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Worship, rubrics and common life

Worship, rubrics and common life

Bosco Peters proposes a new award: the face-palm Jesus. While we all might want to propose categories which would qualify for the prize, he talks specifically about liturgical practice.


Peters writes in the New Zealand context, and has previously pointed out that despite the remarkable flexibility of that church where, for example, any Eucharistic prayer authorized anywhere in the Anglican Communion is permitted in that church.He says even this feels too restrictive to some folks there.

Which bring us to his new award. After opening the envelope, he awards the first face-palm Jesus to an unnamed congregation where everyone in the congregation joins in saying the words of institution.

A priest, new to a community, describes this particular community’s practice and I have the priest’s permission to describe what is a public experience:

In the Eucharistic Prayer (Great Thanksgiving) the priest is proclaiming the story of the Last Supper, “on the night before he died, your Son Jesus Christ, took bread; when he had given you thanks, he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said:”

Suddenly the priest finds the whole congregation joining in with Jesus’ words of distribution:

Take, eat, this is my body

which is given for you;

do this to remember me.

The priest regains composure and begins: “After supper he took the cup; when he had given you thanks, he gave it to them and said:”

And once again the congregation interrupts the proclamation of the story:

Drink this, all of you,

for this is my blood of the new covenant

which is shed for you and for many

for the forgiveness of sins;

do this as often as you drink it,

to remember me.

There’s no point in changing to another Eucharistic Prayer – they all have words such as this. And the congregation always joins in.

Peters attributes this to an attempt by a previous priest to teach “the priesthood of all believers.”

Two vicars, two bishops, and several priests-in-charge, have been unable to hinder the heterodoxy. It is a worthy recipient of the inaugural liturgical face-palm award: in one brilliant stroke it confuses the meaning of priesthood of all believers, sacrilegiously mocks the Western/Roman Catholic model of consecration, emphasises one part of the Eucharistic Prayer at the expense of the rest (putting the emPHAsis on the wrong syLLAble), and makes a pastoral nightmare for anyone trying to bring orthodoxy back to this community.

As we discussed this amongst ourselves as an editorial team, the question came up “Is this sacrilegious?” I don’t find the practice sacrilegious, in the sense that people should be burned at the stake or excommunicated or even forced to light a candle before a comical statue.There is more at work here than just bad liturgical practice.

It is not just a problem where the priest has part of “his job” taken away from him, it is a problem for the community. What does it mean that we have chosen as a community to live within a rule of life that includes a Prayer Book, with both the majestic language and the pesky rubrics?

Certainly Peters correctly lays out the theological problems that the practice implies, but the practice also appears to distort the relationships within the congregation itself. I will bet that this is a congregation where co-dependency is a dominant dynamic. It does not surprise me that various interventions have not corrected their practice, especially if the interventions were limited solely to the liturgical issue.

If a priest can’t say “this is my job” and “this, this and this are all your jobs” and deal with the systems anxiety in a useful way on such a basic issue as ordering worship, then there are probably bigger issues that are not being attended to. I wonder what else in their common might be allowed to slide or is given in to uncritically. I imagine a congregation where conflict is dealt with by giving into the most emotional person in the room.

You can learn a lot about a congregation by seeing how they worship together. Not only is the word preached and sacraments shared, but the community is also demonstrating the quality of their leadership and common life in how they have chosen to order their most public expression: their worship.

Bad liturgical practice, like bad Christian art or bad Christian fiction, may also arise out of bad theology, or when one worthy theological concept is allowed to run amok over all other considerations. Whatever is going on in Peter’s example, it is saying much more about the common life of the congregation than just their worship tastes.

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jimB

If you visit some of the right wing blogs, you will encounter those who think vestments, candles etc are not only Roman but heretical. They claim a Calvinist model of the 39 Articles can be considered a definitive.

FWIW

jim beyer

Liturgy

Thanks to those who made the effort to actually understand the issue.

Clericalism is rampant. Clericalising of the ministry of all the baptised and confusing this with the “priesthood of all believers” is so prevalent that many cannot even recognise it when it is challenged. In NZ lay ministry is regularly confused with looking presbyteral and doing presbyteral things in services.

