Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Czar of ACANZP Liturgy

Over at Liturgy, Bosco Peters has taken up a cause dear to both our hearts, as well as the Synod of the Diocese of Christchurch, clarifying and improving the state of our church's liturgical life. The specific concern in the post I have linked to is whether we offer an easy to comprehend approach to finding out, within our own rules, what we may use, what we have to use, and what we may not use in the services of our church. That we do not offer such an approach is not, in the end, the fault of any one person or single decision of our General Synod, but it is the result of years of tinkering with our services, especially since 1989, and despite the amazing popularity of our 1989 prayer book (NZPB). Some tinkering I myself have been part of, and approve (I was part of General Synod's decision-making, 1996-2004). But that was mostly adjusting rubrics within the 1989 book. Since 2004 we have added eucharistic prayers and what have you, which is tinkering on a different scale.

There is one decision I supported but now regret, at least in part. That was the decision to authorise a raft of flexible possibilities in our services via a concept known as the Template. I do not regret trying to find a way to encourage flexibility in our services, but I regret doing that via the Template which quickly became a recipe for 'anything goes' - a fact admitted by General Synod when later it passed a clarifying resolution that variations used under the mandate of the Template must nevertheless conform in content with the theology of our prayer books. In my view the resolution effectively nullifies the Template and both should be excised from our canons ... that would be my first decision in my imaginary role as Czar of our church's liturgy.

What else would I do? I think there is already good flexibility in our eucharistic services (within the 1989 book) because so much of what we do is governed by the word 'may' rather than 'must', but I would want to offer a more flexible non-eucharistic worship service than currently in our book. The current service owes a lot to the Mattins and Evensong tradition of the BCP, but current practice in many of our churches is geared to a different set of 'canticles' than provided for in NZPB. A slightly revised order of service, with a few more 'mays' would cover the tendency in some churches to sing more Brooke Fraser than Mary mother of Jesus. Pause for recoil by some traditionalists reading this paragraph :)

I would get rid of all the eucharistic prayers we have recently approved. I do not think they add anything to our church's life. If anything they diminish it because of a noticeable tendency in this set of prayers to downplay the connection between sin and our Lord's sacrificial death. But I would want to propose a eucharistic prayer useful for family services: slightly shorter than anything we currently have, yet with great theological depth, and some better turns of phrase than the currently approved 'children's' eucharistic prayer.

Finally, I would take out a canonical broom and sweep up all our rules, scattered as they are through our canons and resolutions, and bundle them into one canon. In that canon would be a clear statement about what we may, must and may not use in the liturgical life of our church.

I am happy to do this work for no monetary reward. My reward would be in the satisfying experiences of liturgy which would be unleashed in all parishes :)


Rosemary Behan said...

Peter, may I ask what basis you are using to describe the New Zealand Prayer Book as ‘amazingly popular?’

If you remember, every parish was told that if we didn’t all order the new prayer book, then Collins wouldn’t print it because it couldn’t be guaranteed the numbers to make it worth it’s while. At the time I thought of that as blackmail.

I’m certainly not enthralled with a prayer book that contains so many ‘naff’ if not erroneous prayers. I’m not an expert on the liturgy like Bosco, but when I read .. “God our hope, may your blessing empower our thanksgivings and our prayer; for we put our trust in you the living God, risking disappointment……” How can we say in one and the same breath that we trust Him, but risk disappointment? I’ve never counted how many times we’re encouraged to address God as ‘Eternal Spirit.’ Nothing relational, a Buddhist could say most of these prayers. How about, “Let us bless the Earth maker, pain bearer, the life giver?” Not wrong, but not relational and done presumably because of the number of people who didn’t want to address God as ‘Father.’

And I know it’s an ‘alternative’ .. but there are thousands of us for whom this version of the Lord’s Prayer is an anathema, it’s certainly not ‘amazingly popular’ I would have thought. ‘Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver, Source of all that is and that shall be, Father and Mother of us all, Loving God in whom is heaven: The hallowing of your name echo through the universe! The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world! Your heavenly will be done by all created beings! Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth. With the bread we need for today, feed us. In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us. In times of temptation and test, strengthen us. From the grip of all that is evil, free us. For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever. Amen.’

Father Ron Smith said...

" A slightly revised order of service, with a few more 'mays' would cover the tendency in some churches to sing more Brooke Fraser than Mary mother of Jesus. Pause for recoil by some traditionalists reading this paragraph :)" - Dr.Peter Carrell -

Yes, Peter. It's perhaps as well that you are yet yet elected 'Czar' of the Liturgies of ACANZP - for this very reason, that you would allow for a diminution of the place of Magnificat as the principal canticle at Evensong in our Church.

Evensong has a special place in the authorised Offices of our Church, which, sadly, seems to be very much - except as Cathedral- style worship.

The para-'liturgies' - song and preaching 'club-sandwich-fests' that pass for worship services in
some of our parish gatherings, can never replace the authentic offices of the Church that are part of our Prayer Book tradition.

One even noticed the popular chorus replacement of all traditional hymns in use at our recent Synod gathering - to my mind a sad reflection on the neglect of the well-grounded theology of some of our finest hymns. I must say, I find the intrusion of video-screens as a replacement for hymn-books to be something of a detraction from the worship setting.

As an ex-St.Paul's Singers member, I do remember with affection the eclectic mixture of BOTH old and new music in our curriculum at the onset of charismatic-style worship.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
I am thinking of 'amazingly popular' in connection with the fact that every printing of the prayer book has sold out; that it is widely read/used elsewhere in the Anglican Communion. I agree that some prayers in the prayer book are of a lower standard than the best of the prayers, and I am not claiming that those prayers are 'amazingly popular.' Perhaps we could describe them as 'unsurprisingly unpopular.'

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
The diminution of the Magnificat in our worship services is a fact of church life which will not be changed by insisting that churches reinstitute it.

Notwithstanding our varying preferences for hymns v songs, books v projection, etc, I think we could do with our canons being revised to acknowledge the realities of church life today (without completely throwing the baby out with the bathwater)!

liturgy said...

Thanks for taking up this important issue on your blog, Peter. Your penultimate paragraph is the core point: we need “a clear statement about what we may, must and may not use in the liturgical life of our church.” Not for some sort of legalism for its own sake – but for all the positives and joys of common prayer and of being a community of shared spiritual disciplines. That includes the sort of flexibility yearned for – which I’m convinced was already available to us within NZPB used well.

Christ is risen


Anonymous said...

Rosemary is right. The NZ prayer book is riddled with appalling claptrap that would make the Apostles, let alone Cranmer, blush to think that that these pallid PC words and sentiments are meant to convey their faith. NA Anglicanism at its worst represents the creepy triumph of culture over Christ.
As for the Magnificat - if it was good enough for the Church of Jerusalem (where I think St Luke would have heard it first), it should be good enough for every other biblical Christian.
The Phos Hilaron should be part of our regular worship too.