in the morning. This made it impossible for working men to attend the liturgy, hence the creation of this popular devotion to assist their devotions. However, Anglicans did not labour under such severe rubrical restrictions.

From my point of view, Litany and Ante-Communion as part of the Good Friday obervance has a lot going for it. The Litany is a beautiful form of intercession, and one that most parishes do not use enough. The Ante-Communion for Good Friday revolves around the two traditional readings from the Good Friday Liturgy from Hebrews and the Gospel of St John, and should culminate, it seems to me, with either the bidding prayer, or better still the nine solemn collects, which are to be found in several Anglican sources, and a sermon on the Passion. Braver souls might even want to add the veneration of the Cross and the reproaches which are given in the 1933 edition of the English Hymnal which is allowed in most Continuing Churches.

It seems to me that Good Friday is one day when we should resist the temptation to substitute 'a hymn and a thing (repeat as often as necessary)' for the appointed liturgy of the Church.