Monday, May 30, 2016

Let Us Break Bread Together: The Music and Celebration of the Lord’s Supper Part 2

By Robin G. Jordan

(1) The Role of the Precentor. For a small Anglican church that does not have a choir, a precentor is a must irrespective of whether the church has an keyboard accompanist or uses a digital hymnal player, worship tracks, or a CD hymnal. In a small Baptist church this music minister would have the title of song leader or music director. In a small Anglican church precentor is the more appropriate title. A precentor is typically a volunteer and may be musically trained or untrained.

A precentor has a number of responsibilities. The precentor plans the music of the service in consultation with the keyboard accompanist if the church has one. He leads the congregation in its singing; works to expand the congregation’s repertoire, selecting new hymns, worship songs, and service music and teaching them to the congregation; conducts congregational rehearsals; invites soloists, small vocal groups, and instrumentalists to perform special music; organizes hymn sings; and does whatever else he can to elevate the quality of worship.

A precentor should a good ear and a strong pleasant voice. He should be able to carry a tune, to follow the notes of a melody in a hymnal or songbook or on sheet music, and to sing in key and on pitch. He should be comfortable at singing unaccompanied or to a keyboard or electronically recorded accompaniment, and should have mastered the basic techniques of teaching new music to a congregation.

A precentor should be knowledgeable about worship, liturgy, and the Book of Common Prayer, the proper use of music in Prayer Book services and special or occasional services, and the general principles of hymn selection.

A precentor should be familiar with a wide variety of music styles and a broad selection of hymnals, songbooks, and musical collections.

A precentor should have strong commitment to the role of the congregation as the principal music makers in the church and to the vision of the local church as a singing church.

A precentor should also know his limitations.

This description of the ministry and qualifications of a precentor is based upon what I learned from workshops, my reading, and my own experiences as the worship leader on a church plant launch team, unofficial music co-director, chorister, cantor, song leader, and worship leadership team member.

(2) The Role of the Ministers. When a small church does not have a choir, the weight of the responsibility for leading the congregational singing naturally shifts to the ministers at the service. Lay readers, lectors, precentors, and servers all fall into the category of ministers, not just clergy. Even when a small church has a choir, the ministers normally share this responsibility with the choir. It is important that the ministers sing in key, sing loud enough to be heard, and do not wander off the tune. If they sing off key or wander off the tune, the congregation may follow them. Or the congregation may stop singing altogether.

The precentor and all the ministers who live within reasonable driving distance of the church should practice the hymns and service music for a particular Sunday beforehand. This includes the ministers that may not be serving that Sunday but will be singing in the congregation. When and wherever they practice, they might invite the stronger voices in the congregation to join them. They could invite the entire congregation as far as that goes. The absence of the visiting priest who presides at the church’s celebrations of Holy Communion is not sufficient reason to dispense with practicing the music for Communion Sunday.

A good choir director will have the choir practice familiar hymns and service music at choir rehearsals, knowing that this practice will make a difference in how the hymns and service music is sung on Sunday morning. This attention to the quality of all the music in the service and not just the anthem or other special music is one of the things that the unchurched person notices when visiting the church for the first time and which leads him or her to draw the conclusion that the church takes the worship of God seriously.

The same attention should be given to the quality of the music in the service when the ministers lead the congregational singing. It is application of the principle expressed in the adage, “What is worth doing is worth doing well.” If hymns are worth singing, then they are worth singing well. If we love God, we owe him our best effort. Even if our singing may fall short of that of a professional vocalist, we are seeking to honor God with the best that we can do.

(3) The Selection of Music. In planning the music for a celebration of Holy Communion, it is best to begin with the selection of the gospel acclamation, hymn, or anthem to be sung between the Epistle and the Gospel, and then move onto the selection of the music for the other parts of the service in this order: the hymn or anthem to be sung at the ingathering of the Alms and Oblations, the doxology to sung at the presentation of the Alms and Oblations, the hymn to be sung after the Prayer of Humble Access, the hymn or anthem to be sung or the instrumental music to be played during the distribution of the elements, the Gloria in excelsis version or hymn to be sung after the Post-Communion Prayer, and the hymn to be sung and instrumental music to be played after the Blessing.

This order does not have to be followed rigidly. I have on occasions first selected the gospel acclamation, hymn, or anthem between the Epistle and the Gospel, gone onto to select the music for the Liturgy of the Table, the post-communion hymn, and the final hymn and the postlude, and then selected the hymn or anthem and doxology for the Offertory.

In selecting a hymn, anthem or other special music—solo, small group vocal, instrumental music—careful attention should be given to its suitability to the place in the service where it will be used and how it will contribute to the flow of the service and the overall worship experience. This includes the words of the song as well as its length, mood, tempo, and melody.

It is of crucial importance to view the music used in a service not as an adornment to the service but as an integral part of the people’s common prayer. The primary consideration in selecting a song for a particular place in the service is that it fits that place in the service and that its words make sense at that juncture.

Its length, mood, tempo, and melody are also important considerations. A song may have the right words for a particular moment in the service but its length, mood, tempo, or melody may be wrong.

When editing a hymn to shorten it, care should be taken not to mutilate the sense of the hymn. Hymns should NOT be abruptly ended after the third stanza. This deplorable practice is a serious abuse of Christian hymnody and shows no regard for hymns as a part of the people’s common prayer.

Some hymns must be sung in their entirety They cannot be edited to shorten them. Any attempt to shorten them will result in the congregation singing nonsense or worse. For example, if the last stanza of “A mighty fortress is our God” is omitted, the devil is left in charge!

The chief purpose of hymns is to help the congregation give voice to their prayer. Hymns are also teaching tools. They instruct and reinforce what they instruct. As Paul pointed to the attention of the Corinthians, everything that Christians do when they meet together must be done for the edification—the building up—of the body of Christ, his gathered Church.

Other hymns may be judiciously edited. One or more stanzas may be omitted without affecting the meaning of the hymn. A number of hymnals put an asterisk next to the stanzas that may be safely omitted. Or the meaning of the hymn may be altered but the words of the shortened version of the hymn are appropriate for a particular juncture in the service.

