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Open letter to TPLWG

The Common Life Liturgical Commission (CLLC) is the provincial liturgical body of the three-tikanga (cultural streams) church, The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. The Tikanga Pakeha Liturgical Working Group (TPLWG) is the pakeha liturgical committee, with at least a representative from each diocese, that feeds in to the CLLC. TPLWG meets three days this week in Wellington.

At the General Synod meeting this year, a motion passed (motion 5) to replace the NZ Prayer Book pages 549 to 723 with RCL readings and each Sunday having a single collect assigned to it. Currently each Sunday is provided with three options for a collect. As with much liturgical legislation in our province, the motion is confusing. The NZ Prayer Book is a formularly of our church; any alteration requires a complex process – a motion to General Synod cannot alter a formulary. Secondly, traditionally collects are addressed to God (the First Person of the Trinity), through Christ, in the power of the Spirit. Many, many collects in the motion 5 concept, with no choice provided for an alternative, are addressed to Jesus or to the Spirit. Such prayers may be appropriate and good in another context but IMO not here. Currently, of course, people are allowed to use anything whatsoever, but should the pendulum swing back towards common prayer, (at the very least) I want the option of the Trinitarian collect to be available. Hence, I have written the following open letter to TPLWG:


I am writing concerned about the direction that our Anglican collects are taking. As you are well aware our Eucharist combines two movements: a Ministry of Word and Prayer, and a Ministry of the Sacrament. At the heart of each of these two movements is a prayer; the Collect (Opening Prayer) in the former, and The Great Thanksgiving (Eucharistic Prayer) in the latter. In our tradition these prayers, at the heart of the Eucharist, are addressed to God (the First Person of the Trinity) in and through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit:

Through Christ,
in the power of the Holy Spirit,
with all who stand before you
in earth and heaven,
we worship you, Creator God. Amen.

As you will know, the exception of addressing Jesus in the East-Syrian Eucharistic Prayer, The Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari, proves the rule.

Similarly, the great tradition is to address collects to God, in Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Sunday collects in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer all except one were addressed to God (the First Person of the Trinity), in and through Christ, in the power of the Spirit. Again, the exception of Lent 1 addressed to Jesus, underscores the general rule.

This tradition in collect and Eucharistic Prayer is not random – it embodies, celebrates, and engenders the very relationship that Christ came to bring, our incorporation into Christ, and our transformation into Christ’s life and Christ’s relationship to God. We are and are becoming by grace what Christ is by nature.

This heart of our Christian spirituality, our heritage and birthright is precarious in the West and now, in particular, in NZ Anglicanism. From NZ’s 1966 revision, this tradition and its understanding appears to have been abandoned. In that 1966 revision 20 Sunday collects were addressed to Jesus, and a couple to the Holy Spirit. In our Prayer Book (1989) every Sunday was provided with three options and collects to Jesus and the Holy Spirit proliferated.

Those of us who wished to preserve this precious gift of Trinitarian orthodoxy (literally “right worship”) using our Prayer Book could still choose a collect addressed to God, through Christ in the Spirit, from the three provided each Sunday.

But there is a new development.

At General Synod 2010 Motion 5 (which passed) assigned one collect and one collect only to the RCL readings. As with so much of our liturgical legislation, there is ongoing immense confusion about the status of such material and of this motion. The process in which such a collect was assigned reinforces the common mistaken NZ notion which searches for a “theme” amongst the RCL readings choice.

But the primary issue that concerns me is that so many, many Sundays are now being assigned a collect addressed to Jesus or the Holy Spirit, as if, at this point in the service there is no significance to which Person of the Trinity is addressed. The impression given is that we can spin a bottle and address whichever Person of the Trinity it stops at.

There is no question that prayer to Jesus and prayer to the Holy Spirit is appropriate and good – in its appropriate context and understanding of that Person. But the Persons of the Trinity are not simply interchangeable.

I make this public plea for the Tikanga Pakeha Liturgical Working Group to stop going forward in this direction. Collects are a significant part of our Anglican heritage. Many Anglicans memorised them and they formed a backbone of our spirituality – “by heart”.

Personally, I would prefer that each Sunday (and major feast) be provided with a collect that stands in the wonderful revised collect tradition that we, as Anglicans, have inherited. At the very least I passionately beseech you to provide those committed to common prayer with the option on every occasion of a collect addressed to God, through Christ, in the Spirit.

