A report on issues raised in a series of consultations between representatives of Faith, Worship and Ministry and the Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada meeting in their Provincial Houses. These represent the record of various voices participating in a conversation, and not conclusions reached by all.
- Great concerns shared regarding education and continuing education in Liturgy. It is very important that we have a formed basis for Anglican diversity: formation is often lacking. Some noted that the greatest issue is no longer about the BAS/BCP, but about sloppy, indifferent presidership. “This Chief Liturgical Officer is as concerned about how liturgy is celebrated, as much as with text… or even moreso!”
- We need to have more, and better, initial formation and ongoing education in liturgy, both for clergy and laity. One Province expressed the concern that, given the diversity of forms of theological education prior to ordination, there is concern about whether some clergy and lay leaders have sufficient background to be involved in liturgical innovation.
- Where’s the Awe?: Observation that younger clergy seem to have no sense of creating a mood of holiness, awe, holy space. Yes, liturgy has to have connection to real life and the life of the world, but within the awe, reverence and mystery that worship of God is!
The Role of the Presider:
- In some communities, the role of the presbyter is not adequately understood. Inclusion of laity in the leadership of the service does not mean that the priest only presides at the time of the prayer of consecration; however in some communities, the laity (and often a number of people) preside up to the point of the “holy mysteries.” Some debated whether the Collect is presidential or not.
- (Specific example:) In some places, the collect is said chorally. There is no understanding that the prayers said week to week are said chorally, while the prayers unique to the day are said by the presider. One offered:whatever you’re doing, do it with thought, with a rationale that is supportable.
“Common Prayer” and Anglican Identity:
- There is a real fading of the line between public worship and private prayer. We’re forgetting that when we come together, one of the major aspects of common prayer is that we are praying for and on behalf of the whole society.
- How can varieties of liturgical expressions can express common prayer? Some asked: has the church fully grown into the BAS? Others noted the need to move beyond the BAS, while discerning what the core form, values and content ought to be. Some voiced that what would terribly upset things right now would be either a major task of revising the BAS or the fading out of the BCP. Not sufficient time has elapsed to let the BCP be ‘dropped’. The ‘glue’ in common prayer is that the BAS and BCP form the principal sources, and are used as they are, with some wavy lines. Others exphasized that the BAS/BCP issue is not as pronounced as it was. Most parishes use both books, and there is a growing number of parishes which are exclusively BAS. The major ‘glue’ in common prayer these days seems to be that the context is a Eucharistic celebration every Sunday. Most Synod events are all BAS. Quite apart from liturgical texts, there is a sense of the Diocese gathered in the cathedral, and cathedral worship can have an educative function – setting examples of common prayer done well. Ordinations are all (?) now done from the BAS. One sees from time to time the use of electronic texts – with overhead projection. Common prayer is not about the same words, but the same form, structure.
- What are the parameters around being enabling of creativity and responsible to tradition? –around formation, without being didactic within and about liturgy? –around evangelism and good liturgy? Some suggested that there is too little creativity, not too much.
- The creation of new liturgical texts is being encouraged in northern communities. They are being encouraged to design worship that resonates with their own culture, but we have a very long way to go.
- Many new Anglicans are joining our Church precisely because of the richness of its tradition and liturgy. Our identity is related to common prayer because the Book of Common Prayer is intimately related to Scripture, and imbued with thought forms, idiom, and language of Scripture. If common prayer comes apart from the thought forms of Scripture, we come apart at the foundations. If we move away, for example, from the names of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there is unease, for these names are grounded in Scripture.
- Is it that we share the same liturgical words? No, more that we locate our identity as Anglicans within our identity as Christians. Common prayer does not mean uniformity of prayer. It’s about common patterns, connection with Scripture, common expectations.
- Challenges posed by increasing sense of congregationalism/the Local: There is a sense of localness, that, without strong connection to ‘otherness’ and ‘the whole’, is distressing. The concerns shared were less about rites than about attitudes prevalent in the dioceses: an encroaching sense of worship being more and more about us, the community, than being oriented towards God.
