1984 25 years on

Liturgy of the Eucharist 1984

Liturgy of the Eucharist 1984

This is the second post in a series looking at how we can use fixed liturgical worship to form thriving, vibrant, growing communities. The series began from the contention of a well-informed New Zealand Anglican priest and his assertion that he cannot think of a single congregation that follows our official liturgy that is either growing, or thriving with a good mixture of ages (especially including younger people). Furthermore, this, he sees as originating in decisions made in the 1980s.

This particular post will be part focusing on New Zealand’s Anglican liturgical history essentially over the last two and a half decades as I believe that this period’s history clarifies the situation we now find ourselves in. This will continue in a later post. And then the series will continue by exploring what, in my opinion, is the underlying dynamic that has been lost during these decades. This current post may be of particular interest more to Kiwis. So, if you have no interest in Kiwi Anglican liturgical history go and have a coffee with a friend, or go and watch a sunset, or pray the daily office…

It will become clear that in the last two and a half decades in NZ Anglicanism there has been a movement away from the concept of liturgy as common prayer. The 1984 Liturgy revision began the loss of knowing responses by heart. From this point NZ Anglicans inevitably become more book-bound (pew-sheet bound, or later projector-screen bound).

Kiwis – don’t look it up: what is the response to “The peace of God be always with you.”?

1964 to 1984

New Zealand Anglicans once had had a relatively conservative liturgical life, following the Book of Common Prayer and minor variants of that. In 1964 there began a revision process that resulted in a 1966 eucharistic rite and a further revision of this in 1970. So by 1984 there had been two decades of either the BCP or a well-received, single contemporary revision. In 1984 all that changed. Now, alongside the contemporary revision were new Eucharist rites that, though structurally relatively similar, had significantly innovative texts.

In these innovative eucharistic texts the traditional, ecumenical, internationally agreed English-language texts used throughout the Anglican Communion were replaced. The following are two examples replacing the sanctus/benedictus (“Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might…”) in 1984:

Holy God, holy and merciful, holy and just,
glory and goodness come from you.
Glory to you most high and gracious God.


Holy, holy, holy:
God of mercy, giver of life;
earth and sea and sky
and all that lives,
declare your presence and your glory.

One of the new rites intentionally had far more for the congregation to recite, again increasing the tendency to have more time with heads in books.

Every Sunday in the 1984 revision now no longer had a single collect usually drawn out of the great collect heritage shared throughout Anglicanism. Now each Sunday there was a choice of three collects – many of them not following a collect structure or style.

Kiwis – don’t look it up: what is the response to “The peace of God be with you all.”?

A completely new Order for Celebrating the Eucharist was produced and included in the 1984 Liturgy. In this order basically everything for a Eucharist (even responses) could be resourced from anywhere or created locally (excepting the Last Supper story and one paragraph were fixed in any constructed Eucharistic Prayer).

People were not all following the same readings either. As well as the BCP lectionary, New Zealand’s own creation (a two year thematic lectionary), the Australian Anglican revision of the Roman Catholic three-year lectionary was also authorised.

As well as music and singing being central to liturgy in my opinion, singing inevitably aids memorisation. With three completely different texts (for example) for the sanctus/benedictus (not interchangeable between rites) many communities no longer accessed good quality national ecumenical music or international Anglican and/or ecumenical musical settings.

In summary

From 1984 some wonderfully poetic, imaginative, creative, inclusive, and inculturated texts were being presented to regular worshipping Anglicans. It must be remembered, all this is within the context of a very small province of church-going Anglicans. The numbers in church (say about 35,000 in church on Sunday) are probably that of a reasonable size Church of England diocese. Moving from worshipping community to community there was no longer the expectation that the same readings would be followed, that the same collect would be used, that the same responses and texts would be used, that the same musical settings would be found. Even within a single parish, moving from one service time to another one might encounter completely unfamiliar material. Week by week turning up at the same time on Sunday one could be confronted with a different set of responses in rotation.

Creativity and flexibility became values now embodied in the official rites. Saying and singing things “by heart” (in the deepest sense of that phrase) was being lost. Common prayer – in the sense of celebrating Eucharist as the great shared worship action of Christ and his body, the church – was being lost in individualism and congregationalism. The measure of a “successful” service was shifting. The understanding of liturgy was shifting from community actions and celebration accompanied by words with a significant amount sung and by heart – to reciting beautiful poetic words at each other read from books and ever-changing pew sheets.

The Peace of God be always with you.
Praise to Christ who is our peace.
The peace of God be with you all.
In God’s justice is our peace.

Next time you hear either of those particular responses check – is the person addressing you/the congregation or addressing the book (pamphlet) s/he is reading from? And are most in the congregation addressing the presider in return – or do they have their eyes fixed on the book/screen/pamphlet? If in your community you are actually addressing each other and there are no books/screens/pamphlets involved at this point give yourself a gold star liturgical WOF. If you got both the above responses correct from memory your application to lecture on liturgy at St John’s College has been accepted. For the rest of us… this series will be continued…

The next post in this series is found here

Similar Posts: