PART I: From an Episcopalian, “This Worship service doesn’t seem like the one I knew in my old church?

The short answer is that our worship service adds much ceremonial but is absolutely from The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and follows the rules set out in that book. Therefore, the worship service should be almost the same as any other Episcopal Church using The Book of Common Prayer. That said, there are many allowed variations for our Eucharist. In very general terms some of the ornamentation’s, ritual actions, or the sung worship may seem different but in reality are the same words worked out differently and in a different context. But there are some things worth noting.

Eucharistic Prayers

Eucharistic Prayers are those prayers that found in what is called The Holy Communion (p. 333 BCP Rite I or P.361 BCP Rite II) . The current American prayer book authorizes two basic approaches called Rite I, based on older language and rooted in the Church of England and Church of Scotland prayer evolutions. It is more historic and leans more towards historic Protestant worship but still retains historic Roman and Eastern Church parts. The other foundational approach is called Rite II. Those are the ones in most common use and use contemporary language rather than dated English.

Of some note: many say that the Rite I service is “Penitential” AND catholic while Rite II is not penitential and is more Protestant. IN FACT, Rite I by its pedigree is the more Protestant of the two forms and Rite II varies between a more ecumenical to a more purely catholic worship. FACT: both forms provide for a Penitential part.

There is only one deviation at St. Anna’s and that is following the appointed “Invitation” (“The gifts of God for the people of God…) we have inserted “Behold the Lamb of God” which is taken from John 1:19, then followed by “Lord I am not worthy..” which is drawn as its basis from the healing miracle of the servant of a Centurion found in Matthew 8. These phrases are permitted in Rite I but are clearly, by the Prayer Book, omitted in Rite II. Yes, as Pastor I take the approach that those words are very significant to a community that seeks healing. Further, they are said not in place of the called for Invitation but in addition to the Invitation in Rite II. These phrases also point toward a more incarnational understanding of the Eucharistic elements of bread and wine which is as a matter of course more an inclination of personal piety rather than dogmatic doctrinal teaching. For we Episcopalians it is enough to say that we believe in the “Real Presence” of Christ in Communion.

The Ornamentation’s of Ritual Liturgy

The Book of Common Prayer provides for many directions and use in the liturgy. Optional parts are noted and are suggested but not required. One may discern this whenever the use of the word “may” is found in the directives. These directives are almost always in italics in the BCP. If the word “may” is omitted one should understand that it is a direction to be performed by the Celebrant and/or People or all such as following the absolution from sin after the Confession (BCP p. 360). At The Peace the prayer book rubric (rule or direction) says, “ All stand. The Celebrant says to the people…..” This, in effect, requires the congregation to stand at this point without variation. This is only one of many examples of so called rubrics. An example of an optional rubric is, “During the Offertory, a hymn, psalm or anthem may be sung.” (BCP p. 361) This provides options to the liturgy.

Some of the ornaments and additions to liturgy that we do at St. Anna’s may or may not be done in other Episcopal Churches. Some examples of optional liturgical movement are: (1) for principal worship services the “Holy Ministers” being Thurifer, Acolyte, Sub-Deacon, Deacon, Priest, process down the center aisle. Not all churches do this – most do – but some don’t (it falls on the side of a more catholic or High Church piety). In fact many churches do not have or support the office of Sub-Deacon. This is a lay ministry and not part of the ordained ministry. More churches are starting to recognize another lay ministry in the person of Verger; at St. Anna’s he/she is the one with a staff (wand) and wears more academic attire. The equivalent in the Roman Church is that of Master of Ceremony (on occasion that term may be used in Anglo Catholic Churches). Our Bishop, Morris, far prefers the Anglican designation Verger over M.C.

The use of incense is particular to a type of spirituality and piety that finds itself in churches that are High Church, Anglo Catholic, and with some moderate use in Broad Church liturgies. It is purely optional. With all of that being said…

Is there an authority on liturgy? Or is our liturgy made up?

As stated earlier, St. Anna’s follows the rules and directives of The Book of Common Prayer. Yet, the BCP is not intended to outline nor dictate all of the liturgical movements or actions of the worship party or congregation. Those movements are largely localized and particular to each church. Keeping in mind a common heritage and Anglican identity, those movements may often, for the better part, be similar from church to church. For instance, the old axiom is “Stand to sing, sit to learn/listen, and kneel to pray” tends to be a truism.

By and large the High Church liturgy of St. Anna’s is drawn from three sources. What has generally been done at St. Anna’s (called its “Customary”) how I, the priest, was taught in seminary (Nashotah House which is distinctly Anglo Catholic); and finally according to the directions set out in three written sources which are: Ritual Notes by Lamburn, The Parson’s Handbook by Percy Dearmer, and A Manual for Priest of the American Church (ed. 1970). Some churches may have “Liturgy Committees”, some churches may enjoy consultations. The BCP calls for a worship framework and further additions to that framework, as authorized by the National Church,  appear in a book called, Enriching Our Worship I & II.

say this about worship:

Sec. 5 . Rectors and Priests-in-Charge and Their Duties

            (a)(1)  The Rector or Priest-in-Charge shall have full authority and responsibility for the conduct of the worship and the spiritual jurisdiction of the Parish, subject to the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, the Constitution and Canons of this Church, and the pastoral  direction of the Bishop.

            (2)        For the purposes of the office and for the full and free discharge of all functions and duties pertaining thereto, the Rector or Priest-in-Charge shall at all times be entitled to the use and control of the Church and Parish buildings together with all appurtenances and furniture, and to access to all records and registers maintained by or on behalf of the congregation.

As one can see, then, a great deal of latitude in historic context is given each church when it comes to how worship is done. But such is always, or should always, be done with the framework of the BCP and Enriching Our Worship and with profound respect and dignity, High, Low or Broad Church.

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