In my opinion, one of the great treasures of Western Christianity is the collect. We have a treasury of collects that goes back fifteen centuries and further. A collect, like a haiku or a sonnet, has a particular, tight literary structure. It is memorable, general, and regularly expresses a profound Christian truth in a short compass. Anglicans inherit Cranmer’s magnificent translations from the crisp Latin. Roman Catholics are working on new translations of the collects (opening prayers) which will make them look a lot more like their Anglican equivalents. Many will remember memorising the great collects in Sunday School. On many occasions Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and others pray the same collect. New Zealand Anglicans, with a culture of flexibility, choose a collect from any source they like. Each week this site has provided a commentary on at least one of the great collects. Recently all NZ Anglican clergy and worship leaders were sent a new resource cutting options to one collect provided for each celebration. Whilst I energetically agree with the principle of common prayer, I even more energetically protest the vandalism that this resource does to our wonderful inherited collect taonga (treasure).
A collect concludes and completes the Gathering of the Community. Individuals gather, sing (one of the most unifying human experiences), and finally (1) are invited by the presider to (2) deep silent prayer which is (3) collected by the presider praying the collect which (4) is affirmed by the community’s Amen. After this we are gathered from being individuals to being a community ready together to hear what the Spirit is saying to us as the gathered church.
The collect (like haiku or sonnet) has its own particular, recognisable structure. In the five-fold structure, three parts are always present (marked *):
Who – Amplification (& motive)
*Do – Petition
To – Purpose (& motive)
*Through Jesus Christ…
An example of a collect that reaches back at least one and a half millennia and is prayed by Anglicans, Roman Catholics and others:
Let us pray (in silence) that we may love God in all things and above all things
pause for deep silent prayer
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding;
pour into our hearts such love towards you
that, loving you above all else,
we may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus Christ our Lord
who is alive with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Now compare this with the first “collect” in this new resource:
Praise to you, Christ our Redeemer
for you were circumcised this day
and given Jesus as your name.
Praise to you, Jesus, well are you named
for you save us from our sins.
Hear this prayer for your name’s sake.
This is not a collect. In this new resource, any person of the Trinity can be addressed at random rather than the great liturgical tradition of praying to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. It is a lovely little prayer that so easily gets lost in the re-cluttered vestibule of the gathering rite of those who do not understand the grammar of liturgy.
The “collects” of this new resource were sent with the information that “The Common Life Liturgical Commission has been working on developing replacement pages for pages 550 – 723 of our Prayerbook.” Many leaders in our church, not being clear about our processes, have taken this at face value and now think that those pages have been formally replaced. But those pages of our Prayer Book are binding formularies of our church. They can only be replaced by (1) a vote resulting in agreement in all houses and tikanga of our General Synod, (2) assent by a majority of our diocesan synods and Hui Amorangi, (3) another vote in a newly elected General Synod, followed by (4) a year’s wait before they become such a replacement. This “collect” resource has not even been presented to General Synod (step 1). If and when it reaches stage 2 I will be voting against these becoming formularies, against their replacing our current pages. Those pages of course need replacing – but not in this manner. Those of us committed to orthodoxy (which means “right worship”) currently have a choice in which collect we use and can continue to use either a classic or more recent collect (in the style and usage given above).
Furthermore, the material is presented with the claim that “the endings are now consistent throughout” – this is clearly false. Sometimes each year is presented with the same collect at the expense of our inherited, shared collect (eg. Epiphany). Sometimes, it seems there has not even been the slightest attempt to read the collect aloud, eg. “… help us to see to see…” (Lent 3 Year B).
The typos in the text indicate this is not a quick drawing from a digital version, someone has put a lot of energy into typing up this text. Apologies to the person(s) who has(/have) put such effort into this resource that I am so under-whelmed by its usefulness and appropriateness.
Further reading on collects
If you are interested, there is more on this approach to the use of the collect in Chapter 6 of Celebrating Eucharist.