church year circleIt would be churlish to oppose Statute 713 (“Bill 6″) of New Zealand Anglicanism’s General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) without providing for some thinking through of an alternative solution to the problem that it is trying to address.

The presenting part of the statute is that it rules which preposition (‘of’ or ‘in’ or ‘after’) we may use when talking about titles in different liturgical seasons.

But, as it ignores dealing with he bigger picture, this GSTHW statute will further set into concrete the comic sequence of Sundays early in our Church Year where the 4th Sunday of Epiphany is followed by the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time!

This Statute reinforces all the worst prejudices of people who denigrate liturgy as an obsession with irrelevant minutiae. This is a straining out of a gnat.

The liturgy-denigraters visualise liturgists lying awake at night worrying, trying to decide whether to give a Sunday the title ‘of Epiphany’, or ‘after Epiphany’, or ‘in Epiphany’!

All seven (Tikanga Pakeha) diocesan synods have met and not one has agreed to assent to this statute. Without that assent the statute cannot proceed.

But, as with the other statutes that have been opposed, there is a bigger issue than whether to use ‘of’ or ‘in’ or ‘after’.

Anglicanism in NZ is a relatively small church, maybe the size of a largish diocese overseas. With our limited size and resources, sometimes we produce some pretty cool stuff of our own. At other times, it is perfectly fine that we appropriate the work of a larger church. If we do our own thing, however, we need to take care that everything is consistent and works well. If we take one practice from one church and then take another practice from a different church, we need to take extra care that those two things don’t conflict and that they do actually glue together fine.

That’s what went wrong here. NZ Anglicanism took one idea from the Church of England, and glued it to an idea from Roman Catholicism. The result obviously doesn’t work.

In the Church of England, Ordinary Time “begins on the day following the Presentation” (February 2). Sundays however, in the Church of England, are not counted by where they come in this ‘Ordinary Time’. Before Lent, the CofE counts backwards to Lent (“3rd Sunday before Lent”, “2nd Sunday before Lent”…). In the second part of its ‘Ordinary Time’ it counts forwards after Trinity Sunday (“2nd Sunday after Trinity”, “3rd Sunday after Trinity”…)

The Roman Catholics, who devised ‘Ordinary Time’ (from the word ‘Ordinal’ meaning ‘counting’) commence Ordinary Time the week after the Epiphany (… the Sunday between 14-20 January is always the ‘2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time’, the Sunday between 21-27 January is always the ‘3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time’…). That particular way of counting was followed in A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (ANZPB/HKMA) as a binding formulary (agreement) of our church.

But then, far more recently, GSTHW passed a quite different formulary, Liturgical Precedence (updated 2014). In this, GSTHW ruled “Ordinary time is the period after the Feast of the Presentation of Christ until Shrove Tuesday…” in obvious and clear contradiction of what is in ANZPB/HKMA.

If we took seriously our own new ruling, you would expect the first Sunday Sunday after the Presentation, in this NZ Ordinary Time, to be titled “The 1st Sunday in Ordinary Time”. But we don’t. [Wait for it!] we call our first Sunday in this post-Presentation-type ‘Ordinary Time’ “The 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time”!!! We, in NZ, now do not have a 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, nor a 3rd, etc.

The Solution

The solution in the case of this statute, again, is incredibly simple. Sure, sort out your ‘of’ and ‘in’ and ‘after’ prepositions if that’s causing liturgists you know sleepless nights, but puhleez amend Liturgical Precedence (updated 2014) so that Ordinary Time begins the week after The Epiphany.

We do not need, and have no use for, an Epiphany season à la mother England. They, in their bleak midwinter, are looking for any way to add variety to a winter season that just goes on and on. In Southern-Hemisphere NZ that is the very time when church attendance is at its lowest and most, including clergy, are worshipping God on the beach.

Those who use Celebrating Common Prayer (NZ version) can still change ‘Form’ from Form 5 used until The Presentation, just like they change to Form 7 between All Saints and Advent without any change in title of the Sundays, or the starting of some new church-year season. Many will remember Anglicans in NZ had a “Before Advent” season (4th Sunday before Advent, 3rd Sunday before Advent, etc). That was scrapped in 2012, simplifying the Church Year. It is time to scrap the (very-recently-added) Epiphany-to-Candlemas season.

This is the third post in a series presenting positive solutions to the decisions by diocesan synods not to assent to statutes from GSTHW.
The first is on amending the church’s constitution.
The second is on amending the baptism rite.

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