Those here who think the congregation’s reciting of Jesus’ words of distribution is fine and cannot recognise the mocking confusion presumably would also encourage the following scenario:

A congregation is taught by their vicar to wear clerical shirts and collars to services and taught this is their right and expressing their “priesthood of all believers”. People think it is lovely that the children who like to play priest at home can now do it at church too – especially that the girls can! not noticing that this confuses our baptismal priesthood with the presbyterate, and clericalises lay ministry, equating it with church-facing presbyteral leadership.

Like my original post, I would similarly give this community the face-palm award. Others here clearly would not.

FWIW I understand consecration not to be essentially an independent presbyteral power effected between letters of certain fixed words, but the act of God in response to a community’s prayer. That we have always had valid Eucharists which do not even mention Jesus’ words of distribution (here sometimes called “institution”) is recognised by the majority of Christianity, currently and historically.

Easter Season blessings

Bosco+

Liturgy

Thanks to those who made the effort to actually understand the issue.

Clericalism is rampant. Clericalising of the ministry of all the baptised and confusing this with the “priesthood of all believers” is so prevalent that many cannot even recognise it when it is challenged. In NZ lay ministry is regularly confused with looking presbyteral and doing presbyteral things in services.

Those here who think the congregation’s reciting of Jesus’ words of distribution is fine and cannot recognise the mocking confusion presumably would also encourage the following scenario:

A congregation is taught by their vicar to wear clerical shirts and collars to services and taught this is their right and expressing their “priesthood of all believers”. People think it is lovely that the children who like to play priest at home can now do it at church too – especially that the girls can! not noticing that this confuses our baptismal priesthood with the presbyterate, and clericalises lay ministry, equating it with church-facing presbyteral leadership.

Like my original post, I would similarly give this community the face-palm award. Others here clearly would not.

FWIW I understand consecration not to be essentially an independent presbyteral power effected between letters of certain fixed words, but the act of God in response to a community’s prayer. That we have always had valid Eucharists which do not even mention Jesus’ words of distribution (here sometimes called “institution”) is recognised by the majority of Christianity, currently and historically.

Easter Season blessings

Bosco+

Dylan

Bosco+,

I do apologize for the misunderstanding. I hadn’t read your post and wasn’t criticizing it; I meant only to refer to the Episcopal Café post above, and specifically to the suggestion (not authored by you) that the issue is one of ‘jobs’ (Holy Orders are too often seen as a job or a set of jobs, IMO) and co-dependency.

What you describe strikes me, in the setting of my armchair in Boston (mileage elsewhere will vary, of course), as an issue of church order as well as liturgical theology.

Forbidding clergy to wear traditional liturgical garments is silly at best, IMO, but flouting one’s own canons and rubrics is a matter or church order and discipline (among other things). There’s a simple solution available worldwide, so far as I know, to Anglican clergy who don’t want to follow orders: renouncing (Holy) Orders, at which point they are free to launch without constraint (except by secular law) their own worship services with any liturgical practice that indulges their ego and their congregation will tolerate.

In short, I believe I agree with you on almost every point. Having now read your post, I do get the impression, though, that you do think it’s always a silly or bad idea for the congregation to join with the presider in part or all of the words of institution. I think it depends on the spirit in and grace with which it’s done. I’ve been in a couple of services in my travels in which it was done in an orderly way that I didn’t experience as disruptive (and neither did the presider, for whom it was fully expected).

Anglican lay presidency strikes me as an oxymoron. In my liturgical practicum class in seminary, I voiced the whole Eucharistic prayer, and with the gestures priests are to use, with everyone else, but since none of us students were authorized to consecrate elements or preside in Anglican Eucharist, I don’t believe I consecrated anything by doing so. It was an exercise ordered in that context for purposes of education and formation, and I think it can in some contexts be OK for a congregation that does not consist of one professor and a bunch of seminary students to do similar things that I imagine should usually be for similar purposes.

BTW, when I saw the expression “face palm” in the post above, I pictured palm fronds and my imagination stuck on that, so I wasn’t sure what “face palm” meant. Context is everything, eh?

Blessings,

Dylan

Ann Fontaine

Our grandson has memorized the whole service and even at age 8 was reciting all the parts. Would that all could do that.

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