Sunday, June 14, 2009

Common Prayer for the people

Coming back to my Anonymous commenter who says ACANZP is in chaos, liturgical if otherwise.

Perhaps rather than attempting to defend our church from the charge of present 'chaos' it would be profitable to make a proposal for the future, for I entirely accept that our church is liturgically diversified in extremis!

Let's review the current situation, as briefly as possible:
(a) our prayer book provides four complete eucharistic prayers for Sunday use, and a fifth which admits of suitable alternatives to most of its parts, save two (the institution narrative and the anamnesis).
(b) Pages 511ff of our prayer book provide for all the diversity one could wish for in a eucharistic service, save the gospel is required to be read, and (as noted above in (a)) two parts of the eucharistic prayer have compulsory wording.
(c) Our prayer book's service for morning and evening worship provides for a fair amount of flexibility regarding a non-eucharistic service, but not much observed, it would seem, are minimal requirements around always having two readings, the Lord's Prayer, the collect for the day, etc.
(d) On the one hand a significant amount of 'what's right in my own eyes' takes place, in all kinds of church styles (as far as I can tell); on the other hand, visit a dozen different informal charismatic evangelical mid-morning services and quite a few common characteristics can be found.
(e) In any case a piece of legislation called the Template also permits the above.

ADDITIONALLY as Bosco Peters has helpfully drawn attention to: recently our church approved 8 eucharistic prayers, though only two are 'brand new' and six provide common opening versicles/responses for our NZPB thanksgivings and thus are a recognition of the importance of common prayer. Go here to find these prayers (and others) and here to read a critical history of the Template.

Then, let's think a little about common prayer and why it is desirable:

(i) it reflects the common theology of the church which authorises the common prayer

(ii) it develops the identity of the church which offers common prayer

(iii)it guarantees access to churches with this identity up and down these islands: that is, when I go to the Anglican church of X and then of Y, I can be sure to recognise the liturgy involved.

What if ACANZP agreed to the following:

(1) commitment to the principle of 'common prayer' as far as possible, respecting differing contexts (Maori, Polynesian, Indian, Tongan, and English language settings will be catered for), and differing missional opportunities (a cafe church outreach might not be expected to use the formal liturgies??).

(2) acceptance of the reality that in the 21st century many congregations in our church, for a variety of reasons not easily able to be undone, are working well with a form or forms of informal liturgy that are legally protected by current legislation (i.e. which permits huge liturgical flexibility) but which are not positively affirmed by our prayer book (e.g. by providing a guideline for such services).*

(3) a working out of (1) and (2) through two pathways:

(3.1) formal liturgies more or less as in NZPB but a paring back to just four eucharistic services; with renewed clarity given about not substituting eucharistic prayers, nor chopping nor changing them either!

(3.2) informal liturgies provided for through guidelines which clarify the flexibility and freedom permitted alongside rubrics spelling our the minimal requirements for all such services to conform to 'authorised forms': e.g. each such service must include the collect for the day, confession/absolution, two readings (one of which must be the gospel), the Lord's Prayer, intercessions, and (if a communion service), one of the authorised eucharistic prayers, blessing and dismissal.

How hard could that be?

*It could be argued that the Template does this but I would counter-argue that the examples provided with the Template are worded in traditional liturgical language and are not geared in words, tone, or detail for the actual practice of many congregations.


liturgy said...


You make no mention of "An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist", a formulary of our church which permits the use here of any Eucharistic Prayer authorised anywhere in the Anglican Communion whether our province would actually agree with it or not should it be presented to our General Synod.

I am not convinced that your division into "formal" and "informal" is the helpful way forward. I can see no problem, for example, with involving people in a cafe-church by using (teaching,...) our regular responses.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
Would 'An Alternative Form for ordering the Eucharist' be one of those things not in the prayer book AND not readily available through our church's website ...?

liturgy said...

Yes, Peter,
I'm not sure how General Synod etc. thinks that people (including the clergy as leaders in our church) are expected to keep up to date with such developments. I purchase the GS proceedings, but I have to put in a special order & don't imagine all clergy do?

Of course, the Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist, as a formulary, went to every diocesan synod. But not all clergy are at all synods. And occasionally we even get new clergy :-)

Do you understand how GS & our bishops think that such information gets to the church beyond them?


Peter Carrell said...

OK I will hunt out my 1998 proceedings (I think that's the one) ... I was there, as I recall!
The church is full of mysteries ... should we be the revealers of these pearls of hidden wisdom or leave it to others?

liturgy said...

It is much more recent than that, Peter. All can be found here:

You will notice that Christchurch did not assent ;-) but it is still binding on us now.

You also did not mention the eight new alternative Great Thanksgiving prayers recently "authorised" by IDC


Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for the pointers, Bosco
Will post the links in the body of the post.