The Common Life Liturgical Commission (CLLC) is the provincial liturgical body of the three-tikanga (cultural streams) church, The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. The Tikanga Pakeha Liturgical Working Group (TPLWG) is the pakeha liturgical committee, with at least a representative from each diocese, that feeds in to the CLLC. TPLWG meets three days this week in Wellington.
At the General Synod meeting this year, a motion passed (motion 5) to replace the NZ Prayer Book pages 549 to 723 with RCL readings and each Sunday having a single collect assigned to it. Currently each Sunday is provided with three options for a collect. As with much liturgical legislation in our province, the motion is confusing. The NZ Prayer Book is a formularly of our church; any alteration requires a complex process – a motion to General Synod cannot alter a formulary. Secondly, traditionally collects are addressed to God (the First Person of the Trinity), through Christ, in the power of the Spirit. Many, many collects in the motion 5 concept, with no choice provided for an alternative, are addressed to Jesus or to the Spirit. Such prayers may be appropriate and good in another context but IMO not here. Currently, of course, people are allowed to use anything whatsoever, but should the pendulum swing back towards common prayer, (at the very least) I want the option of the Trinitarian collect to be available. Hence, I have written the following open letter to TPLWG:
I am writing concerned about the direction that our Anglican collects are taking. As you are well aware our Eucharist combines two movements: a Ministry of Word and Prayer, and a Ministry of the Sacrament. At the heart of each of these two movements is a prayer; the Collect (Opening Prayer) in the former, and The Great Thanksgiving (Eucharistic Prayer) in the latter. In our tradition these prayers, at the heart of the Eucharist, are addressed to God (the First Person of the Trinity) in and through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit:
in the power of the Holy Spirit,
with all who stand before you
in earth and heaven,
we worship you, Creator God. Amen.
As you will know, the exception of addressing Jesus in the East-Syrian Eucharistic Prayer, The Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari, proves the rule.
Similarly, the great tradition is to address collects to God, in Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Sunday collects in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer all except one were addressed to God (the First Person of the Trinity), in and through Christ, in the power of the Spirit. Again, the exception of Lent 1 addressed to Jesus, underscores the general rule.
This tradition in collect and Eucharistic Prayer is not random – it embodies, celebrates, and engenders the very relationship that Christ came to bring, our incorporation into Christ, and our transformation into Christ’s life and Christ’s relationship to God. We are and are becoming by grace what Christ is by nature.
This heart of our Christian spirituality, our heritage and birthright is precarious in the West and now, in particular, in NZ Anglicanism. From NZ’s 1966 revision, this tradition and its understanding appears to have been abandoned. In that 1966 revision 20 Sunday collects were addressed to Jesus, and a couple to the Holy Spirit. In our Prayer Book (1989) every Sunday was provided with three options and collects to Jesus and the Holy Spirit proliferated.
Those of us who wished to preserve this precious gift of Trinitarian orthodoxy (literally “right worship”) using our Prayer Book could still choose a collect addressed to God, through Christ in the Spirit, from the three provided each Sunday.
But there is a new development.
At General Synod 2010 Motion 5 (which passed) assigned one collect and one collect only to the RCL readings. As with so much of our liturgical legislation, there is ongoing immense confusion about the status of such material and of this motion. The process in which such a collect was assigned reinforces the common mistaken NZ notion which searches for a “theme” amongst the RCL readings choice.
But the primary issue that concerns me is that so many, many Sundays are now being assigned a collect addressed to Jesus or the Holy Spirit, as if, at this point in the service there is no significance to which Person of the Trinity is addressed. The impression given is that we can spin a bottle and address whichever Person of the Trinity it stops at.
There is no question that prayer to Jesus and prayer to the Holy Spirit is appropriate and good – in its appropriate context and understanding of that Person. But the Persons of the Trinity are not simply interchangeable.
I make this public plea for the Tikanga Pakeha Liturgical Working Group to stop going forward in this direction. Collects are a significant part of our Anglican heritage. Many Anglicans memorised them and they formed a backbone of our spirituality – “by heart”.
Personally, I would prefer that each Sunday (and major feast) be provided with a collect that stands in the wonderful revised collect tradition that we, as Anglicans, have inherited. At the very least I passionately beseech you to provide those committed to common prayer with the option on every occasion of a collect addressed to God, through Christ, in the Spirit.
Blessings in Christ
Rev. Bosco Peters