Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Liturgy and Ritual

I am concerned that people reading my post on +Forsyth's visit to St James might think I am overly concerned with his involvement or otherwise in the ritual. I really would not mind if he had refused to take part in any of it although I think as our bishop he should be prepared to accommodate some aspects as he did. It is his and the other bishop's refusal to accept +Gene Robinson or even meet and take communion with those who consecrated him that concerns me. The Gafcon bishops are attempting to split the Anglican Communion possibly for many reasons but are using GLBT people as their whipping boy. This is why I oppose and avoid them.

I grew up in this evangelical diocese at a time when it was evangelical but recognisably Anglican. If any one had told me then that one day I would be worshipping and participating in high church ritual I would have thought them mad. However I did learn to love the Anglican liturgy, the robed choirs, the chants and the beautiful 1662 prayer book.
As a youth leader I organised youth services at evening prayer once a month. We probably horrified our elders with guitars and modern music but the basic order of service was not changed. My rector insisted that as a leader in the church, Holy Communion was not to be neglected. While I believed it was mainly a memorial service, I also believed that something special happened and this required consecration by an ordained (in those days) man.

I have a close friend who since his retirement from teaching has taken the role of leadership in a small Uniting church (The Uniting Church of Australia was formed in the 1970's by combining the Methodists, Congregationalists and some Presbyterians). He is very happy that after a year of study he is now allowed to conduct a Communion service in his church. I am happy for him and would be glad to attend some day. I would see it as just a memorial service (as does he) so it would not satisfy me on a regular basis but am sure this different view will not cause our loving God to reject either one of us.

While I love the 1662 service, I realise it had to be modernised but I do miss the Prayer of Humble Access which is so meaningful.

I think it is wonderful that I can travel to NZ, Europe and USA and still worship in much the same way. There are of course subtle differences but the service is essentially the same. However it grieves me that several people have told me they have migrated from England or even moved interstate in Australia to Sydney and feel completely lost in the average Anglican church in Sydney. One man told me he felt he had finally come home again when he first attended St James. I sometimes think it is false advertising to have the name "Anglican" outside these churches.

When I began to work in Catholic schools, I felt I should be involved in the worship program of the school and began to learn the rituals involved so I found myself recognising the altar and making the sign of the cross. I began to believe that something even more important happened when the bread and wine is consecrated. I am very fuzzy on my thinking here. I do not believe it becomes the actual Body and Blood of Christ (with all the problems of spillage etc) but like the concept (which I think is Lutheran) that it changes in some real way as it enters the communicant by the act of eating and drinking. So it becomes the Body and Blood TO ME (and obviously my fellow communicants).
I did not like the usual practice of receiving only the bread in the Catholic services but was often amused that when offered in both kinds at staff retreats it was usually mainly the Anglican staff members who took the wine.
By the way, a Jesuit priest told me that as a member of the school community I was welcome to partake although I know not all the priests would have agreed.

I find that the ritual gives more meaning to me and also helps to keep me focused. I would prefer to kneel during the consecration but this is not done at St James. I do kneel to receive and standing and kneeling at this time is about half and half in our congregation. Perhaps kneeling will be less possible as I age. My sister, being older than me, does not kneel at any part of the service but still does to receive. She tells me she prefers not to make the sign of the cross etc as she does not know what to do and this is okay by me.

So I have no complaint about evangelical forms of worship as the 34th article says "It is not necessary that Traditions and ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like."
I just ask that they be recognisably Anglican, usually follow the Lectionary in their program of teaching and be willing to recognise that others within the communion will prefer different rituals and are not to be condemned for so doing.


Anonymous said...

As reported by David Marr in the SMH, (and documented elsewhere) Archbishop Jensen made an executive decision for the Sydney bishops not to attend Lambeth and that two assistant bishops were not happy about this.

There is little doubt that +Forsyth wanted to go to Lambeth.

As a result I don't think your assessment that "He wouldn't... even meet and take communion with those who consecrated him that concerns me" is accurate.

Brian R said...

He did not seem to make a lot of fuss about it, Anonymous. I think he did not want to miss out on the party. He is on record as leading the Sydney attack on Archbishop Carnley over his liberal views of homosexuality (This was during the time of Archbishop Goodhew, perhaps he was aiming to be next)
This lack of spine amongst some evangelical bishops exasperates me. Archbishop Peter Watson radically changed his public views after being elected to Melbourne.

James said...

I agree with you about the Prayer of Humble Access. In our American revision of the 1928 book, the PHA was slightly altered and the phrase that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body,and our souls washed through his most precious blood was omitted . Each week I stumble at that spot.

With the Collet for Purity, the PHA are my favourite BCP prayers.

Brian R said...

Thanks James
Yes I see those words have also been left out in 'an Australian prayer Book' of 1978. However at our church the whole prayer is left out probably because it is in the same section as the confession which we move to near the beginning of the service rather than just before communion. We do say (although not in the book) "Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed" immediately before communion which I guess has the same purpose. I know this from my time in Catholic schools.
The collect for purity is said right at the beginning of the service and tends to be a bit rushed. I must give it more thought.