- Lex orandi, lex credendi. Our identity is shared with Lutherans and Roman Catholics. The Church is one of common prayer and praise. We have people wanting to write their own services. Our identity has to do with something different from a potluck supper approach to liturgy. Not everybody has the same food on the table. How much do you push the boundaries? Forms of liturgy become the common bond. The Chief Liturgical Officer needs to be adaptable.
- Elements:There was some discussion about the elements of communion (wheat allergies, grape juice, concommittance, etc.) and intinction, in which it was remarked that the potential diversity of elements and ways of communion (intinction/common cup, etc.) sometimes threaten common prayer more than a diversity of words.
On Authorization of Texts:
- There was some discussion about the fact that there are so many alternative rites available, both those authorized by other Provinces, and rites from other sources. It was agreed in one Province that it would be helpful if there were liturgical experts identified within the church to whom Bishops could turn for advice, experts who could evaluate the wide body of liturgical alternatives. Perhaps this could be a role for FWM, to provide evaluations and recommendations. It was noted that while desirable, such a task could only be done on specific requests, given the wide and growing body of liturgical texts available.
- Some held that if a liturgy is approved at a Provincial level (a Province in the Anglican Communion), then it ought to be considered valid for local authorization, while others wished to restrict diocesan authorization only to General Synod authorized texts.
- Special events bring out questions regarding authorization: children’s liturgies, festival events, Ash Wednesday, All Saints (children’s events with over 100 children under the age of 10).
- One Province articulated very strongly that episcopal authorization must be necessary for all liturgical forms. Care must be taken to stand against the impression of authorization that is given through the presentation of resources in print or on the internet through Anglican vehicles. Others reported a desire for this, while noting that practically there is flexibility.
- There is a coexistence of various forms, various expressions, under the umbrella of authorized texts. The authorization by the General Synod is what holds things together.
Format of Printed Services:
- Copyright issues with respect to liturgical texts noted.
- Need to move towards more electronic texts.
- “From maintenance to mission” – need more access to resources that can be put in pamphlet form, to assist seekers, explorers, new converts.
- Some noted that there is still too much exclusive God and people language in the BAS (note: Eucharistic Prayer #6 with excessive use of “Father”; Episcopal services have exclusively male language in reference to the Bishop [note this was changed in 2004])
- “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church” – being used more and more, but is it appropriate?
- Translation must be a priority, and it was noted that this needs to be encouraged nationally and done locally, due to the locality of language groups.
- Specific Translation issues: In some dioceses, there are different liturgical traditions living within different languages. Part of the concern regarding the introduction of the BAS has had to do with the isolation of communities. The Cree text used is an 1800s CMS translation of the 1662 Prayer Book. There are many theological and pastoral concerns that come with this: the prayers in times of sickness assume that all sickness comes from sin. The diocese is working at more modern translations, with side-by-side English/Cree texts, so that the congregation can better follow the language, and respond in either language. This allows older and younger generations to worship together. Other language groups, such as the Chinese, Tamil, Japanese, all share similar challenges – their translations are based on the 1662 Prayer Book, and the English translations are not into contemporary language. Apart from the text, there are major differences in the pattern of worship.
On Liturgical Environment:
- We don’t hear enough these days about the use of space, environment, in liturgy. This is very important, and we need to talk more about this. There are often parish flare-ups around liturgical space – any changes cause disputes. We need resources around church architecture and the reshaping of worship environments. Perhaps a bibliography and list of resource people is something on which FWM could work. Ministry Matters would be a helpful place to disseminate information.
Key Questions for Further Conversation
- Liturgical environment and the use of space.
- The question of Book or Books, pamphlets, etc.
- How do we maintain the commonness of public prayer?
- We have enough liturgical texts, the question is how to do good liturgy. How do we instill knowledge and skill and spirituality of liturgical leadership in people.
- How does liturgy serve the mission of the church?
- How do we incorporate more of the arts and drama into our existing liturgies?
- Translation of authorized texts into other languages used in our Church should be a priority for time and financial resources.