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NZ collects – worse than we thought?

Last month I wrote an open letter to the pakeha liturgical committee of our church (Tikanga Pakeha Liturgical Working Group – TPLWG) pleading with them not to continue down the direction of abandoning the Trinitarian collects of our Western Christian heritage.

The collect is the central prayer of the Liturgy of the Word. Just as in the Eucharistic Prayer (the central prayer of the Liturgy of the Sacrament), the collect has normatively been prayed to God, with us praying in Christ, in the power of the Spirit. NZ has, more and more, been praying nice little prayers and losing the theological and liturgical point of the collect.

Please read my open letter here.

I am grateful I received a reply which is heartening with some disquieting aspects. I appreciate very much their acknowledgement of the value of this site. Then they go on to write:

On the matter raised in your open letter, we thank you for bringing this to the attention of both ourselves and the wider Church. We would like to confirm that these initiatives have not come from our working group (although we have previously been made aware of them), but rather directly from the Common Life Liturgical Commission [CLLC].

While we would tend to agree with the points you raise, we are also aware that General Synod has already passed these Collects in the first of the two motions required to insert them into the Prayer Book. That motion is currently with the dioceses and hui amorangi awaiting approval, and we note that your own diocese will be debating it in March. We would encourage you to raise your concerns there, and also with CLLC. We have asked our Tikanga Pakeha representatives on that body to ensure this matter is raised, but it would not hurt for you to write to them also.

Before proceeding, it may be important that you read the motion being referred to that was actually passed in this regard at this year’s General Synod. This is “motion 5” that, prior to the General Synod meeting, I wrote was confused and confusing, and I urged people to speak against it at the General Synod meeting:

As I said earlier, the motion gives the impression that it is intended to replace everything in our Prayer Book from pages 549 to 723. But the motion cannot do that as those pages are formularies of our church. To alter a formulary of our church requires a statute, which, when passed by General Synod goes to all the dioceses and hui amorangi for their voting, and then back to General Synod for its second vote, after which the new formulary lies on the table for a year for any protests before it comes into effect. A statute to alter a formulary has quite a specific form and wording – totally lacking in motion 5.

I have, on more than one occasion suggested that the liturgical legislation of our province (let alone the liturgical life) is now so confused and confusing that very few can make head nor tail of it. That includes bishops. That includes, it seems to me, our national pakeha liturgical committee. They write, “General Synod has already passed these Collects in the first of the two motions required to insert them into the Prayer Book”. General Synod has done no such thing. I do not have any idea what members of General Synod think they have done, and there are members of General Synod, including bishops, on TPLWG, but motion 5 is not the process for altering a formulary.

I do not know what, hence, is meant by “we note that your own diocese will be debating it in March”. Our diocesan synod has met twice since the General Synod meeting, for our meetings we received the General Synod liturgical material Ashes to Fire, but there was no reference to motion 5.

I would also be helped if someone could point me to the General Synod decisions mentioned in motion 5, eg. to change the names of the Sundays in the lectionary (I have pointed out from time to time their chaotic nature). The only change I can recall from the motion’s list, is the making of the Revised Common Lectionary into a formulary.

In conclusion, I am heartened that TPLWG is in agreement that we must work against this trend and that they will bring this to the attention of CLLC. I urge any diocesan synods or hui amorangi that are actually debating this to become informed about the confusion and about the grave loss we are in danger of. I urge others to become informed and involved in this. CLLC next meets 3 March 2011, and the Chair is Bishop Te Kitohi Pikaahu. His contact details are here.

Please inform me if there are any errors in my points. I am very happy to have areas corrected and/or clarified.

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11 thoughts on “NZ collects – worse than we thought?”

    1. Thanks, Peter, I appreciate your support on this. Have you considered blogging about it – and other ways we can bring this to people’s attention and help them understand the issues?

