Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Proposed ACNA Prayer Book Already in Need of Extensive Revision

By Robin G. Jordan

The form that a liturgy takes often owes more to happenstance than to intentional design. When we examine the history of Christian worship, we do not encounter widespread attempts at liturgical revision until the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, at which time a conscientious effort was made to bring the worship of the Western Church into line with Biblical teaching and practice. Since the Protestant Reformation the process of liturgical revision has become more deliberate with the changing circumstances of the Christian Church being a primary motivating factor.

The Bible does not prescribe a particular form or shape for Christian worship. What the Bible does enjoin is that Christian gatherings should be conducted in an orderly manner and that whatever is done should edify those present. It should build them up in the Christian faith. It should also be understandable to the uninitiated who attend such gatherings. The only guidelines that the New Testament provides for the observance of the Lord’s Supper is that those who share the bread and wine should examine themselves beforehand  and not treat the Lord’s Supper as an ordinary meal. The New Testament does not stipulate how often the Lord’s Supper should be observed nor does it prescribe who should administer the sacrament.

What is sometimes referred to as the liturgy of the Eucharist was originally two distinct liturgies that became fused together early in the history of the Christian Church. One liturgy consisted primarily of the reading and exposition of Scripture and had its origins in the services of the Jewish synagogue; the other liturgy consisted of the observance of the Lord’s Supper and had its origins in the meal which Jesus and his disciples shared on the night of his arrest. Whether this meal was a Passover seder or a fellowship meal has been the subject of scholarly debate. In any event Jesus used the meal to institute the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

The Opening Acclamation, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Kyries, and the Trisagion are accretions that were added to the opening rite of the eucharistic liturgy at various periods in Church history. For example, the Gloria in excelsis was originally a part of the daily cathedral office of Lauds, which was sung immediately before the celebration of the Eucharist. From the morning office of Lauds the Gloria in excelsis would migrate to the opening rite of the Eucharist.

Before it acquired these additions, the opening rite of the Eucharist was quite simple—a greeting and a prayer.

The first addition to the opening rite was the introit psalm, which was sung while the ministers of the Eucharist entered in solemn procession. It was a full length psalm, not the snippets that it would become in the Middle Ages and which comprise the introit psalm in the Anglican Missal. The introit psalm was added to the opening rite after Christianity was legalized and Christians began to use public buildings for their gatherings. The entrance song sung at the beginning of a celebration of the Eucharist is its modern-day descendant. In Anglican churches the entrance song is typically but not exclusively a processional hymn. It may also be a psalm or a canticle and on special occasions an anthem. When an entrance song is sung, the singing or recitation of an introit psalm is redundant.

Some Episcopal churches have adopted the practice of singing the first hymn of a celebration of the Eucharist in place of the Gloria in excelsis, a practice which is permitted by the rubrics of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. The liturgical ministers either take their places before the service or they enter in procession to instrumental music. The singing of an entrance song and the Gloria in excelsis is often too musically demanding for small congregations with limited musical resources.

Some churches follow this practice in the summertime when church attendance is low. Others follow it year round, except during penitential seasons when the Kyries or the Trisagion are used. During penitential seasons the liturgical ministers may enter in silence. The first song of the Eucharist may be the Kyries or Trisagion, the Kyries sung in its nine-fold form and the Trisagion in its three-fold form.

A number of churches use a metrical version of the Gloria in excelsis or some other canticle of praise (i.e., Benedicite, Benedictus es, Benedictus Dominus Deus, Dignus es, Magna et mirabilia, Magnificat, or Te Deum).

In the late twentieth century emerged the practice of singing one or more praise choruses and worship songs in addition to or in place of a processional hymn or the Gloria in excelsis. This practice had antecedents in the Orthodox and Eastern Christian practice of singing troparion at the beginning of a celebration of the Eucharist. Troparion are short hymns of one stanza or a series of stanzas. It also has antecedents in the Western Christian practice of singing the daily cathedral office of Lauds before the celebration of the Eucharist. Lauds means “praise.” It got its name from the Benedicite and the laudate psalms, Psalms 148, 149, and 150, which were a fixed part of the ancient morning office.