While attention should be given to the season, the appointed Scripture readings, and the occasion in selecting the hymns, anthems, and other special music for a celebration of Holy Communion, it is not necessary to relate every song and piece of music to the theme for the day. Whether the song or piece of music is suited to the place that is used is most important consideration. While the singing of a Christmas carol in July should be avoided so should the singing of a hymn sending the congregation forth into the world at beginning of the service or a hymn inviting the people to come and worship at the conclusion of the service.

The selection of the music to be used before the service—any special music, the prelude, and the introit hymn—should always be saved to last.


Memorial Day, as Americans have come to know it, began in the years immediately following the Civil War. But until World War II, most people knew it as “Decoration Day.” It was a day to decorate with flowers and flags the graves of fallen soldiers and remember those who had given, as Lincoln beautifully said, “the last full measure of devotion” to defend their nation. It was a day to remember what the honored dead had died to defend.

A century and a half has passed since Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, effectively ending a national nightmare that filled over 625,000 American graves with dead soldiers. Since then, other international nightmares have ravaged the world and put more than 650,000 additional Americans into war graves in Europe, North Africa, the Pacific Rim, Asia, and the Middle East. Read More

Also See
8 Ways to Pray during the Week of Memorial Day

Building Your Launch Team

If God has called you to start a new church, you may already feel isolated, like you’re on this church planting journey alone. Be encouraged, God does not use a lone individual to start a church. Thankfully, He builds teams to launch churches. As God prepares you, He is also preparing a group of people to start the church with you. Trust that God is speaking to others about being part of what he is stirring within you. Your challenge is to find those individuals. Whether you’re launching in your hometown or you’ve moved your family to a city where you don’t know a soul, God will send people into your life to build the church. Every time you have an opportunity, share the vision with others and watch for the responses. It will become clear to you that God is stirring the hearts of others to become a part of your launch team.

In a past study, Top Issues Church Planters Face, building a launch team came in third as one of the church planter’s major challenges. Don’t confuse a launch team with a core group. A launch team is focused on the aspects of launching, their specific assignments and responsibilities. Their job is to get this church off the ground, and their part is to train and prepare for the launch. A true launch team is outwardly focused, evangelistic in nature, inviting and investing in people in their relational world. A core group will want to have Bible studies and worship experiences and is usually more inwardly focused. Additionally, a core group may not view you as the visionary leader and may promote its own desires rather than the vision God has given you. Focus on building your launch team. Read More

Episode 67: Choosing the Right Place and Time to Plant a Church

Learn how to choose the right time and context for your church plant. Listen Now

Reflections on discipleship (part 1)

As Christians we know we should all be enthusiastic about discipleship, but what are the theological reasons behind that desire? In this first part of Lesley Ramsay’s reflections on discipleship, she helps us to see some of the biblical realities that should shape our thinking and method of discipleship. In part 2, we’ll look at some of the practical implications for disciple-making. Read More

Also See
Reflections on discipleship (part 2)

5 Ways Christians Can Approach The Rapidly Changing Moral Culture

Ever feel like the world you stepped into when you began in ministry no longer exists?

You’re not alone.

The culture around us is changing.

You can debate when the collapse of Christendom in the West began, but there is little doubt we are witnessing a massive shift away from the cultural consensus that existed even a few generations ago.

So as a church leader – as views on sexuality, family, parenting, drugs, finance and other values change – how do you respond? What do you do when the world for which you trained—maybe even the world where your approach was once effective—is disappearing before your eyes?

What’s the key to responding when the world around you no longer
shares your value system

pays much attention to you

thinks you add anything to the cultural mix?
I see at least five approaches emerging, some that are helpful and some that aren’t. Read More

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Let Us Break Bread Together: The Music and Celebration of the Lord’s Supper—Part 1

By Robin G. Jordan

Introduction. In 1999 I prepared a resource paper for the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana’s Commission on Liturgy and Music on the music of the Eucharist. The purpose of this resource paper was to provide guidance for clergy and church musicians on what music might be used at the various points in the Eucharist where music could be used. The Reverend Ormonde Plater who was Archdeacon of the diocese and Secretary of the Liturgy for the diocese had invited me to prepare the resource paper after reading an article that I had written for The Living Church. The title of the resource paper was Let All the People Praise: The Music of the Holy Eucharist. It was one of two projects that I undertook at that time. The other project was a resource paper on child-inclusive worship. It explained in more detail the principles for including children in worship, which I had introduced in Let All the People Praise: The Music of the Holy Eucharist and provided a list of additional resources.

Both projects were undertaken not only with the large church with ample musical resources in mind but also the small church with more limited resources. I drew upon my experiences in music ministry at Christ Episcopal Church, Covington, and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Mandeville, as well as extensive research. While written for the Holy Eucharist, Rites One and Two, of the 1979 Prayer Book, the principles discussed in the two resource papers are applicable to the Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper in the 1928 Prayer Book.

Both projects included surveys of the musical resources available to churches in the closing decade of the twentieth century. Most of the music that I examined and described almost twenty years ago would now be categorized as the “New Traditional.” It is also eminently congregational.

I have reviewed the hymn indices of a number of hymnals produced since that time—Worship & Rejoice (2000), Lutheran Service Book (2004), The Worship Hymnal (2008), Worship: A Hymnal and Service Book for Roman Catholics—Fourth Edition (2011), and Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal (2013). The music I surveyed in 1999 forms a substantial part of the core hymnody of these more recent collections.

Based on what I ascertained from my survey of the Master Index of the Gulbransen Digital Hymnal DH-100 CP this music also forms a large part of the core hymnody in eight of the thirteen hymnals listed in its Manual. These eight hymnals included the predecessors of Worship & Rejoice (2000), Lutheran Service Book (2004), The Worship Hymnal (2008), Worship: A Hymnal and Service Book for Roman Catholics—Fourth Edition (2011), and Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal (2013).

Since 1999 I have worked on a third project. I surveyed the metrical versions of the canticles and psalms, which were available to small church congregations during the opening decade of the twenty-first century. I also looked at metrical settings of the Kyrie, the Apostles’ Creed, the Sanctus, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Agnus Dei as well as easy-to-sing non-metrical settings of these liturgical texts. Among the challenges small church congregations, in particular new church plants, face is that they frequently worship in settings in which the acoustical environment is not favorable to chanting. New congregations have substantial numbers of adults and children who are unable to sing chant. They also do not have the kind of musical leadership for effective chanting.

