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Ashes to Fire

If Ashes to Fire is “authorised” will all other possibilities from Ash Wednesday until the Day of Pentecost be illegal?

Currently everything in Ashes to Fire (a resource for the Lent and Easter Seasons) is allowed to be used. But currently you can also use resources from the Canadian Book of Alternative Services, from the Church of England Common Worship, from the Roman Rite, and from any other resources that are useful and appropriate in your community’s context.

Ashes to Fire and other similar resources are allowable by fitting into A Form for Ordering the Eucharist (Prayer Book pages 511-514) and A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word.

At the last meeting of General Synod / te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) there was a Bill passed with a statute about Ashes to Fire. That statute is currently doing the rounds for assent by dioceses and hui amorangi.

  • Some people think that this action, when completed, will not make Ashes to Fire a formulary. This includes members of GSTHW and Tikanga Pakeha Liturgical Working Group. If they are correct the process will make absolutely no difference, and other Lent/Easter Season resources will continue to be allowed to be used. If they are correct the process is merely a piece of advertising that this resource is available – the advertising being heavily disguised in pretty incomprehensible legal language.
  • Some people think that this action, when completed, will make Ashes to Fire a formulary, but that other Lent/Easter Season resources will still continue to be allowed to be used. This includes members of GSTHW.
  • Some people think that this action, when completed, will make Ashes to Fire either a formulary or an “authorised service”, and that probably but by no means definitely other Lent/Easter Season resources will therefore become illegal to use. I think that the making of all other such resources illegal was and is not the intention of GSTHW, but part of the liturgical chaos (like the recent GSTHW motion 5 and the illegal planned Prayer Book printing) and related to losing our institutional memory about how to make liturgical decisions.

My understanding is that if there is no formulary you may use a variety of resources and create your own material as long as the doctrine in the formularies is not contradicted. Eg. as we do not have a formulary for blessing a racehorse we can construct such a rite as long as it does not conflict with our agreed formularies, but should GSTHW produce a formulary to bless a racehorse we must use that when blessing a racehorse.

Currently we do not have a formulary for the Lent/Easter Season such as Ashes to Fire and people have every right to use material from a variety of sources and construct their own appropriate to their particular context. That includes using Ashes to Fire either completely as is, or choosing parts from it your community finds useful. But should Ashes to Fire become a formulary (or possibly an “authorised service”) you may not be allowed to use Ashes-to-Fire-like services, you may be required to use Ashes to Fire.

Obviously I am not saying that if a community has no tradition or desire to follow Lent and Easter Season liturgies that you will, after this, be obligated to follow Ashes to Fire, just as no one is obligated that you must have a wedding in your parish at least once a year. But if you do have a wedding in your parish, you have no choice but to use a marriage formulary since a formulary exists for weddings. Similarly if you currently follow Lent/Easter Season rites in your parish that are akin to Ashes to Fire, then if Ashes to Fire becomes a formulary you will be required to abandon what you did and only use Ashes to Fire. A very experienced General Synod member quoted Title D Canon 1 Part A Clauses 4 and 11.4, and Part C2, Clause 3.4 that those not using Ashes to Fire would be in breach of.

Obviously there is very good material in Ashes to Fire. We need, however, to be much clearer to ourselves about what we are doing when we pass motions and bills.

Because of this I have been advocating that we should be much clearer about
1) what is required,
2) what is allowed, and
3) what is forbidden
and that we not proceed with any new liturgical authorisation until we are all clearly on the same page about that. Only after that should we honestly, simply, and clearly begin to discuss which of those three categories we want Ashes to Fire to really belong to.

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2 thoughts on “Ashes to Fire”

  1. Evangelical parishes will be fine, Bosco.
    I do not think any GS decision can rule Lenten Bible Studies out of order; and few if any such parishes observe Holy Saturday with services 🙂

    1. You are quite correct, Peter – and have understood and are agreeing with exactly what I am saying. This process will affect those communities that have a tradition of celebrating Lent and Easter Season from our early church roots. I suspect that there are some “Evangelical parishes” that this will affect also. Blessings.

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