Updated Sunday 1 June: Every NZ Anglican that has contacted me publicly or privately has indicated that today’s liturgical colour used in their community is White. This includes my winning my bet (below) that even the lectionary editors are not following the lectionary colour suggestion. Whilst I am not being so bold as to suggest that no communities today are using Red, I do contend that the lectionary cannot claim “Colours shown here are those likely to be used in most parishes.” (page 125). Either it in future alters the lectionary suggestion, or it makes White at least an equal option, or it retracts its justification of the colours as being “those likely to be used in most parishes.” Now to the original post:
Once again we meet an inexplicable liturgical colour suggestion in New Zealand’s Lectionary booklet. This coming week, from the 7th Sunday of Easter to the Day of Pentecost, the NZ Lectionary booklet suggests … Red.
In a church which would hope to renew a sense that Easter is a season of 50 days (and, whatever its faults, the recently-passed Bill instructing us to refer to Sundays OF Easter not AFTER Easter at least indicates an intention to have a 50-day Easter Season) most destructive of such a renewal, second only to putting out and putting away the Easter Candle, I would think would be the idea of changing our liturgical colour. In most worship spaces the liturgical colour is central to setting the tone of the celebration – the season.
In the case of putting out and putting away the Easter Candle before the 50-day Season of Easter has concluded at least there is some historical tradition worth discussing. But switching the last week of the Easter Season from White to Red not only has no historical precedence that I am aware of, but is not practiced by any other church that I know of. Even mother Church of England, which has recently become eager on using more Red in the Church Year, and which we appear to be so keen on flattering by imitation in our recent changes, even the CofE does not depart from White in the Easter Season in this manner!
The Church of England rule is, “White is the colour for the festal period …from Easter Day to the Eve of Pentecost.” (page 532)
The NZ Lectionary Booklet insists that “Colours shown here are those likely to be used in most parishes.” (page 125). Can someone please give evidence that “most parishes” suddenly started using Red in the last week of the Easter Season, and then explain why, when no other church does so, and there is no previous tradition here of doing so?!
Oddly, our General Synod Te Hinota Whanui ruled “Red is used … from the Friday after Ascension Day to the Feast of Pentecost” (page 7). Thankfully it also said on the same page (being the Anglican Church of Or) “Appropriate liturgical colours are suggested: they are not mandatory and traditional or local use may be followed.” But someone else will have to explain what possessed GSTHW to think of switching to Red in the Easter Season in the first place?!
The Lectionary Booklet this year gets further confused, making the seasonal colour on the Friday after Ascension Day (today) White! [Which is as I would have it, but does not fit with the rest of what the Lectionary Booklet is doing].
The NZ Rules (page 7) are clearly derived from the CofE rules (page 532). It would be good to know why NZ departs from CofE’s in the Easter Season colour. [In other parts where NZ departs from mother CofE, doing that without sufficient care has led to some other confusion – but that is another story.]
NB. Continuing to use White through the Easter Season until the Eve of Pentecost is not being rebellious, it is following the Church’s tradition, it is emphasising Easter is a season of 50 days, it is what is followed throughout the Anglican Communion, it is ecumenical, and international. I would be willing to put money on it that not even the editors of the Lectionary booklet will follow its “suggestion”, rather “traditional or local use will be followed” and White used.
Don’t use Red. Use White.
Do it right. Use White.
Today is the Forty-first day of Easter.