The project was based upon a number of premises. Among these premises is that Sunday morning is at the center of the life and ministry of a small church. Sunday morning is when most of the teaching, fellowship, worship, and pastoral care goes on in the small church. What happens on Sunday morning will impact the small church congregation throughout the following week. Consequently, thoughtful attention should be given to every aspect of Sunday morning.

What might be adequate in a weekday service of Morning Prayer or Holy Communion such as saying the canticles, psalms, and service music—Gloria, Kyrie, Trisagion, Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, Fraction Anthem, etc., however, is less than satisfactory in a Sunday service of the same type. A new church plant, if it is to attract new families, needs to offer as high a quality worship experience as it can achieve within the limitations of its resources and circumstances. Offering such a worship experience is no less critical for small churches that have served a community for several generations.

A new congregation, or any small church congregation as far as that goes, should not have to settle for saying liturgical texts when musically appealing, easy-to-sing metrical and non-metrical settings of the same texts are readily available. It also makes no sense for a new congregation to say these texts when the new congregation can easily sing them to familiar hymn tunes and in the case of non-metrical settings to simple melodies. It is unnecessarily restrictive to insist that if a congregation cannot sing these texts in a particular way, i.e., to plainsong or Anglican chant, the congregation should not sing them at all. The purpose of music in a service on Sundays and other occasions is not to promote a particular style or type of music but to help the people to worship God.

A theme that runs through the Scriptures, the New Testament as well as the Old Testament, is the importance of worshiping God in song. Our Lord took part in the worship of the synagogue and the Temple. This worship involved the singing of psalms. After the Last Supper our Lord and his disciples sung a psalm in praise of God before they went into the night. Genuine New Testament worship involves not only the reading of Scripture, the preaching of sermons, the offering of prayers, and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, it also entails the singing of “hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs.”

Most people are able to sing. They may not be musical, that is, have specific interest in music or show a particular talent for music. They may have been asked to sing music that is not for their voice type or within their vocal range. They may live in a culture that does not value group or communal singing as it once did. They may not be a part of a singing group or community. They may have received little or no encouragement. They may be inhibited by social expectations of musicianship. They may suffer from misperceptions about their singing ability. But they can sing! Given singable, musically-appealing hymns, worship songs, and service music, encouragement, instruction in basic singing techniques—posture, breathing, facial flexibility, warming-up, etc., and sufficient opportunity to learn and master what they are being called upon to sing, they will sing with confidence, enthusiasm, and delight.

By the same token the members of a worshiping assembly are its chief music makers. The role of the music leaders in the church—the precentor, the choirmaster, the choir, and the organist, or the worship leader and the band, is to facilitate the congregation’s singing. The music of the worshiping assembly is paramount. The provision of special music is secondary.

Congregational singing serves a number of liturgical functions—catechetical, devotional, exhortative, and inspirational. Research shows that congregational singing also serves a number of psychological and social functions. For individuals group singing enhances psychological wellbeing, elevates mood, reduces stress, fosters social relationships, and has other benefits. For groups singing together strengthens group cohesion and reinforces group identity. This research points to music and singing as a part of God’s divine design for human beings. Archeological findings also support this conclusion as does the Bible.

God meant the Church of Jesus Christ to be a singing church. If a canticle, psalm, or other liturgical text that is normally sung can be sung in metrical verse form, it should be sung. A metrical version of a liturgical text is not inferior to a chant setting of the same text. It is simply different. If the text is taken from the Bible, both versions are translations—even paraphrases—of the original Hebrew or Greek. A small church congregation that sings accessible metrical versions of the canticles and psalms and easy-to-sing metrical or non-metrical settings of the service music is no less genuine in its worship of God than is the large church congregation whose choir sings plainsong or Anglican settings of the canticles and psalms and more elaborate settings of the service music. It actually may be more faithful to God’s revealed plan for Christian worship than the large church congregation that depends upon its choir to bear the weight of the singing in worship.

Whenever a movement of the Holy Spirit has brought spiritual awakening and renewal in the Church, it has inspired a revival of congregational singing. It has also stimulated the composition of new hymn tunes, the writing of new hymns, and the creation of new forms of congregational song. If any one conclusion may be drawn from this outpouring of new music is that God sets a high value on congregational singing.

What deserves mention is that upon close examination the new forms of song frequently turn out to be old forms given fresh expression. The medieval Church sung passages of Scripture in the form of canticles and psalms set to chant settings. After the English Reformation the Church of England sung passages of Scripture in the form of metrical paraphrases and anthems. In the last three decades of the twentieth century Anglican and Episcopal churches sung passages of Scripture in the form of what were called Scripture songs. These songs were set to easy-to-sing, musically-appealing irregular tunes.

At St. Michael’s the choir which did not have a large budget for anthems used them as anthem material. The choir also sung hymn anthems. The choir of North Cross United Methodist Church did the same thing until a music professor from Loyal University and her husband joined the congregation. She would become the church’s music director and replaced the Scripture songs from the UMC hymnal supplement with classical anthems from the university’s music library.

 What keeps small church congregations from using metrical versions of the canticles and the psalms other than the mistaken notion that these songs must be chanted to plainsong or Anglican chant is a lack of familiarity with what canticles and psalms are available in metrical verse form. No one has to my knowledge undertaken the task of indexing metrical versions of the canticles and psalms as organ voluntaries and choir anthems have been indexed. They are typically included in indices of hymns rather than being indexed as a separate category.

Almost all hymnals contain metrical versions of the canticles and psalms. Some hymnals place them in a section of their own. Other hymnals like The Hymnal, 1940 and The Hymnal 1982 place them in one of the various sections in which the hymnal is divided.

The Gulbransen Digital Hymnal DH-100 CP’s Master Index contains a fairly large number of tunes to which metrical versions of the canticles and psalms may be sung. I explore the use of metrical versions of the canticles and psalms in Early in the Morning Our Songs Shall Rise to Thee: The Music and Conduct of Morning Prayer as well as in this article series.

Every Church Should be Involved in Planting New Gospel Churches

I believe once a church celebrates five years of existence, they are an established church. With this premise, the vast majority of churches in America are established churches. Many of these churches are in need of revitalization.

