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Welcome to the “new format” Liturgy website.



This is an ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

Author Archives: Bosco Peters

Holding ones Fingers Correctly at Mass?

Hands at Mass

A recent comment quoted Episcopal bishop Charles Jenkins who said

Before the storm [Hurricane Katrina], “I thought Christianity and priesthood were primarily about the cult,” Jenkins said. “And doing the actions correctly — holding my fingers correctly at Mass, not wearing brown shoes when celebrating the Mass. That it was getting all those right.

“And I was missing the larger picture of the dignity of humanity and the world for whom Christ died.”

This particular, regular commenter here frequently accuses liturgy of focusing too much on “man made” rules at the expense of morality.

Let me put a bit of a frame around this. Many will know of seminary training with a tied circle of string that theologs used around their hands to train for presiding so that during the consecration they held their hands, as in the picture above, not extending beyond the edges of the corporal on which stood all and only that which was to be consecrated. Some continue to insist that before, during, and after the consecration thumb and forefinger are to be kept together (again as in the image above).

That is one end of the spectrum. Towards the other end, I regularly see clergy presiding, wearing a far-too-short alb, sitting cross-legged, alb splayed more than a slit dress at an Emmys award ceremony, hanging open either side of their crossed legs in a gesture of “I’m only wearing this alb because I have to, and don’t worry I’m a real Kiwi bloke and not taking this cross-dressing seriously”. Or in full vestments presiding with hands behind their back. And so on.

The Gospel reading for the Eucharist on Tuesday this week fits with this reflection. Jesus said:

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practised without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.

I, on this site, am committed to justice, ethics, morals and to best practice worship (individually and communally), worship that is both an end in itself, and that empowers for justice, ethics, morals as its fruit.

The reducing of everything to binary options of either/or is a mistake. Mostly it is both/and.

I am regularly at pains to point out the error of liturgy-as-cloning, as if the exact practice in one place should be mimicked in another place which has quite a different context. Rather, we need to seek principles that may work across most if not all contexts. We need training, study, and formation to come to a fluency in the “liturgical language” of symbol, gesture, architecture, and so on.

Listen to Jesus’ words again: “It is these you ought to have practised without neglecting the others.” Jesus is both/and. Jesus is not saying: focus on justice but don’t wash the dishes!

Let’s return to the context of the Bishop Charles Jenkins’ quote:

Before Hurricane Katrina, in the days when Jenkins says he was focused more on the well-being of his predominantly white church than his predominantly black city, [white Charles Jenkins and black Jerome Smith] might never have crossed paths….Fundamentally, Jenkins has embarked on a personal re-education in which he seeks to see the city through the eyes of the poor.

The issue with Bishop Charles was not valuing quality liturgy, it was the lack of connection with the real context in which God had placed him.

In a game of football the primary purpose may be the scoring of goals, but one would be surprised if a captain and coach would encourage the team to arrive in motley disarray, their kit filthy, and loud-mouthing the opposition. Certainly, if all the focus is on those things, and the minutia of throwing in, for example, and no attention was paid whatsoever to attempting to score any goals, then we are in the Bishop Charles situation. But where both/and are valued we are probably in for a good game.

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Canadian Anglican Collects

Anglican Church of Canada

The Anglican Church in Canada is working on collects for the three-year cycle of Sundays and Feast Days. It has put online a set of collects, for the Sundays and Feast Days in 2014 (Year A), providing two choices of alternate collects, based on the lectionary readings for the day. These, for example, are theContinue Reading

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A Good Quality Wine

Chalice of wine

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is quite clear that “the wine for the Eucharist should be a good quality wine.” (NZPB/HKMA page 515). Our church will not be unique. Other Anglican churches will have a rubric or canon expressing this. It is mentioned in the Lambeth Quadrilateral: “The two Sacraments ordainedContinue Reading

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Mar Thoma in New Zealand

Mar Thoma Congregation

I presumed that there are a variety of Christians from India in New Zealand, but I don’t think I knew, until Phillip Tovey told me, that there is at least one Mar Thoma Church parish in New Zealand. And there are possibly other communities – I am trying to find out. The St Thomas MarContinue Reading

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Psalm 137

Babylon

In many ways, in many places, this has been a bleak month. War, and more war…, suicide, riots,… How can we sing God’s song in this context… And we find people taunting us. We find our inner voices taunting us… So Psalm 137 articulates this reality. In its time, the incredible had happened: the SouthernContinue Reading

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Grow the Church – From Anecdote To Evidence

From Anecdote To Evidence

I have opinions about how to grow Christian communities: Real, authentic worship – where people come and find a community intent on a journey of growing into their relationship with God; where there is a sense of the numinous; where it is clear people really care about this; beyond recitations of page numbers, pious poetryContinue Reading

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Move The Pews

Stay the same

I was with a group of clergy recently where I mentioned the idea of changing the configuration of seating for different seasons of the Church Year, for example: semicircle around the altar for one season; straight lines facing each other in “choir formation”, altar at one end, ambo/lectern at the other (or similar to thisContinue Reading

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