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Leaving the Prayer Book

New Zealand Prayer BookIt is not unknown to go to worship in an Anglican Church in NZ and to find that barely a single response is drawn from A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (ANZPBHKMA). And sometimes no responses or words whatsoever are drawn from our Prayer Book. And not only is this allowed – one reading of the recent meeting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) is that it is to be encouraged.

In this year of the 25th anniversary of the Prayer Book it is worth reflecting on how this came about.

The NZ Prayer Book has “A Form for Ordering the Eucharist” obviously based on The Episcopal Church’s BCP (pages 400-405) An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist. This TEC rite is clear that it “is not intended for use at the principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist”. And the NZ Prayer Book version, similarly, had the second rubric on page 511 which read

It is intended for particular occasions and not for the regular Sunday Celebration of the Eucharist.

But then in 1996 GSTHW passed that “it is desirable to alter the rubrics which constitute part of the Formulary [agreed doctrine and/or practice] ‘A Form for Ordering the Eucharist’ to enable more regular use of that form of service.” And it did this “by deleting the second rubric”. This change to the formularies was confirmed at GSTHW 1998, and came into effect in 1999.

After this, for the Eucharist (including the regular Sunday Celebration of the Eucharist) you could use lots of different responses, borrow them from other countries or places, even make them up, or not use responses at all. But there was still a minimum of responses and agreed words for the Great Thanksgiving (the Eucharistic Prayer).

But wait, there’s more!

No real reason was given why, in 2004, GSTHW passed Statute 638 (Bill No 7) other than that The Common Life Liturgical Commision “has produced two forms of service” and “it is desirable that the GSTHW should make provision for them.” One of these forms was ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist’. This confused and confusing rite not only now allowed the borrowing and creation of any responses and texts (and the removal of any requirement to use local material) but expanded the previous provision by allowing any Eucharistic Prayer authorised by the equivalent to General Synod in any member church of the Anglican Communion [whether the doctrine embodied in those prayers is binding on us here now is beyond my ability to grasp].

I spoke firmly against this development, and our diocesan synod 2004 not only declined to assent to this Statute but instructed “the Diocesan Manager be asked to convey to the Common Life Liturgical Commission, the Tikanga Pakeha Liturgical Working Group and the General Secretary of this church, the reservations expressed by this Synod, including:

that the current formularies already provide sufficient direction and flexibility and that this new measure is unnecessary and confusing

that the schedule detailing the new alternative forms, by omitting details included in the documents from the 5th International Liturgical Consultation Dublin 1995, have failed to indicate the priority to be attributed to each element.

[Of interest, after this year’s 2014 meeting of GSTWH and its acknowledgement that the church has acted inconsistently with the 1928 Act and produced services that lack fundamental authorisation in the first place, is that this 2004 statute misunderstood the Church of England Empowering Act so badly that it said that from the 2004 passing of the statute “The experimental use of these services is permitted in terms of Section 4(A) of the said Act” when, of course, anyone who actually read the Act should have known that this is not the case until “after the proposal has received the assent of the majority of the Diocesan Synods”.]

In any case, this statute was confirmed at GSTHW 2006 and, hence, came into effect in 2007.

No words from the New Zealand Prayer Book need to be used whatsoever in the principal, weekly celebration of the Eucharist, or other services that your community holds.

There is no question that ‘A Form for Ordering the Eucharist’ and ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist’ are legal, they are formularies of our church. That means that even bishops, who might like to see some common prayer return to their diocese, can no more prevent their use than they might attempt to impose one Eucharistic rite (say “Thanksgiving and Praise” pp476ff) over another (say “Thanksgiving for Creation and Redemption” pp456ff).

Astonishingly, the confused and confusing ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist’ is presented by this year’s meeting of GSTHW as being the norm that they hope a future meeting GSTHW will make central to a future revising of Title G Canon XIV. This current GSTHW is hoping for, it says, that future services will

be authorised by Bishops or whole Tikanga, but would have to be:

Based on ‘A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word’ and/or ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering The Eucharist’.

I cannot imagine there is any other Anglican province in the Anglican Communion which has so readily and so rapidly formally given away its tradition of common prayer.

This is the second post on the Twenty-fifth anniversary of A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa
The first was NZ Prayer Book 25 Years On

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19 Responses to Leaving the Prayer Book

  1. Kia Ora, Bosco

    I am quite shocked by this post. The korero that there are churches out there who don’t use even a single prayer from the NZPB is a revelation to me.