Blessings in Christ
Rev. Bosco Peters

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14 thoughts on “Open letter to TPLWG”

  1. I fully agree! The Collects follow a Trinitarian formula, and any change would render them simply “prayers” and not Collects. Too many people want to project their own notion of liturgy and worship onto the Church, so that if all were allowed to do as they please, common worship would no longer be ‘common’ but more of a hodge-podge or ‘do it yourself’ worship, more appropriate to a non-denominational church rather than a member of the Anglican Communion following the worship of the one, holy, catholic church.

  2. Thank you Fr Bosco for this excellent open letter. It is encourging to see some people value our Anglican Heritage.

    Barry Smithson

  3. Considering the identified fiasco of the Roman Communion and its current retrograde liturgical “reform of the reform”, I perhaps think the Anglican and Catholic dialogues in Aotearoa could learn mutually from each other in the liturgical sphere.

    1. Your comment is much appreciated here, Brian, thanks. [For readers here who do not know, Rev. Brian Dawson is a member of TPLWG]. It is heartening that TPLWG is not going in this direction. May your discussions find the best way forward to bring a positive result.

      I would be interested to know where one finds an online calendar for significant provincial meetings? Others may also have issues they seek to present to meetings – increasing such dialogue and feedback, I believe, is positive.

      Thanks also to others who have commented here thus far.

  4. Bosco, the group will receive your letter tomorrow, I would note personally that it is not TPLWG that is going in this direction but CLLC and General Synod which passed the motion. I’m assuming therefore you’re asking TPLWG to ask CLLC to revisit the issue prior to the next General Synod?

  5. Just an aside: I recently wrote about OMGChurch. Their latest thought is “Getting close to Stir Up Sunday. What needs stirring up in the church for 2011?”

    Stir Up Sunday is so named after the beginning of the collect for that Sunday (5 before Christmas). So I thought I would check where General Synod’s motion 5 now locates that collect. Well, correct me if I am wrong, but as far as I can see, that collect has been completely removed.

    This continues a trend of losing well-loved collects. I have never had explained why the NZ Prayer Book decided to omit:

    Blessed Lord,
    who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
    help us so to hear them,
    to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
    that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
    we may embrace and for ever hold fast
    the hope of everlasting life,
    which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
    who is alive and reigns with you,
    in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
    one God, now and for ever.

  6. A few years ago, the Church of England authorised a raft of ‘additional’ collects for every Sunday of the year and festivals, not long after the new Common Worship Eucharistic material was introduced.
    The ‘additional’ collects are straightforward but good, to my mind and we used them regularly at the Sunday parish Eucharist. They worked very well for us in a tough urban London parish with a liturgical tradition, but where a significant number of people struggled with reading and the (middle class) Anglican inclination towards ‘wordiness’. Rather than messing around with the format, all the additional collects have retained that familiar structure, addressing God and making our prayers in the name of Jesus. I would be inclined to use them in NZ too, if appropriate!

  7. Bosco,

    I’m a a priest serving in the Episcopal Church (USA). A Presbyterian friend of mine studied with Diogenes Allen at Princeton Theological seminary. Allen, an ordained Presbyterian, has been attending an Episcopal Church for years. His stated reason for going to an Episcopal Church has been that the worship in the Presbyterian Church that he has experienced has been “unitarian” (his word) in its worship of Christ only to the neglect of the other two persons of the Trinity. Our Western tradition has emphasized the one-ness of God much more so than our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters. I find the movement away from a Trinitarian formula for collects troubling, and believe, as you do, the centrality of keeping Trinitarian form with regard to collects, eucharistic prayers, and the totality of our worship. My friend recounting Allen putting a sole focus on Jesus shocking to me, but right on the money.

    More grist for the mill,


    1. Thanks, Sean. It seems to me, especially as we draw near to celebrating the incarnation, that God becomes one with us in Christ in the power of the Spirit in order that we become one with God in Christ in the power of the Spirit. When one loses that, I wonder what we are left with… Have you seen today’s post on this?

  8. Couldn’t agree more with your letter.

    Made as we are in the image of God, Speaking truthfully about God in worship is in part a bulwark against losing sight of who we are as human beings.
    Losing sight of the Trinity leads rapidly to blindness re: ourselves

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