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displacing the nondisplaceable

As Anglicans in NZ begin to prepare for this coming Sunday service, the NZ Lectionary for January 1, 2012 reads:

This is a principal feast and should not be displaced by any other celebration.

They are then provided with the readings for The Naming of Jesus, and the 1st Sunday after Christmas, and the readings for New Year’s Day!!! Possibly those responsible for our lectionary do not understand what “should not be displaced by any other celebration” means? In the Anglican Church of Or (previously known as the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia) I have regularly tagged my posts, on the myriad of options provided in NZ, under “humour”. Should this be so understood? Or is this now at the level of a self-mocking pisstake?

The formulary which moved the Naming of Jesus to be a Principal Feast was passed at General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) in 2002, and, after synodical agreement by all episcopal units, confirmed at GSTHW in 2004. The Lord only knows why our official website dates it as 2009 (Liturgical Precedence), why recent editions of our Prayer Book have removed the previous Table to Regulate Observances (pp. 939-943), but made no attempt to update the list of Principal Feasts (p.7), nor to include the new regulations, nor why the official website, which claims to list all “Authorised Prayer Book Changes to 2010“, makes absolutely no mention of any of this.

There appears little point in letting those responsible know. I received neither acknowledgement nor explanation in response to my last email. One thing is certain – read my lips: if you want to be faithful to some sort of common prayer, the NZ resources are not a reliable place to begin.

Once again I reinforce with urgency: if there is any sense in which we will, without irony, be able to present ourselves as an Anglican province with some sort of commitment to common prayer, the motion I moved at our diocesan synod must be acted upon. This motion, which was passed unanimously with acclamation, has six points which includes that the Standing Committee of GSTHW be held to

urgently set in place a review of the labyrinthine liturgical rules of our province and produce a straightforward report which makes clear
1) what is required,
2) what is allowed, and
3) what is forbidden,
and that this review become the foundation for a renewal of the way we categorise our liturgical resources to a transparent, simple system.

ps. In preparing for this post I happened to compare the 2005 edition of our Prayer Book on Principal Feasts with previous editions. Most regulars here will know of my successful, originally-single-handed campaign to stop the printing of a Prayer Book revision that had not followed our agreed process. Now I find that the 2005 edition has made alterations, at least on page 7. Someone else may be able to point to where we all agreed to this? I cannot recall it. The issue is not whether the alteration is significant (Removing two sentences beginning with “Those in bold type…” and replacing these with other words). The issue is that we have an agreed process for such alterations – and this is not being followed. Or so it seems to me, until a comment corrects me. I will be happy to be wrong.

Is anybody reading this stuff (the Lectionary, the Prayer Book…)? Are dozens of emails and letters winging their way to offices? Are bishops consulting about this? Or is there only one issue that’s important now, and as long as we don’t do that we can still call ourselves Anglican…

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18 thoughts on “displacing the nondisplaceable”

  1. I am very glad you have drawn attention to this anomaly, Bosco, because it happens that I am preaching this coming Sunday and thus had occasion to look up the lectionary. I noticed the oddity you noticed, that one celebration should not displace another, yet the readings for the other are given anyway!?

    (I can imagine a kind of pragmatic thing going on – three years from now when the Editor is checking the readings for Christmas 1 (s)he can look back to the 2012 lectionary for easy reference. But that could have been dealt with by putting them in square parentheses or providing additional note to explain the inclusion).

    1. Thanks, Peter. I am pleased I am not the only one noticing.

      You are to be admired for your lively imagination. It is the nature of lectionaries that regularly one day displaces another (Sundays displace saints’ days, seasons displace celebrations, etc.) Your solution is appropriate in the database that undergirds this publication – if it is used in the publication itself, then there is no point in purchasing it. As with this Sunday. [Furthermore, if the Naming of Jesus should not be displaced by any other celebration, I’m struggling to figure out why our church offers propers for “New Year’s Day”?]


    1. Sande, you are an absolute gem also! We may be slightly different types of gems – but we are both in the gem category 🙂 Others may not be in the gem category. I hope they find themselves to be in another good category.

      One of the things that irritates me is when our church says, and presents itself as, one thing – yet, in practice, does something completely differently. I suspect you are in agreement with me that such things irritate you also.


  2. Hi Bosco; readings for New Year’s Day new to me – what readings have the compilers picked for this great church feast? I’ve only got readings for ‘The circumcision and naming of Christ’ in the SEA lectionary for that day.

    1. Eccles 3:1-13 Ps 8 Rev 21:1-6a Matt 25:31-46, Vincent (it’s all in the link – bizarre as it seems, I’m not making any of this up!) Is your lectionary online? Perhaps we should swap to that. Blessings.

      1. Thanks Bosco. I do find it quite odd when a church decides to celebrate secular events entirely unknown to the historic calendar, such a Sunday service to mark “father’s day”, or “valentine’s day”. New year’s day will doubtless be spreading here in years to come!

        The lectionary here is based on the Common Worship lectionary (basically identical to it), with permission.

        1. It has previously been noted with surprise, Vincent, how much more of an almanac of secular events the NZ Lectionary appears than others. Centralising things like Father’s Day is fraught. I am wary of too tight a theme in any case. Blessings.

  3. NZ Anglicans have it easy on 1 January! If you’re worshipping with the Australian Anglicans or the Church of Ireland, you can choose Naming/Circumcision of the Lord or – wait for it – the Epiphany!

    Yes, the Epiphany of the Lord has come early and apparently it can trump the Naming of Jesus in 2012.