The practice of beginning every public service of worship with a procession is unnecessary. The purpose of the first song of a service is to draw the congregation together as a worshiping assembly, not to accompany the movement of the liturgical ministers from the rear of the worship area to its front. When a congregation is small and its musical resources are limited, the liturgical ministers also lead the congregational singing. They are in a better position to lead the singing if they have taken their places before the service.

The opening rite is not the only place in the eucharistic liturgy that accumulates liturgical “clutter.”  The offertory and closing rites have also gathered various superfluous prayers and devotions. A fourth place in the liturgy, which accumulates such clutter is the communion rite.

The traditional pattern of the Anglican service of Holy Communion originated with the second Prayer Book of Edward VI, the reformed Prayer Book of 1552. The Restoration Prayer Book of 1662 is substantially the 1552 Prayer Book. Among the major changes in the pattern of the Eucharist introduced in the 1552 Prayer Book was the addition of Ten Commandments at the beginning of the service, the addition of the confession of sin and the declaration of forgiveness before the consecration of the elements, and the relocation of the Gloria in excelsis to a position after the communion where it ended the whole service on a note of praise.

The 1552 pattern would be the pattern of the Anglican service of Holy Communion until the mid-twentieth century when the so-called ecumenical pattern of the Eucharist began to displace it. Both patterns are used in the newer Anglican service books, often with the rubrics giving the local church the option of deciding which pattern it will follow in its celebrations of the Eucharist.

The newer Anglican service books also permit the optional use of the accretions that have been added to the eucharistic liturgy since post-apostolic times. These accretions are not essential to a celebration of the Eucharist and their omission does not in any way detract from a Eucharist celebration except perhaps in the minds of those who are “addicted” to them. One of the characteristics of Anglican liturgy at its best is its “noble simplicity.” Many local churches have greatly benefited from the judicious application of the liturgical principle, “less is more.”

In the second half of the twentieth century a number of Anglican provinces came to recognize a need for new patterns of worship to meet the needs of local churches. It saw the advent of the “family service,” a service of the Word developed as a response to large unbaptized, unchurched population segment and declining church attendance. The liturgical movement in the United States and the parish communion movement in the United Kingdom had popularized weekly celebrations of the Eucharist. The same period in which such celebrations were popularized also saw declines in baptisms as well as church attendance. Episcopal and Anglican church services became more inward looking at the same time they became more Eucharistic focused.

The Church of England, the Church of Ireland, and the Anglican Church of Australia developed guidelines and liturgical texts for what the Church of England’s Common Worship (2000) and the Church of Ireland’s The Book of Common Prayer (2004) call “Services of the Word,” the Anglican Church of Australia’s A Prayer Book for Australia (1995) and the Anglican Diocese of Sydney’s Sunday Services ( 2001) call “Services of Praise, Proclamation, and Prayer," and the Anglican Diocese of Sydney's Common Worship: Resources for Gospel-Shaped Gatherings (2012) calls "Services of the Word and Prayer.” As well as serving as a local church’s principal Sunday service, these new liturgies can also be used as the liturgy of the Word in a celebration of the Eucharist.

In North America during the same period, however, the focus of Sunday worship in Anglican Church of Canada and Episcopal churches would remain the celebration of the Eucharist despite the existence of similar conditions in Canada and the United States as in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia. While a number of factors account for the decline of these two denominations, this focus has contributed to their decline.

The Anglican Church of Canada’s Book of Alternative Services (1985) did introduce a more flexible “user-friendly” pattern for services of Morning and Evening Prayer. The Anglican Church of Canada would belatedly authorized two Services of the Word in 2001. One is an expanded version of this pattern. The other “conforms more closely the shape of the liturgy of the Word in the Eucharist.” The extent to which these liturgies are presently used by its churches is not known to this writer.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979) of the Episcopal Church also introduced a new pattern of worship, An Order of Worship for the Evening, which might be used in place of a service of Evening Prayer. This service, which is based upon the ancient lucenary service, however, has seen little use in Episcopal churches. Few Episcopal churches regularly hold evening services. Those churches that do hold a regular evening service typically celebrate the Eucharist.