When you look at the status of churches in America, you may read reports that seventy or even eighty percent are plateaued or declining. When a church gets outside of itself in a missional focus like planting new gospel churches, this can serve as a major part of revitalizing their own established church.

Among even the largest evangelical denominations and conventions in America, only a small percentage of established churches are involved directly in planting new gospel churches. This needs to change if we desire to reach North America and the world for Jesus Christ. Read More
Are we cherishing the religious freedoms that US servicemen and servicewomen died to protect when we leave others to plant new churches and do nothing ourselves? As we commemorate those who gave their lives in the service of their country, let us give thought to how we can make their sacrifice worthwhile by taking full advantage of those freedoms as well as how we can better minister to US servicemen and servicewomen and to veterans.

Note to Aspiring Preachers: Here are Seven Key Pitfalls to Avoid

Preaching is hard work.

To those sitting in the pews, preaching can look relatively effortless–especially when it is done well. But do not be fooled. Preaching exhausts the body and the soul in ways that are incommensurate with its duration. I could work in the yard all day in 90 degrees of heat and (somehow) feel less exhausted than preaching two services.

But, it is not just the physical/spiritual toll that preaching takes. What makes it hard is the complexity of the task. Just standing up and talking for 30 minutes (and making any sense at all) is tough enough for most folks. But, on top of this, preachers have to navigate a complicated passage, balance sensitive doctrines, weave together a coherent message, apply the message to people’s lives, and do all of this in a manner that is compelling, engaging, winsome and never boring or dull.

No wonder James said, “Not many of you should become teachers” (Jas 3:1)!

Indeed, because of the complexities of preaching there are a number of pitfalls that all preachers (especially aspiring ones) risk falling into. I thought it might be helpful to highlight some of these possible pitfalls that I have noticed over the years.... Read More

Saturday Lagniappe: How Listening Can Lead to Spiritual Conversations and More

Listening Can Spark Witnessing, NW Baptists Told

"People will often tell their personal issues within the first couple of sentences of introducing themselves," evangelical trainer Margaret Slusher said in witnessing workshops across the Northwest Baptist Convention this spring. Read More

My316 Five-Week Curriculum

Click here to download My316 resources.

Why Every Church Should Move Toward Cultural and Racial Diversity

Sam Rainer examines the need for greater culture and racial diversity in US churches. Read More

10 Great Church Website Resources

Your church website truly is your digital front door and can’t be ignored. Read More

Muslims Turning to Christ - a Global Phenomenon

An unprecedented number of Muslims are becoming Christians. David Garrison, who has spent years researching the phenomenon, shares his findings. Read More

Friday, May 27, 2016

Understanding the ‘Simple Church’ Movement

The term “simple church” is birthed out of frustration. We need to describe this phenomenon often called “house church,” but all people in this movement do not like being identified by a “house.” They point out that these churches do not meet just in houses; they also meet in restaurants, businesses, or other settings. What defines simple churches is not location but emphasis.

We want to describe a certain kind of house church; however, Daniel and I do want to describe accurately what this movement does. Thus, we are going to most often use the term “simple church.” Essentially the term “simple church” describes churches that emphasize a common life in Christ. This is achieved theoretically by prioritizing certain values and practically by limiting group size. Simple churches also tend to function completely by face-to-face relationship. If everyone cannot be “in common,” the church is no longer a simple church. Robert Banks explains:

[Simple church] involves face-to-face meeting of adults and children who are committed to developing a common life in Christ. They meet weekly in a house, apartment, or other convivial space. More important than the setting is their mutual care for and accountability to one another. As an extended Christian family they desire to sing, pray, learn, share, love, play, and have a meal (which is also their Lord’s supper) together. Through their mutual ministry to one another they learn to identify and use the gifts God had given them and they are therefore more confident in engaging in mission through various individual ministries in their homes, neighborhoods, work places, and wider communities. While they view themselves as church they also recognize the importance of congregating regularly with a larger group of God’s people.

Simple churches have prioritized face-to-face relationships and common life to such a degree that their fellowships take forms that are significantly different from traditional churches. Their commitment to community is impressive in that they intentionally limit group size so that members cannot be a part of the church without being truly connected with the church members.

Thus, we will use the term simple but will also use the term house church when appropriate.

Until recently the concept of simple church in the West was relegated to the back burner in the church world. Yet this continues to be the method God uses in most parts of the world to expand his kingdom rapidly (China is a great example, with estimates of more than tens of millions of “underground” Christians meeting in house churches). Simple-church proponents in the West, however, have often been painted as “disgruntled” Christians who are pulling out of established churches or as groups that quickly become ingrown.

Simple churches have been an intriguing, though limited, experiment among Christians in the West—with little success in the past for sustaining a movement of this simple strategy. But the phenomenon seems to be picking up some steam and even caught the attention of The New York Times years ago: “A growing number of Christians across the country are choosing a do-it-yourself worship experience in what they call a ‘house church.’” And that number (we think) is still growing. Read More
This "lane" may be the best lane for Anglicans in some communities and even regions in North America.

Be Mean About the Vision – Part One

Why is is so important that we be intentional about the vision? The Bible tells us in Proverbs 29:18 that “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” In other words, where there is no vision, things dies and people die; maybe not physically, but in the Bible death is not physical. When Adam and Eve lost sight of God’s vision for them in the garden, They died; not physically, but spiritually, relationally, and emotionally. That’s how the Bible most often describes death.

Some of us know that the word vision in in Proverbs 29:18 is literally translated revelation. The New International Version translates this same verse like this: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint” Proverbs 29:18. In other words, God also wants us to know that where there is a lack of a clear vision revealed by God for a person or organization, there is going to be less focus, more people running in random directions, and and more chaos that ensues!

