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Anglican Church of Or

Oct3The New Zealand Anglican Lectionary is well known for providing a mind-numbing number of options, but is this Sunday a record?

For a morning service it provides 10 (count them!) TEN psalm options – and if you don’t like any of them, you can use Lam 3:19-26 “for the Psalm”! It also provides ten readings to choose from for the Old Testament reading, then (sorry, only) nine options for the Epistle, and seven suggestions for the Gospel. If you can find a Sunday in the lectionary with more options, please put this in the comments below and I will withdraw my application for the entry in the Guinness World Records 2011 book!

The Sunday doesn’t have a lot of titles: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Proper 22, 19th Sunday after Pentecost,… and only suggests two liturgical colours (the record is all four!)

There has been talk previously of researching what percentage of Anglican communities in NZ actually follow the lectionary – on this coming Sunday those who do not will need great care to choose a reading which is not covered by the lectionary 😉

ps. I bet you some communities will make Sunday the feast of St Francis with the blessing of animals instead of the above options.

pps. If you know the date of Dedication and Consecration (and hence are not using that proper) and you are at least reading one lesson (and if my Maths is right) you have 419 options for readings today – in the morning! If you don’t know the date of Dedication or Consecration, that gives you another 49 options for morning readings. And if, alternatively, St Francis is a further possibility in your community, that gives you another 41 options for Sunday morning readings.

ppps. WOOPS!!! I’ve just remembered: the NZ Prayer Book has a two year lectionary cycle which is a formulary of our church, it is not in the lectionary (above) but still totally “legal” & giving another 23 options! And then there’s the BCP (1662) lectionary. I don’t even remember if that is still “legal”…

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13 thoughts on “Anglican Church of Or”

  1. Bosco,
    Please keep up this line of argument. Something has got to give … surely.
    Notions of “the lectionary” in our church are verging on nonsense (and are nonsense on certain days of the year such as tomorrow).
    The point of the lectionary is that it guides our common reading of Scripture together. But if the lectionary itself cannot guide that common reading, because it creates diversity of reading, then those who do not follow the lectionary are in no way diverging from our common reading. They are merely making Joseph’s coat more colourful (so to speak).

    1. Maggi, I’m not sure I want to be constructing a lectionary based on people only occasionally attending church. And I certainly do not want to have a lectionary that avoids biblical “awful” stuff.

      We are totally on the same page here I think, Peter, except my reading of Genesis departs from your LXX-type interpretation of the Hebrew at Gen 37:3 et al – I go with the coat with long sleeves reading 🙂 (ps. I think Screwtape is delighted!)

  2. I don’t know, Bosco – you can eliminate most of them by choosing whether you are in a feast of dedication or not, and after that the continuous/related look reasonably normal and several readings are the same for both. The extra stuff for the day either side of Francis – well, I guess you either want to wade through that or you don’t.

    Much worse is when there are very few choices and they are all awful and don’t give you any wiggle room

    Here’s a question for you: do you think the continuous list is useful? For me it falls down because most people don’t come to church every single week so they inevitably miss an “episode”

  3. Bosco, I don’t mean “only occasionally” in the sense of four times a year, I had in mind more that normal patterns of churchgoing no longer mean regular = most weeks (not in the UK at any rate, maybe it’s different in NZ). Here attending 2 weeks out of 4 would count as high commitment, simply because people are often away at weekends, because of more mobile lifestyles. Hence continuous lectionary doesn’t quite work.

    I’d love to know what principles you would lay down for beginning to construct a new lectionary. I’ve been trying to construct one for a University Chapel that works around the fact that students miss several weeks at a time in vacations. We generally stick with RCL related for Sunday mornings, on the basis that we want to stay connected to what a large proportion of the global church does, but sometimes it feels nonsensical to our local life.

    1. Yes, I understand completely, Maggi, that people are far more committed to keeping up with a daily TV soap opera, or a weekly TV serial than the 10 minutes it takes to read our agreed biblical texts each week. I understand that monthly church is very normal for many. But – let’s think through this logically for a moment – what type of lectionary could we design that takes into account monthly attendance, in the knowledge that people will be choosing a different Sunday for their monthly visit? One option: just have 12 sets of readings and repeat each set every Sunday in a month? Those who attend weekly – tough – we are normalising monthly attendance. In fact just recycle your sermon each Sunday in a month: “this is my October sermon – going with the October readings”.