The 1979 Prayer Book permits the use of the Orders for Morning and Evening Prayer as the liturgy of the Word for the Eucharist but few Episcopal churches take advantage of this permission. The 1979 Prayer Book also permits the use of the liturgy of the Word in the Eucharist as a separate service. Here again few Episcopal churches take advantage of the rubrics permitting its use as a separate service. On Sundays when there is no Eucharist, the service is typically Morning Prayer. In addition, the 1979 Prayer Book provides an agenda for informal celebrations of the Eucharist on occasions other than the Sunday Eucharist.

The Anglican Church in North America’s Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force has not produced any alternative forms of morning and evening worship even though a clear need for such worship resources exists. The Orders for Morning and Evening Prayer that the task force has produced for the 2019 Proposed Prayer Book are modeled closely upon those of the Episcopal Church’s 1979 Prayer Book and suffer from the same problems as its orders. The daily offices in the 1979 Prayer Book are designed to serve primarily as a breviary for clergy, religious, and more devote laity than they are as regular services of public worship.

When Thomas Cranmer reformed the daily offices, conflating the monastic offices into two services—Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer—his intention was not to create a reformed breviary for the clergy but to a daily service of the Word for English congregations. He believed that the proclamation of God’s Word, which forms the heart of his reform of the daily offices, would not only set forth God’s honor and glory but would also reduce the people to “a most perfect and godly living.”

While rubrics in the 1979 Prayer Book permit the preaching of a sermon “after the readings” (presumably after the Second Lesson), after the daily collects, or at the conclusion of the service, they do not permit the omission of redundant prayers such as the Suffrages and Daily Collects when a general intercession such as the Litany or one of the forms of the Prayers of the People is used in the service.

The rubrics of the three forms of the Holy Communion that the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force has produced to date do not permit the use of the liturgy of the Word in the Eucharist as a separate service. This is a departure from a longstanding practice in the Anglican Church.

The focus of the 2019 Proposed Prayer Book, like the Episcopal Church’s The Book of Common Prayer (1979), is upon the Eucharist as the main act of worship on Sunday. The Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force has so far not considered the needs of three categories of congregations and missional communities:
Congregations and missional communities that gather around the Word on most Sundays and share a priest with a cluster of other congregations and missional communities.

New church plants that are targeted at North America’s large unbaptized, unchurched population.

New and existing congregations and missional communities seeking “to make Christ known through word and deed in new ways in new neighborhoods.”
Rather than developing practical worship resources for the North American mission field for the use of congregations and missional communities in a variety of circumstances, the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force appears to have made its chief priority the promotion of Catholic Revivalist worship ideas and values along with unreformed Catholic doctrine and practices. Rather than producing resources that will help congregations and missional communities overcome barriers to the gospel, the task force is creating liturgical material that will hinder their efforts to reach and engage the unchurched.

The task force’s principal motivation appears to be to shape the worship of the province to its liking and the liking of the College of Bishops. In other words, the task force is putting personal preference before the mission of the Church. 

The Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force has three more years to come up with practical worship resources that are not only consistent with the Bible, the Anglican Formularies, and the Anglican Church’s Protestant Reformed heritage but also geared to the needs of congregations and missional communities on the forefront of mission on the North American mission field.

Perhaps it is time to rotate the present members off the task force and replace them with new members with a greater commitment to producing a more comprehensive service book for the use of ACNA congregations and missional communities and to providing these congregations and missional communities with such worship resources for their use on the North American mission field.

Perhaps it is time to establish an independent panel to develop such worship resources since the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force shows no inclination to develop them. If the College of Bishops refuses to endorse these worship resources, it will be further evidence of the Catholic Revivalist bias of that body and the need for stronger measures.

If the ACNA Prayer Book is to be truly unitive, it must comprehend the wide spectrum of conservative Anglican thought represented in the Anglican Church in North America and serve the primary task of the Christian Church which is to fulfill the Great Commission. It cannot cater to the preferences of one group or party.

Photo credit: http://timotheosprologizes.blogspot.com/

1 comment:

Brian Johnson said...

Thanks for this.
Proposed Canadian liturgies are here....