This is why I believe vision is the most important thing in the world. We must understand, embrace, and align our lives and our organizations around God’s revealed vision for our lives and the organizations we lead! We must steward it. preserve it. We must protect it. We must defend it. We must hold people accountable to it. We must be willing to let people go when they won’t align around it. All of this is what it means to “be mean” about the vision. Read More

Also See
Be Mean About the Vision – Part Two
Be Mean About the Vision – Part Three
Be Mean About the Vision – Part Four
Be Mean About the Vision – Part Five

On the Net: Church Society Launches Weekly Video Exposition of Sunday Lectionary Readings and More

Lee on the Lectionary: A new regular video feature on the Church Society blog

Introducing a weekly 5 minute exposition of the Anglican Lectionary readings for each Sunday. Lee Gatiss begins with the readings for this coming Sunday. Learn More

How Can a Pastor Reverse Negative Sentiments in a Church? – Rainer on Leadership #228 [Podcast]

On today’s episode, Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe discuss a few causes of negativity in the church and how pastors can help deal with negativity and even stop it from happening on the front end. Listen Now

10 Reasons Perfectionism Will Hurt Your Ministry

I’m a perfectionist. I admit it, but I don’t like it. What I’ve learned over the years is that my perfectionism has hurt my ministry. If you’re a perfectionist, here’s why that trait will likely hurt your ministry, too. Read More

How to Know When It Is Time to Leave

Some of you will be considering a ministry move this summer and want to make sure that God is orchestrating it. It is normal to reach the end of another church-year and take stock of your life and ministry. I want to share a few ways that helped me to know the right time to leave a ministry. Read More

What Every Church Needs

Many contemporary sermons sound more like the advice one can get from a pop-psychologist on talk radio or a television show. What we need are biblically based sermons empowered by the Spirit and delivered with passion that comes from prayer, study and holiness. Read More

Make Disciples without Adding Events

Discipleship is at the heart of the church. Jesus commanded us in Matthew 28:19 to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” The issue for the church throughout history is discerning the most effective way to do it. How can we lead people to salvation and develop them into mature disciple makers? Read More

Less Than Half of American Christians Find Church Attendance, Bible Reading, or Service to Be Essential

What is intriguing about a recent Pew Research Center survey of Christian values is not what American Christians value but what they do not value. Read More

Transgender Confusion Goes Beyond Elementary School Bathrooms [Podcast]

Researcher Mark Yarhouse on why mixing politics and gender identity has only left us more confused. Listen Now

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Why I Am Not Roman Catholic

Last week I began a new series titled “Why I Am Not…” and in this series I am exploring some of the things I do not believe as a means to explaining what I do believe. In the last article I explained why I am not atheist and now want to explain why I am not Roman Catholic. The timing of this article is unplanned but rather appropriate. I publish today from Orlando, Florida where I am enjoying some time at Ligonier Ministries, the ministry founded many years ago by Dr. R.C. Sproul. In very important ways the answer to the question “Why am I not Roman Catholic?” is “R.C. Sproul.” But I am getting ahead of myself. Read More

His Only Son

“What’s in a name?” Juliet muses. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The daughter Capulet’s sentiment is certainly true on some level. But the same cannot be said of the name applied to Jesus in John 3:16. Jesus’ identity as God’s “only Son” so sweetly enhances our understanding of this verse that without this name the gospel loses its fragrance. Read More

Who Was Augustine and Why Was He Important?

Augustine is almost universally loved by Christians. Indeed, those who find cause to reject Augustine often do so based on a particular issue they find problematic in his teachings. Rarely is someone a full-blown anti-Augustinian. Certainly for all Western Christians Augustine is an unrivaled figure in the history of Christian reflection. Indeed, there is hardly a subject that is not shaped by his writings and ministry. Read More

10 Things You Should Know about Satan

Here are 10 things we should know about Satan.

(1) Satan, like all other angels, was created at a point in time (Col. 1:16; John 1:1-3). Satan is not eternal. He is a finite creature. He is, therefore, God's Devil. Satan is not the equal and opposite power of God (contra dualism). His power is not infinite. He does not possess divine attributes. In sum, he is no match for God! At most, Satan is the equal and opposite power of the archangel Michael.

(2) We don’t know how or when Satan rebelled against God, as the two texts most often cited to account for this more than likely do not have Satan and his fall in view (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19).

(3) Satan’s names reveal much about his character. The title Satan is used 52x in the Bible. It literally means "the adversary," the one who opposes (see Zech. 3:1-2; Num. 22:22,32; 1 Sam. 29:4; 2 Sam. 19:22; 1 Kings 5:4; 11:14, 23, 25). In Psalm 109:6 it has the sense of "accuser" or "prosecuting attorney". Read More

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One of my first managers frequently reminded us no one is irreplaceable. He would use the illustration of placing your hands in a bucket and then pulling them out. The level of the water doesn’t change much when one or two hands is removed. While I agree with him on some levels – even though I’m not quite sure it’s a healthy demonstration for building team morale – I think there are ways a person can make themselves more valuable to a team. Read More

Six Questions Leaders Should Routinely Ask Themselves

Leaders are merely stewards. We don’t own the people, the ministry, or the organization we lead. We merely steward the opportunity for a season. Someone will come along after us. Because our leadership is short, we should lead and serve with thoughtful intentionality. Wise leaders routinely evaluate their lives and leadership. Here are six questions leaders should routinely ask themselves.... Read More

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10 Misperceptions about Young Pastors

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Overtime Pay Mandated for More Ministry Employees

But pastors are likely exempt. Read More

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Living in a (Nominal) Religious Context

Nominal religious contexts do not mean the end of the church.

Many American Southerners still possess a religious terminology that expresses they were saved at the age of 8, baptized at the age of 10, and are on the membership roll at the Crooked Creek Pentecostal Church or the Sugar Creek Methodist Church. Many of these individuals based their salvation on being moral, decent, and upstanding citizens, who love their families, their country, and even their God.

Living in such a nominal religious context presents some dangers, difficulties, and directives for believers who are passionately committed to king Jesus. Read More

Photo: Nashville, Tennessee

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Unfortunately in a number of the churches warming up the congregation for the pastor’s message is seen as the purpose of the music on Sunday morning--a legacy of revivalism.
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Prison ministry focus among pastors, churches studied

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Persecution against Christians in China has increased sevenfold since 2008, according to the latest report by China Aid. Read More

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Thoughts on the Revitalization of The Traditional Anglican Church in the Twenty-First Century

By Robin G. Jordan

Among the trends that I have been following on Anglicans Ablaze is what has been described as renewed interest in hymns, more emphasis on congregational singing, and smaller worship gatherings. A counter-trend is the continued flow of people from smaller churches to larger churches. 

