I have blogged a bit about the wide variety of liturgical options provided in our church. And I have blogged about the way that people find even this wide flexibility too restrictive.

But, even knowing all this, even I am sometimes rendered speechless by the “creativity” of the innovations that people come up with! Hence, I have decided to inaugurate an award for heterodox (literally means “different worship”) practices.

***

A priest, new to a community, describes this particular community’s practice and I have the priest’s permission to describe what is a public experience:

In the Eucharistic Prayer (Great Thanksgiving) the priest is proclaiming the story of the Last Supper, “on the night before he died, your Son Jesus Christ, took bread; when he had given you thanks, he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said:”

Suddenly the priest finds the whole congregation joining in with Jesus’ words of distribution:

Take, eat, this is my body
which is given for you;
do this to remember me.

The priest regains composure and begins: “After supper he took the cup; when he had given you thanks, he gave it to them and said:”

And once again the congregation interrupts the proclamation of the story:

Drink this, all of you,
for this is my blood of the new covenant
which is shed for you and for many
for the forgiveness of sins;
do this as often as you drink it,
to remember me.

There’s no point in changing to another Eucharistic Prayer – they all have words such as this. And the congregation always joins in.

The practice was taught to the congregation by a vicar over a decade ago and is seen as expressing the “priesthood of all believers”. It takes the Roman Catholic teaching that Jesus’ words of distribution said by the priest actually consecrate the bread and wine and (here’s the genius part of it!) it has these words recited by the non-ordained!

Two vicars, two bishops, and several priests-in-charge, have been unable to hinder the heterodoxy. It is a worthy recipient of the inaugural liturgical face-palm award: in one brilliant stroke it confuses the meaning of priesthood of all believers, sacrilegiously mocks the Western/Roman Catholic model of consecration, emphasises one part of the Eucharistic Prayer at the expense of the rest (putting the emPHAsis on the wrong syLLAble), and makes a pastoral nightmare for anyone trying to bring orthodoxy back to this community.

A lot of different titles for the award sprang to mind: Westboro; Phelps; currently I have decided on the “Camping Award”. A life-size statue of face-palm Jesus (pictured) will be delivered to the parish. At every Eucharist they will be required to sprinkle the statue with holy water, cense it, and chant the Miserere to Anglican chant. A 13½ inches (34 cm) replica (affectionately termed a “Harold”) is being delivered to the priest (sorry “minister”) who taught this nonsense. He will be required each week to light a candle before it and say three Lord’s Prayers, three times the biblical parts of the Hail Mary, and three Glory be to the Fathers for the intention of the Primate of New Zealand.

Update: discussion about this post has spread elsewhere beyond this thread. Some cannot see the issue at all, partly because their context is so different. For these the following imagined parallel scenario may help:

A congregation is taught by their vicar to wear clerical shirts and collars to services and taught this is their right and expressing their “priesthood of all believers”. People think it is lovely that the children who like to play priest at home can now do it at church too – especially that the girls can! not noticing that this confuses our baptismal priesthood with the presbyterate, and clericalises lay ministry, equating it with church-facing presbyteral leadership.

Like my original post above, I would similarly give this community the face-palm award. Others. maybe, would not 😉

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