I have been pressing the Anglican Church here to be upfront about the liturgical chaos in our province. I think there is huge confusion about what is required, allowed, and forbidden. And that alongside inadequate study, training, and formation in worship. General Synod Te Hinota Whanui 2012 (GSTHW) received a motion from our diocese seeking movement on this, but it did not discuss that motion, passing it on to Standing Committee to address. As we near the next meeting of GSTHW, we have heard no more about it. So I am going to start by making my own reflections on this.
I think that the minimum requirements are totally inadequate to preserve and encourage common prayer** in a relatively small worshipping community. We are careful not to gather national statistics, but I am going to guess that around 30,000 will gather for the Eucharist in Anglican Churches in New Zealand this Sunday – that’s the size of a hearty diocese in some places and in the past.
The requirements are:
- A priest [or bishop] leads The Great Thanksgiving.
- The bread for the Eucharist should be a good quality bread; the wine for the Eucharist should be a good quality wine.
- Any remaining consecrated bread and wine, unless reserved, is consumed.
- There is a reading from a Gospel [It is unclear if that Gospel reading must be the one either in BCP, 2 Year Series, 3 Year Series, or RCL; or can just be a verse chosen by someone, for example.]
- Any Eucharistic Prayer may be used that is approved by GSTHW, or equivalent, of any member church of the Anglican Communion.*
As far as I can see that’s it. Greetings, responses, singing, readings, movement, action, everything EVERYTHING! is possible. And nothing more is required. Let me put it more plainly for those who are skimming and take for granted their own experience – there is no requirement for collect, confession, blessing, any of the responses you experience, nothing that makes your church the same in anything whatsoever in the words said or sung as any other church in this land.
*and yes you did read that correctly: the only words required in the service need not be authorised here – we are perfectly happy to rely on others having authorised them in another country somewhere else. Even if those others forbid the use of their words for the normal Sunday Eucharist there – we can still use them for that here.
A case might be made that the only limitation (“what is forbidden”) would be anything that contradicts the formularies. Good luck with that!
I would love it if I am incorrect. If you aren’t sure, pass this post onto your diocesan lawyer (chancellor), bishop, GSTHW rep. Tell me where I have it wrong and why.
The surprise for some, beyond these shores, and possibly even within them, is that even with this unbelievable minimum requirement for our “common prayer”** many Anglicans on Sunday will flaunt this and do whatever they think is right in their own eyes. Each of the above 5 minimum points is broken in our province, without even much of a raised eyebrow.
**Do tell me what is held in common in this type of “common prayer”.