What we are observing are two clusters of trends—one involving folks who desire to engage in more intimate, participatory forms of worship and the other folks who prefer to listen to the latest contemporary Christian music and a celebrity preacher. A small traditional Anglican church could benefit from the first cluster of trends if it undertook a number of changes.

To maintain viability in the twenty-first century a traditional Anglican church needs to establish and keep a reputation for taking its worship seriously; having a friendly welcoming congregation; offering clear Bible teaching, providing opportunities for leadership, ministry, and mission, and serving its community. It further needs to reflect its community in the makeup of its congregation. If it is a regional church, it needs to reflect the makeup of the region.

What also is critical is that the community sees its members as caring, loving people at the heart of whose care and love is Jesus Christ. This means that the church members themselves, not the church’s clergy, must build bridges to the community, which bring the church members and the community into contact with each other.

In addition a traditional Anglican church needs to have an attractive website on the Internet, which prompts folks visiting the website to want to visit the church. Nowadays people looking for a new church home visit the church’s website first. If they do not get a good first impression from the website, they are not going to visit the church.

The 1928 Book of Common Prayer and The Hymnal, 1940 have name recognition value to only a tiny segment of the US population, a segment of the population that varies in size from region to region and is growing smaller every year. They are not the draw that they were in the heyday of the Continuing Anglican Movement in late 1970s and early 1980s. A traditional Anglican church can no longer advertise its use of the 1928 Prayer Book and the 1940 Hymnal and attract a steady flow of visitors. Their use is no substitute for the characteristics that I have identified in the foregoing paragraph as essential to traditional church viability. I have watched one too many traditional Anglican churches go belly-up because they did not pay enough attention to these areas of church life and worship.

One of the primary reasons members of small churches do not invite people to their church’s worship services is that they are embarrassed by what they perceive to be the poor quality of these services. A part of the solution to this problem is to get the congregation excited about Sunday morning again. People who are excited about something want others to share in their excitement. Church members, when they are excited about Sunday morning at their church, will invite all kinds of people to their church’s worship services.

The first step to generating excitement about Sunday morning in a small church is to size-up the resources of the church and show the church how it can make better use of these resources to enhance its worship services. In a traditional Anglican church this entails giving attention to five key areas—planning and conducting of the service, reading of Scripture, preaching, music, and the sacraments. Only the last area requires a priest and then primarily for the administration of the Holy Communion.

As the rubrics of the 1928 Baptismal Office recognize, a baptized layman can administer the sacrament of Baptism in dire emergencies. Lay baptism is a biblical practice. Jesus’ disciples baptized as laymen, not as ordained ministers.

In his research on why formerly unchurched people joined a church, Thom Rainer found that an important consideration was the quality of the church’s worship music. Style of worship music and quality of worship music are not synonymous. It is a common mistake to confuse the two. What Rainer found was that, whatever the various styles of music that a church is using, when a church is tangibly doing its best, the church conveys to the unchurched visitor that the church takes the worship of God seriously. This was a major factor that caused an unchurched visitor to return for a second visit, a third visit, and so on, and eventually become a regular attendee at its services. The research included churches that used a variety of instruments as well as music styles in their worship.

Over a century ago in Loyalty to the Prayer Book (1904) Percy Dearmer urged his readers:

Let us by all means have bright Services, if by that we mean singing in which everyone can join, if we avoid the temptation to make our Services dull and without significance, through perpetual monotoning, if we secure real brightness by clear and stirring reading of the Lessons "distinctly with an audible voice"--and by short and vigorous sermons, and by interesting instructions; and if we remember to make the highest Service the brightest of all. Let us, in fact, bring out the real brightness of our Services by doing them proper justice.

Dearmer’s advice is as true today as it was then—perhaps even more so.

If you are not familiar with Percy Dearmer, he was English priest and liturgist best known as the author of The Parson's Handbook, a liturgical manual for Anglican clergy. Dearmer championed the English Use, sound liturgical practice that came from the traditions of the pre-Reformation English Church and which conformed to the rites, services, and rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer and the canons that governed the Prayer Book. He wrote a number of other books as well as revised The Parson’s Handbook several times. Dearmer had a strong influence upon the music of the church during his lifetime. He was responsible with Ralph Vaughan Williams for the publication of The English Hymnal in 1906 and with Vaughan Williams and Martin Shaw for the publication of Songs of Praise in 1926 and The Oxford Book of Carols in 1928. Dearmer was professor of ecclesiastical art at King's College London from 1919 until his death in 1936. His ashes are interred in the Great Cloister at Westminster Abbey.

On a personal note my favorite hymn as a child was Dearmer’s “Jesus, good above all others,” 540 in Songs of Praise, Full Music Edition, Revised and Enlarged edition 1931, sung to the tune QUEM PASTORES LAUDAVERE.

I have given serious thought over the past few years to how a small Anglican church that uses one of the older Anglican service books and what is known as the “new traditional” core hymnody in its worship might reach and engage the unchurched population of its community and its region. The article series, “Early in the Morning Our Songs Shall Rise to Thee: The Music and Conduct of Morning Prayer,” is one of the fruits of that thinking as it relates to worship, particularly worship music.

Reinvigorating its worship, however, is only one of a number of steps that a small Anglican church needs to take to achieve this goal. It must make itself more attractive in other ways. It must also expand its “footprint” in the community and the region. A church can be small but have a very large “footprint.” A church’s “footprint” is its impact upon the community and the region which it is located.

A common way for small churches to expand their “footprint” is to have a yard sale in the church parking lot to raise money for a charitable organization in the community such as a food bank. The community is impacted in a number of ways—through the purchase of inexpensive items at the yard sale and through the proceeds donated to the food bank. The church also benefits from the yard sale—from the goodwill it generates in the community, from the visibility it helps to give the church, and from the interactions between church members and community members at the yard sale. The previously invisible St. Fursey’s suddenly become the church down the street that had the yard sale last week and the people of St. Fursey’s the nice folks who sold me this whatsomadoodle real cheap. Another common way is a parish fair with booths, games, prizes, and food—lots and lots of food. Any profits from sales at the parish fair are donated to a worthwhile cause in the community or the region. A third common way is to join other groups and individuals from the community or the region in a community service project benefiting the community or the region or both. This is a great way to meet people, form new relationships, and to expand the church members’ relationship network. It also puts a human face on St. Fursey’s.