      My alternative suggestion: let’s stay with the ecumenically agreed readings – imperfect as the lectionary is, and when your students are “on vacation” suggest they either (a) attend another church (b) read the readings they are missing (10 minutes a week in the Bible) or (c) read them online eg. at this site. [(d) they just “miss a biblical episode”]

      All that having been said, I am not a lectionary fundamentalist – there will be times and contexts when adaptation and moving certain readings and feasts (or abandoning the lectionary for a particular day) – but exceptions should not be the source of what we hold in common. Let us rejoice in what holds us in common and not get too scrupulous when that isn’t appropriate on an occasion. The problem with our NZ Anglican liturgical life, that I am highlighting here, might be seen to be attempting to “legislate” for every exception – rather than having something to hold us in common and having the formation and training to understand a particular moment when the appropriate thing is to vary from that commonality.

  4. So, ten psalm options, eh? Well I can guarantee that here in the UK, you’d be hard-pressed to find a self-identifying “evangelical” church that manages regularly to achieve even one psalm portion each Sunday… despite out claims (don’t laugh, please) to be “biblical” in our worship.

    I reckon that our clergy training colleges have been lamentably failing our congregations. We’ve had a generation or more of fresh-faced and bushy-tailed vicars who can preach an entire sermon series on a single half-verse of Romans, and who can buy into the marketing hype of populist feel-good “worship leading” songs (whose words say “it’s all about you, all about you, Jesus” but whose practice demonstrates “it’s all about me, me feeling good, Jesus”). And those vicars, trained the way they are, are depriving us (the mere mortal laity in the pews) from the discipline of regular psalm use and the depriving us permission to lament in worship, because they’ve deprived us of the psalms.

    So, ten psalm options? And you noticed them enough to be concerned? Be thankful… you’re forty times better off us than many of us here in the UK…

    1. Thank you, David, for your contribution, with which I heartily agree.

      We could easily end up in a Monty Pythonesque skit of which church is worse, but I assure you, the picture you paint is not unrecognisable here. Except that we do not having minimum standards for ordination here. Our church does not keep national statistics, but a guestimate is that less than 7% of our clergy are trained at our only national theological college. Training and formation there in the last two decades or so has been so dire that the Board of Oversight has been suspended until 2012 and replaced with a Commissioner.

      It would be good to have some proper research on this. In my own limited experience the lectionary is regularly ignored here. Or if used, people continue to clutter the vestibule of the Gathering of the Community and then reduce the number of readings set. The focus is on the preparation – not what we are preparing for!

      Like you, I believe a mature Christian life is sustained in the psalms.



  5. This comment begins with a story, whose relevance will become clearer later. A teacher at my school once told me that the reason public exams like GCSEs had to start at particular times is that every candidate in the country is theoretically taking the exam together, as though they were in a very large (virtual) room.

    At the end of the Office (at least where I’m sitting), there is the prayer of St Chrysostom:

    “Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you, and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them…”

    I don’t know, but I’d imagine that a fairly large proportion of observance of the Office these days is done in private, alone. So how are we to understand this prayer? Tell me if I’m wrong, but I’ve always thought of it in terms of my teacher’s explanation of exams. All of us are saying the same office at the same time, even though we’re alone, and so there are far more than two or three of us. And this is one advantage of the use of liturgy in private prayer.

    But it seems to me that if it’s an advantage in private prayer, how much more is it an advantage in public prayer! There are millions of us, all at the same time, praying the same psalms.

    Giving ten choices of psalm seems to defeat this.

  6. I have started in the last month at a new church that does not follow the lectionary. We are working our way through the Gospel of John. While there were many times I wondered about the lectionary and the options for preaching, I have to admit that I miss it right now. There is a sense of connection to other pastors. I used to belong to a group that would email one another about the passages and who was preaching what topic. It was a joy to be able to talk with other pastors about the scripture passages. But I have to say this week it might have been a bit overwhelming with all those options.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Martha. You are right – one of the values of the lectionary is that we can share ideas, reflection, resources. That includes like this, online. In case it has not been clear: I, on this site, am committed to the three year/RCL readings. There was nothing overwhelming in that, with the usual psalm, Old Testament reading (either themed to the gospel or semi-continuous), epistle, and gospel readings. This blog post is about New Zealand Anglicanism not being satisfied with that and providing such a “wealth” of options as to be ridiculous IMO. Overwhelming, as you say. I do not think any other church or denomination is providing such a plethora of options and calling it a “lectionary”! Hence, my calling us “the Anglican Church of Or”. Like Peter in the comment above I hope that those responsible will bring us back to common worship.

  7. That will explain why I, as a beginner, am so confused by the NZ lectionary.

    Can anyone offer suggestions about which set of readings would be the best one to follow for personal devotional use?

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