    I couldn’t think of a single church in Tikanga Maori that wouldn’t use the 476 on a Sunday morning, the thought then that there would be a church that doesn’t use anything at all from our Prayer Book completely astonishes me.

    One, of the many things I love about being Anglican is the tradition of common prayer. There is something reassuring and indeed unifying about knowing (perhaps I better change that to assuming) that on a Sunday morning you are a part of a group, indeed a family that shares a common whakapapa and history that is made manifest in common prayer. It’s unfortunate if even that assumption can no longer be made.

    • Kia Ora, Christopher,

      When I pray, I tend to want to do much “by heart”, picking up a text for a hymn, psalm, or long prayer. Like you, I appreciate common prayer uniting me with the church currently and back through time to Jesus and beyond into our Jewish roots. Some of my most grating moments, then, are when the priest or leader uses the same cue as in our NZPB but they have found or created a completely different response so that when I naturally go to use ours I find myself in competition with others rather than in unity with them. There is an idolatry of creativity, and a tyranny of “keeping things fresh”, which misunderstands how a repeated discipline of prayer grows deeper and deeper into us; it even misunderstands ordinary human dynamics – we do not, day to day, construct new ways to greet one another. Arohanui!

  2. When I lived in community, we were encouraged to seek other forms of private prayer using prayer books from different denomination and provinces. Here and there, in the NZPB, some wonderful phrases remain part of my daily worship, mostly those prayers that are older forms rewritten in modern English and that can be adapted, but the book itself ( unlike many others ) has been confined to the back of the bookcase. For the greater part it is so wordy and unnatural, and, the whole concept of the priest and a lay person bobbing up and down in the book makes for very poor liturgy.
    Whereas many other denominations hailed it as a breakthrough 25 years ago, I don’t feel it has stood the test of time.

    • Thanks, Graham-Michoel. I would be interested in your expanding what you mean by “the whole concept of the priest and a lay person bobbing up and down in the book”. Certainly the NZ Prayer Book had an emphasis on language, poetic and inclusive. This led to the verbosity you refer to. It can with good study, training, and formation be used for appropriate contemporary liturgy. Certainly revising some of the verbosity would help, but the bigger issue is its formal abandonment, and its actual neglect. And of course the ongoing need to begin providing good liturgical study, training, and formation here. Blessings.

  3. The hardest single factor of crossing the Tasman is, for me, the nonchalant attitude of NZ Anglicans towards this (flawed) taonga the Prayer Book. I have wrestled with an understanding of the history of this, and lamely return to questions around the relative absence of Oxford Movement influence in the CMS-dominated history of NZ Anglicanism, combined with an enormous and unfettered influence of the charismatic movement that was still dominating NZ ecclesiology at the time the NZPB/HKMOA was midwifed. That unfettered charismania made way to a left-field liberal theology in subsequent decades but that had little interest in a formalised liturgical taonga, either. NZPB/HKMOA itself reflects a little of this in some of its left-field constructions, particularly around the Eucharist and Daily Offices.

    The prayer book and its liturgy is a servant of kerygma, and we are selling gospel short with our slovenly approach. But I can only influence my own tiny sphere, and so have given up trying to seek a more constitutional approach to disciplined liturgy. But influence my own tiny sphere I can and will, and only hope that occasionally others are inspired by the encounter with powerful Christ-bearing, resurrection- and justice-breathing liturgy.

  4. Hi Bosco and Christopher,
    There is a little bit of potential here for a form of ‘mischief’ in our understanding of what is going on in our church, as highlighted by a couple of correspondents to me this morning.

    1. The statement re “No words from the New Zealand Prayer Book need to be used whatsoever in the principal, weekly celebration of the Eucharist, or other services that your community holds.” is strictly true but may give an impression to erstwhile liturgists that no ‘authorised’ prayers need be used at the eucharist. That is not the case (as Bosco does say) but I wonder if highlighting those words creates an impression which is unintentionally misleading (i.e. does it lead people to think that if no NZPB words need to be used then they are free to use any words)?
    2. In my experience (to take up Christopher’s concern) most churches conducting a eucharist do use words from NZPB. They may not use as many as one might reasonably expect, and there may be some unexpected variations, but NZPB to one degree or another is widely used for eucharists. It is a different story re non-eucharistic services but then the freedom to use any words from anywhere is much freer for such services.