Yard sales, parish fairs, and that sort of thing also help church members to recognize that the church does not exist for them. It exists for the whole community, for the entire region. These types of outreaches help church members become more outward-looking and less inward-focused—a critical step in church revitalization.

Jesus said, “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house” (Matthew5:15 HCSB). Have you ever seen the lamps that were used in ancient Palestine during the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry? They are tiny! One easily fits in the palm of your hands. They also can be easily hid under a basket, especially a large basket used to measure grain. I have replicas of the two most commonly-used lamps. But in the dark windowless houses in that part of the ancient world they provided a welcome light. If a tiny lamp can brighten a house, how much more can a small church be a light in its community and its region?!

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Early in the Morning Our Songs Shall Rise to Thee: The Music and Conduct of Morning Prayer, Part 6

By Robin G. Jordan

The Creed. The Apostles’ Creed should flow out of the Third Canticle. The Nicene Creed is best reserved for the service of Holy Communion. It drags out the service at this juncture.

The Prayers. At the beginning of the Prayers is the most appropriate place for the Lord’s Prayer in the service of Morning Prayer. The Prayers originally began with the Salutation and the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer following the penitential introduction originated as a private devotion before the Office. It was said silently along with the Ave Maria. The penitential introduction was not added until the 1552 Prayer Book. The 1662 Prayer Book requires the Lord’s Prayer to be said after the penitential introduction and at the beginning of the Prayers. The 1929 Scottish Prayer Book and the 1926 South African Prayer Book omit the initial Lord’s Prayer. The 1928 Prayer Book permits its omission if the penitential section is omitted. The 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book in its Alternative Orders for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer restore the Lord’s Prayer to its proper place at the beginning of the Prayers. Almost all the most recent Anglican service books have done the same thing.

The rubrics of the 1928 Prayer Book also do not require the use of the five prayers printed in Morning Prayer after the Third Collect on every Sunday. The minister may conclude the service with general intercessions taken from the Prayer Book or with the Grace. Churches that use these five prayers without variation are actually following the rubrics of the 1892 Prayer Book, not the 1928. They may have also succumbed to the dismal tendency to read a text simply because it is printed in the rite or service (see Early in the Morning Our Songs Shall Rise to Thee: The Music and Conduct of Morning Prayer, Part 4)

After the Service. A hymn may be sung and then the minister may go out at the conclusion of the hymn. Or the minister may go to a place in front of the altar at the conclusion of the hymn, and standing there, to say “let us pray” and a Prayer for Missions or some other suitable collect. After having in this way given the people time to kneel down quietly and pray, the minister turns and says the Benedicamus. He then goes out. If there is a second minister, he stands to one side while the second minister bows and goes out and then follows him to the sacristy.

The following version of the Benedicamus comes from the 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book:

The Lord be with you.
And with thy spirit.
Let us bless the Lord;
Thanks be to God

Alternately the minister may say these parting words:

The Lord bless us and keep us:
The Lord make his face to shine upon us
and be gracious unto us:
The Lord lift up his countenance upon us
and give us peace. Amen.

At the end of Morning Prayer is an appropriate place to sing a hymn about the Church’s mission, a hymn of invitation, hymn of consecration, commitment, or dedication, a hymn of faith, a hymn of supplication, a hymn about Jesus’ salvific work or his lordship, and even a hymn of jubilant praise. This final hymn should send the people out in no uncertain way. It is also a part of the congregation’s take-home package. Ideally the people would be humming the hymn tune or even singing snatches of the hymn lyrics as they go on their way.

The following is a list of suitable hymns with tunes in the Master Index of the Gulbransen Digital Hymnal DH-100 CP and the Gulbransen Digital Hymnal DH 200.

All Who Would Valiant Be ST. DUNSTAN'S, MONK’S GATE


This hymn was originally published in William Hurn’s Psalms & Hymns (1813).

1 Arise, O God, and shine
In all Thy saving might,
And prosper each design
To spread Thy glorious light;
Let healing streams of mercy flow
That all the earth Thy truth may know.

2 Bring distant nations near
To sing Thy glorious praise;
Let every people hear
And learn Thy holy ways.
Reign, mighty God, assert Thy cause
And govern by Thy righteous laws.

3 Put forth Thy glorious power
That Gentiles all may see
And earth present her store
In converts born to Thee.
God, our own God, His Church will bless
And fill the world with righteousness.

4 To God, the only Wise,
The one immortal King,
Let hallelujahs rise
From every living thing;
Let all that breathe, on every coast
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

If the hymn is sung to RHOSYMEDRE, the last line of each verse is repeated.

Be Thou My Vision SLANE

Christ Be My Leader SLANE

Christ beside Me BUNESSAN


Church of God, Elect and Glorious ABBOT’S LEIGH, NETTLETON, LUX EOI

Crown Him with Many Crowns DIADEMATA

If a shorter version of this hymn is desired, stanzas 1 and 5 may be sung without mutilating the sense of the hymn.

Forth in the Peace of Christ LLEDROD, DUKE STREET

God Is Working His Purpose Out PURPOSE

PURPOSE may be sung as a round or a canon, normally at a distance of one or two measures and a space of one octave.

God of Mercy, God of Grace LUCERNA LAUDONIAE, IMPACT

God, Our Author and Creator NALL AVENUE, PLEADING SAVIOR

Go Forth and Tell! O Church of God NATIONAL HYMN

Good News of God Above DIADEMATA

Go, Tell It on the Mountain GO TELL IT

This hymn is an adaptation of a North American traditional spiritual, published in the Church of Ireland’s Church Hymnal – Fifth Edition (2000). The new text transforms a song that is related to Christ’s birth and which is sung during the Christmas Season into a song related to the Church’s witness and mission and which may be sung throughout the year.

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is Lord.

1 O when I was a seeker
I sought both night and day,
I asked the Lord to guide me,
And he showed me the way.

2  He made me a watchman
Upon a city wall,
To tell of his salvation,
That Jesus died for all.

3  Go tell it to your neighbor
In darkness here below;
Go with the words of Jesus,
That all the world may know.


SINE NOMINE may be sung as a round or a canon, normally at a distance of one or two measures and a space of one octave.