  1. If I may return to one of the first points you made: “NZ has, more and more, been praying nice little prayers and losing the theological and liturgical point of the collect”, I wonder whether this phenomenon you observe is an attempt on the part of our church leaders to use more inclusive language. If our liturgies are no longer relevant to the context, how are they serving our people? Praying directly to God/Jesus/Lord etc may be off-putting to those who have a different name for the concept of God. It seems to me that if we pray using collects without addressing them to God directly, it is a more inclusive celebration of a shared faith in a being who is more than the sum of the parts, whatever name you use.
    Feel free to disagree! These are my thoughts.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth, for your very thoughtful point. As you look around my site, and the material that I write (eg. my book Celebrating Eucharist), you will see I am firmly committed to inclusive language. The traditional collects, in fact, are mostly addressed to “God” (Deus). “Lord” is rare. “Father”, rarer. Many of these new prayers are addressed to (the male) Jesus. So the concrete, observed tendency on the part of our church leaders is actually directly in the opposite direction of what you are supposing. My hope to hold to (return to) the great tradition would actually be in the direction of inclusive language, not away from it. Thanks again for bringing up this important point.

  2. I will see if I can find your book, it sounds really insightful. I agree that holding up the male, stereotyped image of Jesus for people to worship is not a concept that everyone finds easy to relate to. Then again, I suppose it is simply another name to express the same concept and people have the free choice as to whether to take that in their stride or not. I suppose.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and making that clearer for me.

  3. Elizabeth,

    I think that part of this is that God is not really a “concept.” Concepts are things by which we are able to “grasp” something (have a look at the etymology) – “God” is rather: a name.

    It is true that some people like the idea of worshiping God because they believe this will encourage us to strive for that which is good; to elevate our thoughts; to seek justice, etc. etc.. But it is also necessary that: we address God Himself in our prayers.

    In order to do this, we must recognize Him for who He is. Here, we are less “inclusive” than some would like. It is true that some may, e.g., find abhorrent the idea that Christ died for our sins. But in order to recognize Christ who He is for us – and what significance He has for us – we must also recognize Him as our saviour who died for us.

    It is not our intention to exclude persons who have difficulty believing these things or prevent them from having lofty thoughts, or seeking justice; but lofty thoughts and justice are not our primary aim, either. These are things which we trust will come about when people have turned themselves to God, renounce sin, and accept His calling. Yes, we must on occasion “drive in” the importance of such things in moralizing sermons as part of the edification of our flocks … but the church is not in its essence, or in the first place, a moralizing institution.

    Anglicans also follow the rule: “lex orandi, lex credendi” – our belief and our prayer are closely intertwined – moreso than persons of other churches that have more emphasis on sermons and theological teaching. This makes it all the more essential that we recognize in our prayers the Triune God, and not simply fashion our prayers according to what we think will most easily or likely inspire beautiful thoughts and good behavior. To this end, we frequently pray from Scripture, involving the many names which God Himself has given us in order to address Him.

    If the people sitting in our pews do not wish to turn toward God, and this is not their context, we should find some way of evangelizing them – and a worship service is not the appropriate context for encouraging people to give their lives to God.

    Bosco,

    Thanks for taking this initiative. May God bless you richly. Might I suggest another thing? I have seen something entitled “The Lord’s Prayer” from the NZ Prayer Book. I do not know if the NZ Prayer Book labels it as such as I have seen it in its context. This prayer begins: “Earth maker, pain bearer, …” It could be described as a poetic prayer which was inspired by the Lord’s Prayer; but it makes little attempt at faithfully translating Christ’s words, and shouldn’t be labelled “The Lord’s Prayer.” Much better translations are available for any content one wishes to label as “The Lord’s Prayer.” I have been in services where this is used, and it inevitably distracts a number of people from the intended purpose of prayer. I can imagine, however, that in special services which do not have a specific place for the Lord’s Prayer, it could be found inspiring.

    1. Thanks for all that, James. You describe well what I regularly try and teach, the difference between means, goal, and results – or other such terms.

      To clarify about the prayer you mention. There is nothing in the Prayer Book that indicates this is a translation of the Lord’s Prayer (so wherever you are seeing this “titling” it is not so here). Its origin is a summary of a book of reflections/meditations on the Lord’s Prayer, it is true, but in the Prayer Book it is simply a prayer found as an option in Night Prayer. As such, I think it very good.

  4. Bosco,

    Thank you very much for that clarification. I have been in services where it is simply labeled “The Lord’s Prayer” and goes in the place of where, in the standard order of service, one would expect The Lord’s Prayer. That does indeed make a tremendous difference and I am thankful that the NZ prayer book editors are more sensible to such things than I had believed.

    1. “such things” – I try and look at each point in the NZ Prayer Book on its own merit. In this case, James, the heading you mention is not part of the original text.

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