    • Thanks, Peter.

      1) If your correspondents find my highlighted words to mean something they clearly do not say then you have located the origin of the ‘mischief’. The highlighting is because I cannot think of any other church in the Anglican Communion that has formally abandoned its common prayer in the manner described in this post. Can you?

      2) Sure, as you say, “NZPB to one degree or another is widely used for eucharists”. The percentage of services conducting a eucharist which do use words from NZPB or not, while interesting, is not the point of this post.

      While you assure Christopher “most churches conducting a eucharist do use words from NZPB. They may not use as many as one might reasonably expect, and there may be some unexpected variations” you also tell us you experience “examples of Anglican priests making unauthorised alterations – we clergy always seem to come across these when away on holiday”. [I could have emphasised your “always”. Certainly the “always” would be close to my own experience as well as yours.]

      Blessings.

      • Actually, Bosco, I am mostly blessed to find that it is not me who experiences unauthorised alterations! But colleagues tell a different story. Perhaps I should buy a Lotto ticket!

        • Peter, I don’t usually buy a Lotto ticket, but for some reason I bought one last weekend. I know you will be very surprised to hear – I didn’t win anything. So, if you do win something – some of that money was mine. Blessings.

  5. I think our rules around these things here in Canada are a little tighter than yours, but I still shake my head sometimes. I’m a child of the evangelical and charismatic movements myself, but I’m shocked at the freedom some of my colleagues seem to feel to rewrite stuff they ‘don’t agree with’. I took an oath when I was inducted that I would use the Book of Common Prayer ‘and none other’, except where it was duly authorized by the proper authority. I don’t consider myself a liturgical fundamentalist but I do think that I’m bound by that oath (and for good reason – as Peter points out over at ADU today, this is how we Anglicans ‘guard the gospel’).

    • Thanks, Tim. Yes, in what you write, I can see the invitation to prepare a post on the value of common prayer. Like you, Tim, I am no liturgical or rubrical fundamentalist. But as you suggest, the liturgy is not my private property, and those who worship together are protected from the whims and current obsessions of their clergy and leaders by all keeping to what we have agreed to. Unfortunately, what this post is about is the scantiness of what our church holds. Blessings.

  6. Hi Bosco,
    ….[whether the doctrine embodied in those prayers is binding on us here…..]Bosco.
    Will try to get through this without any spelling mistakes;however, my typos pale into insignificance; in comparison to Gen.Synod’s botch up.It seems that we are back to the issue of the disregard, which Gen.Synod, appears to holds our Constitution. There appears to be no desire to recognise our history and traditions.
    It is frightening to consider what all this can lead to when it is considered along with the report of the Commission on Doctrine and Theological questions where it is stated at B.3.2.1.: “We are acutely aware in this part of the world that we need to forge theology that is not born of the singular oppressive experience of patriachial, white, heterosexual men; we choose to priviledge the experience of the ‘other’ – the outcaste and the stranger”.
    This committee was chaired by the Jim White the co-Bishop of Auckland. When we questioned him on the issue as to whom the report was referring to in that remark, his reply was; “..the truth is the description fits most theologians standardly referred to and studied starting with, say Augustine and ….. do we stop at Barth, or Ratzinger”.
    So what will the new liturgy look like with the re-forged theology?
    Blessings

    • Dear Glen, perhaps it should be pointed out that the patriarchs were probably not white and could not have had a birthing moment in the literal sense. Nor could this have been singular, as “men” suggests more than one patriarch. One can only surmise that this comment came about as a consequence of some peculiarly oppressive nightmare suffered by your aforementioned bishop where he was interrogated on his theology by the ghosts of theologians past!s

  7. I recently asked my Archbishop for permission to use a Thanksgiving Prayer authorised for use in NZ for services with children. I have a congregation of Africans in Perth whose grasp of English is to say the least limited, but they want the liturgy in English. My Archbishop replied that it did “not fit with the Anglican Church of Australia’s faith and doctrine.” I found this kind of response a little extraordinary, and I would love to have the freedom that you guys in NZ have.

    • Thanks. Please use your ordinary name in commenting here. Might it be possible to rein in our “freedom” and restore common prayer as the norm, and still have facility to deal pastorally with exceptions? Blessings.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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