He Who Would Valiant Be ST. DUNSTAN'S, MONK’S GATE


While this hymn is a trifle long—five stanzas, it works surprisingly well as a final hymn due to the liveliness and rhythmicalness of its tune, which move the hymn forward at a brisk tempo. It is published in a number of hymnals, including Church Hymnal, Fifth Edition, Complete Anglican Hymns Old & New, Hymns Ancient & Modern New Standard, Hymns Old and New: New Anglican, Together in Song: Australian Hymn Book II, and Worship and Rejoice.

I Have Decided to Follow Jesus ASSAM

Jesus, Good Above All Other QUEM PASTORES

Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love CHERAPONI

Jesus Our Mighty Lord MONKS GATE, ST. DUNSTAN

Jesus Shall Reign DUKE STREET

Lead On, O King Eternal LANCASHIRE

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms SHOWALTER

Lift High the Cross CRUCIFER

Lord, Make Us Servants of Your Peace DICKINSON COLLEGE [O WALY WALY]

Lord of the Church, We Pray for Our Renewing LONDONERRY AIR #109

Lord, You Give the Great Commission ABBOT'S LEIGH

Now Thank We All Our God NUN DANKET

O Breathe on Me O Breath of God ST. COLUMBA

O God of Love, Enable Me ST. PETER


O Zion haste, thy mission high fulfilling TIDINGS


Savior, like a Shepherd Lead Us SICILIAN MARINER

Send Forth Your Word, O God PROCLAMATION

Shine, Jesus, Shine SHINE


Tell All the World of Jesus FAR OFF LANDS

This hymn may be sung ELLACOMBE, LANCASHIRE, and other suitable 76.76.D. tunes.

Tell It Out with Gladness HYMN TO JOY

The Spirit Sends Us forth to Serve LAND OF REST, CHESTERFIELD/RICHMOND (Haweis)

LAND OF REST may be sung as a round or a canon, normally at a distance of one or two measures and a space of one octave.

We All Are One in Mission KUOTANE/NYLAND

We Turn to Christ Anew LEONI

What Wondrous Love Is This WONDROUS LOVE

Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim HANOVER, LYONS, PADERBORN

Ye That Know the Lord Is Gracious HYFRYDOL

A postlude reflecting or summing up the rite may be played after the Benedicamus. Instrumental music based on the text which best sums up the rite or introducing an unfamiliar tune is particularly appropriate. The candles may be extinguished during the postlude.

It deserves mention that the candles on the altar are lit only for celebrations of Holy Communion. The lights used at Morning and Evening Prayer are normally pavement lights—candles on stands flanking the altar. During Advent the candles on the Advent wreath may be lit and during Easter the Pascal candle. Some churches have stands for the torches that the servers carry during the ceremonial entrance of the ministers at the beginning of the service of Holy Communion and use the torches as pavement lights at Morning and Evening Prayer.

Conclusion. Taking full advantage of the flexibility in length and content of the 1928 service of Morning Prayer and its adaptability to congregations and occasions, the digital hymnal player’s Master Index of hymns and hymn tunes and the digital hymnal player’s various settings (piano, violin, organ, etc), a typical service of Morning Prayer in ordinary time might look like the following:

Prelude: DOVE OF PEACE (Instrumental)
Sentence of Scripture
Opening Preces
Canticle: O Come and Sing to God the Lord DOVE OF PEACE
Hymn: When morning gilds the skies LAUDES DOMINI
Psalm 63 (read by a single voice)
Gloria Patri: To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost MARTYRDOM
Old Testament Lesson
Canticle: All you works of God bless the Lord LINSTEAD
New Testament Lesson
Bidding Prayer
Canticle: Now bless the God of Israel FOREST GREEN
Apostles’ Creed
Lord’s Prayer
Collect of the Day
Collects for Peace and Grace
Hymn: O Zion haste, thy mission high fulfilling TIDINGS
Prayer for Missions
Postlude: NETTLETON (Instrumental)

The music of the service would not be too demanding on a small congregation with no choir. The music to be used in the service and new tunes to be learned would be played as pre-service and post-service music. The metrical canticles and the Gloria Patri would be initially repeated throughout a season or for several consecutive Sundays during a long season. Once the congregation had mastered them, they may be varied from Sunday to Sunday. The hymn after the Venite and the hymn at the end of the service should be varied from week to week.

A congregation should learn several metrical settings of the canticles and a number of settings of the Gloria Patri. Otherwise, the singing of the canticles and Gloria Patri will become perfunctory and tiresome and will lose its power to stir the heart so that the praise of the lips becomes the praise of the heart. When praise comes from the heart as well as the lips, it gives vitality to the service, which not only will make Sunday worship more inspiring and uplifting for the members of the congregation but also has a positive effect upon visitors. God may use the congregation’s praise to touch the heart of a visitor and draw that person closer to Himself. When a congregation has several metrical settings of the canticles and a number of settings of the Gloria Patri in its repertoire, it also gives worship planners greater flexibility to capture the mood of the season or occasion with their choice of songs.

On major feast days a metrical version of the Gloria in excelsis might be substituted for the Gloria Patri and an anthem sung after the Third Collect. While the 1928 Prayer Book makes no provision for an anthem after the Third Collect at Morning Prayer, there is a long tradition of singing an anthem at this point in the service. A small vocal ensemble could be put together to sing a simple hymn anthem.

At festal Matins the principal leader of the service, whether ordained or lay, wears a cope over his surplice. A small church needs only one cope of best materials for such occasions. It does not need a different cope for each season of the Church Year. In accordance with the traditions of the pre-Reformation English Church the best materials for festivals, “Lenten white,” or unbleached linen, for Lent, and other materials for other days is a perfectly acceptable liturgical color scheme for a small Anglican church.

On Christmas Eve solemn Evensong with a procession at the end of the service or a Service of Lessons and Carols would be appropriate. Our worship has become so centered on the Eucharist due to the influence of the twentieth century Liturgical and Parish Communion movements that we have forgotten how to celebrate the festivals of the Church Year without Communion.

In English parish churches solemn Evensong was at one time not unheard of on Christmas Eve. I have memories of crossing the snow-covered Great Common in the darkness on Christmas Eve as a small boy, opening the heavy wooden door, and entering the brightly-lit interior of the parish church of Iccleshall St. Andrew. The vicar served more than one church and traveled between the churches on a motorcycle.