Kiwi Anglicans are often flattered by rave reviews of our A New Zealand Prayer Book, though here on this site some less than enthusiastic comments have been made about that. Actually, whether it is a good, bad, indifferent, all of the above prayer book it is our prayer book and we (licensed clerical and lay worship) leaders in ACANZP have obligations to use it. Those obligations are matched by process in making changes to NZPB which acknowledges the need to have as much participatory buy-in to decisions as possible. To change even a word in NZPB requires a "twice round" of our General Synod making a decision, our diocesan synods confirming that decision, and the next General Synod re-confirming the decision.
Bosco Peters at Liturgy has raised into the open the possibility - not so far denied - that somewhere in the bowels of our church's administration and between-General Synods governance - a plan has been agreed to which would see the presentation of Collects in NZPB changed in the next printing of it (stocks are running low on this popular book) without going through the twice round process. I think I can understand the logic going on if, indeed, there is such a plan: previously our General Synod has received (but not sent on "twice round" process) a choice of collect for each Sunday in the RCL, now, perhaps, our GS Standing Committee thinks that enough to warrant printing the collects rather than pointing to them. Currently NZPB offers two lectionaries, a two year cycle, and a three year cycle (sort of RCL derived but ...*). For the former it supplies generally three collects; for the latter it simply points to a given Sunday in the two year cycle and leaves the choice of collect to the minister (e.g. today, 18th ordinary Sunday, Year A = "Collect of Lent 4", same Year B, and Year C = Pentecost 4).
Here is the problem: when three or so collects are given there is a high probability that at least one will be satisfying in respect of theology and liturgiology (i.e. the classic character of collects being Trinitarian in structure and simple in making just one request). Conversely there is a high probability that at least one collect will be sophisticated nonsense. Constitutionally we should not place our licensed leaders of worship in the position of being obligated to pray nonsense prayers.
Today actually is quite a good example of the problem of the varying quality of our collects (that is, following the three year cycle within NZPB and being pointed to the Collects for Lent 4, p. 578):
you see how your children hunger for food,
and fellowship, and faith.
Help us to meet one another's needs of body, mind and spirit,
in the love of Christ our Saviour.
I think this is a nonsense collect: no one can meet another's needs of 'mind and spirit'; 'food, and fellowship and faith' as a trio are not straightforwardly cross-matched to 'body, mind and spirit.'
O God, giver of life and health,
your Son Jesus Christ has called us
to hunger and thirst to see right prevail;
refresh us with your grace
that we may not be weary of well-doing;
for the sake of him who meets all our needs,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
This is a well written collect, pivoting around the simple and straightforward request 'refresh us with your grace', though (like all collects here) missing any reference to the Holy Spirit, but, nevertheless, standing firm in the tradition of Anglican collects through the centuries.
God of the hungry,
make us hunger and thirst for the right,
till our thirst for justice has been satisfied
and hunger has gone from the earth.
This verges on nonsense, but otherwise is banal. Why is God the 'God of the hungry' and not, say, 'God of the hungry and victims of injustice' or 'God of justice' given that the prayer is more concerned for righting injustice than for ending hunger? The prayer reads well as a set of words flowing through themes of hunger, justice and satisfaction but on closer inspection it is "all about us" and not about those who suffer hunger and injustice: it only asks "make us hunger and thirst for the right" and thus makes significant presumption that when that prayer is answered we will be well on the way to ending hunger and injustice ... speaking just for myself and not for others, I would like God to be less reliant on me solving the immense difficulties of the world, but I would be keen to join with God in God's work in the world.
Incidentally, I see that on closer inspection of our Lectionary published for 2011, the direction re the collect to be used today is very specific: 4:3 is directed to be used.
Hmm ... I hope I won't be forced into canonical rebellion today!
All in all: absolutely agreed, for my part, we need some basic revision to our prayer book re sprucing up the collects, and also (see asterisk below) bringing our thre year cycle into line with our published annual lectionaries. But the revision needs to be open for all and sundry to participate in, confident that the process will be governed by our constitution.
Why, if not careful, the next thing we know we could be agreeing to the Covenant, out of line with good process ...
*According to NZPB the epistle today is Romans 8:35-39, but in our Lectionary (RCL based) published for 2011, the epistle is Romans 9:1-5.