Travelling around NZ Anglicanland, when you are not worshipping with your own community, you get a better sense how everyone is just doing what is right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6; 21:25). Common Prayer still exists – in the sense of people joining together for communal worship in a single congregation. But, especially in Anglicanism, and other similar denominations, common prayer refers also to the shared worship life across/between different congregations. If anything defines Anglicanism, it is having a Book of Common Prayer.
Formalising The Anglican Church of Or
I started the nomenclature “The Anglican Church of Or” for New Zealand Anglicanism as a tongue-in-cheek term for two reasons:
- Most people (including bishops and our official church media) regularly get confused about the complicated title we have for our church (including confusion about ‘in’ and ‘of’ and where to put commas…)
- But more significantly: If people even got through understanding the confused and confusing worship agreements of our church, what is left is so flexible that to call it “common prayer” can only be taken as irony or sarcasm.
- I think that I first coined it (2008) when General Synod passed The Worship Template. Canon lawyers are now clear that was illegal – news that probably hasn’t filtered down to most communities or worship leaders and clergy.
Until now, if you wanted to read posts related to “The Anglican Church of Or” you had to search for that in the top-right search box of this website. And if I wanted to point to the collection of posts on the subject, I would link to such a search result for that string of words. The time has come to formalise. I have created a tag “Anglican Church of Or” and will go back through previous posts about this, adding that tag.
Worship in The Anglican Church of Or
Let me start this lightly: Our church sees The Epiphany as being a ‘Principal Feast’ that “is to be observed”. But we have two pages in our lectionary booklet for communities that observe it on 6 January, and another two pages for communities that observed it on 3 January. It might be one thing to be in the Northern Hemisphere’s deep midwinter, staying coldly in one place and knowing when your local community celebrates it, but here, with people moving about in summer holidays, one can come to community A on 3 January and find they will celebrate it on 6 January, and then by the time you have moved on to community B on 6 January, you see you missed their Epiphany celebration which they had 3 days earlier – Principal Feast, which is to be observed, not observed.
In the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia the agreements for worship are vague, confused, and confusing. There are no fixed responses, no fixed prayers that have to be used. If you are celebrating Eucharist the only thing that is required is that the Eucharistic Prayer be authorised somewhere in the Anglican Communion. Everything else can be taken from wherever you like, or you can make it up yourself. One Anglican priest recently said to me enthusiastically that Anglicans can now licitly use the Roman Rite indistinguishable from the RC parish down the road. If the Eucharistic Prayer you are using is authorised somewhere in the Anglican Communion, he is correct. If not, it’s pretty easy to adapt a prayer using our Prayer Book’s pp 512-514 framework. And the same is true should you want to mirror an English-language Eastern Orthodox rite. I’ve certainly been to Eucharist in Anglican churches using responses from the previous English translation of the RC Missal.
The apprehension expressed by Rev. Tobias Haller is only magnified in our NZ context:
I’m concerned about a larger issue here, concerning this movement towards optionality. The approach taken … to urge the decision … onto the local community, strikes me as an ironic top down insistence on a grass-roots approach. It is also a bit at odds with the notion of “common prayer” — but then, the trend since 1979 has been towards a menu of options for the liturgy and the lectionary, …. Logical, true, but is any or all of this actually desirable? Does it build up the church as an organic unity (with a tolerable degree of variety) or parcel it out into partitions and parties so various that any commonality is lost? I am not suggesting that all things need be the same in all places, but the loss of some sort of fixed center for the compass leads to a misshapen circle.
The culture (read ‘idol’) of creativity and flexibility is so ingrained and unquestioned that people here clearly do not even blink when they read in our lectionary booklet (image above, p124 printed; p127 online):
…Christmas Day… Easter Day… The Day of Pentecost… are not normally displaced… except in accordance with the guidelines provided by General Synod…
No, you, beyond NZ’s shores, did not read that wrong. Easter Day is not normally displaced in our church – except in accordance with the guidelines provided by General Synod!
NZ Anglican Common Prayer Reboot
“Common prayer”, if it is to mean anything, has to mean, surely, at the very least, that there is a commonly acknowledged spine, a backbone and skeleton – so that one can move from community to community sensing this commonality; so that clergy can move from community to community leading in this commonality. The value of such common prayer also means that when I pray at home, the Daily Office, I continue to pray as part of the wider church. Instead of common prayer, liturgy, in NZ Anglicanism, is an ever-expanding collection of resources, one person’s favourite bit from here, tacked on, often incoherently, to another person’s favourite bit from there.
NZ Anglicanism takes the numbering of “Ordinary Time” from Roman Catholicism and glues it, without reflection, onto the northern-hemisphere CofE start of Ordinary Time, so that we say we start “Ordinary Time” after February 2 (or optionally after the Sunday between 28 January and 3 February – which means, of course, that one community’s Ordinary Sundays can start a week later than its neighbour’s) but we call that first Sunday “The 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time”!
Our General Synod gets the requirements for weddings confused.
Eucharistic agreements, I’ve already mentioned above, are almost nonexistent.
And when we do have clear agreements, they are disregarded all the way to ordination.
I think common prayer in NZ Anglicanism needs a reboot, a fresh start from the ground up (and with solid foundations put down first). This is not a call for uniformity – far from it. I consistently shudder at the mimicking of what is liturgically appropriate in one context into a context where it is totally out of place. Common prayer is not cookie-cutter worship, cloning.
What holds NZ Anglicanism together?
Are we just holding together as the shrinking dying spiritual club around our shared club houses and a Kiwi Anglican two degrees of separation?
Or is it, as historic Anglicanism has had it, common prayer?