    That said, I have noticed that one parish in Wellington is offering a fourth choice – are you sitting down? Good. And get out your prayerbeads: 1 January is being kept as “Mary, Mother of God”. [This is the Roman feast for the Octave of Christmas and is, after all, what the majority of Christians will celebrate on 1 January – not that I am excusing its aberrant use by Anglicans, despite all its doctrinal significance].

    My only thought for the NZ Lectionary providing Christmas I readings is that it harks back to the time before the Daily Eucharistic Lectionary and allows clergy to use the lections for a midweek Eucharist. But we all know midweek Eucharistic worship is rare between Christmas and the end of January in most parishes.

    As for New Year readings – there is no excuse and they are out of place as ‘our year’ as Christians started on Advent Sunday.

    The issue with the increasing use of online liturgical texts is that the standard and definitive version (approved by synod or the House of Bishops etc) can be made elusive and disjointed. We must also remember that congregations are increasingly book-less with orders of service displayed on overhead projectors or in one-off service booklets. How easy for rubrics to be ignored and texts to be ‘adjusted’ without authority in this age of book-less worship. This is the culture in which such messy attempts at synod-less revision are taking place.

    1. Thanks so much Steve for this excellent survey which encouraged me to poke around your references.

      In Australia the Naming is a Festival, the rules on p450 have forgotten to consider if it can displace the Sunday or not! Epiphany is a Principal Holy Day and so, as you say, trumps a Festival, and is observed “6 January or the previous Sunday”. Having praised the COI lectionary, we are now presented with a real mess there. The 1984 Irish Prayer Book is quite clear that the Sunday after Christmas Day takes precedence – the current multi-options results from the changes in the 2004 revision.

      Which is the Wellington parish in the Wellington Diocese using the Roman title for the day? In any case, those will be using the same readings as the Naming. I imagine that one or two parishes in the Christchurch Diocese will also so name the day.

      Your last paragraph is important – there is a loss of common prayer, and the dangers of liturgy being the private possession of the vicar. There is also the surprise to discover that the 2005 NZ Prayer Book printing has a revision that did not go through the process our church (and our parliament) agrees on.


  4. With trepidation I’m tentatively entering this discussion. The thing is I both get and don’t get this discussion. On the one hand I see the discussion as being nit picky about jots and tittles. On the other hand I suspect this discussion is about something deeper, the binding back into mystery that, if allowed a path to flow, proves the connecting force that makes a worshiping community just that. Is that something of what you’re getting at with the desire to have a certain conformity of word and action?

    1. You are asking a big question here, Sande – undergirding so much here & probably needing its own post & certainly enough for a good book.

      Just treat the “nit picky about jots and tittles” as if you were having the conversation with a gin in one hand and a lot of laughter.

      You have to admit that our church officially publishing something that says there is only one option that may be used, and then going on to list other options is embarrassingly daft, and deserves to be in the Listener’s hilarious “Life in NZ” page.

      Yes, there’s an element of “conformity of word and action”. If this is what we say – this is what we should do. If we are not going to do it – let’s not say it; let’s change what we say, or what we do.

      The big picture for me includes the insight of the binding power of shared spiritual disciplines/actions/practice. Within the local community – and across local communities – and between individuals who, through the shared spiritual practice are united/community. As we have increasingly abandoned shared spiritual disciplines/actions/practice there has been the search for a substitute that will hold us together. Currently on the ascendency is the tendency to attempt to bind people together confessionally, by lists of beliefs where all the boxes need to be ticked, and we need to agree on all the stuff we think in our heads. I am convinced, and history bears out, that this direction is destined for inevitable failure, is dualistic, misunderstands the spiritual journey, tends to replace God with an idol, and will struggle to have much to say to our contemporary world. The great spiritual tradition in which I want to journey and am journeying is not about bumper-sticker answers to the great questions, it is about a lifelong journey of spiritual practice.


  5. Yes, mostly. I think I agree with the lifelong journey of spiritual practice. And yes, on the surface it does seem daft to have the church make statements about what is right and proper and then offer alternatives to that.

    Seen another way might it be offering what it considers to be the ideal but knowing that will never be followed by the ragtag bunch of bods the church is? Acknowledging that and offering alternatives might be having a bob both ways?

    Finding a way to have things in common while not holding fast to a particular line might be an art form…takes a lot of practice. I’m still thinking…

    1. Why do you think our NZ Anglican Church is a “ragtag bunch of bods” in this way, but, say, The Episcopal Church, which is about 100 times our size, is not, Sande? Blessings.

    1. There’s no denying, Sande, that we are a rag tag bunch of bods wherever you find us. I don’t think this is about “compliance” to “certainty” as you suggest in TEC (the example I chose). There’s just a commitment to shared practice, a commitment not imposed from “elsewhere” but freely entered into. What makes the rag tag bunch of bods church? The ascending answer here is agreement on a specific list of beliefs; the answer I would like to hold to is shared practice. The latter IMO was a precious Anglican insight; not limited to Anglicans, in fact an insight not limited to Christians (Buddhists spring immediately to mind) – but a key within Anglicanism. Until now. Blessings.

  6. I just realised the comment I just made on your post from November probably belongs better here!

    I TRY to use the lectionary as a guide for my personal devotions, simply because I want to follow the Christian year in my daily Bible reading and most other Bible reading plans usually just start at Genesis in January and plough through to Revelation in December and spare no thought for the seasons in between.

    I’m a layperson not Clergy – I’m not even Anglican – so I do tend to find the multiple choices confusing to say the least. I’m not so concerned about what’s allowed or not, I just want a simple guide for my daily prayer times through the year.

    Perhaps there’s another publication out there that might be better suited for a layperson. If so, I’d appreciate any recommendations you can offer. In the meantime I’ll muddle through the best I can.

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