web analytics
Cluttered Vestibule

Our Cluttered Vestibule

Cluttered Vestibule

Our entrance rite has long fittingly been called our cluttered vestibule.

Christmas holidays is one chance to worship in quite different communities, and to pop into church buildings as one drives around, also looking at their Sunday service booklets or pew sheets.

From this it is clear that in many, many communities nearly every last option is squeezed into The Gathering of the Community (the start of the service leading up to the Readings).

People nod in agreement when I suggest to leave out most of the “may” stuff, to start from the essentials and only add some “may” stuff if it enhances a particular season or celebration, and that less is more. But, in actual practice, there is no way they can bring themselves to leave out their, and others’, favourite bits. Most return from the head-nodding resolutions to clear out the clutter of the Gathering rite, but, like most resolutions, faced with reality it is just easier to live with the clutter than to deal with the discomfort of decluttering.

So this is not an atypical Gathering rite in NZ Anglicanism:

1) Hymn or bracket of songs
2) Informal introduction either before or after (1)
3) A couple of greetings and responses from the Prayer Book
4) A sentence from the Bible here or after (13)
5) The Collect for Purity
6) The Gloria here or after (12)
7) A New Commandment with a response
8) Kyries
9) Three or so of the confessional sentences from the Bible and the
10) Introduction to confession
11) Confession
12) Absolution
13) “The peace of Christ…” with a response
14) A collect

Let’s be clear: not even going to the flexibility provided by A Form for Ordering the Eucharist which specifies nothing for the Gathering, if you are following the NZ Prayer Book’s rite from page 404 all that you need is ONE greeting, introduction to confession, confession, absolution, collect: 3a, 10, 11, 12, 14 (from the numbers above). The rest is just being added at the whim of the one leading.

I should not be surprised that, after such a verbal onslaught, the community is bloated, suffering from rhetorical stuffing, and that the reading from God’s Word is cut back from three readings and the psalm, to a couple of readings, or just the gospel reading.

In other words, the whole point of the Gathering has been hijacked by priest and people’s pious penchants, and its purpose to PREPARE the church to hear what the Spirit is saying to us through God’s Word is derailed.

We are so exhausted by our preparation, that we cannot endure what we have been preparing for!

Then there are those who instinctively feel that there is something wrong with the clutter and, rather than tidying up the rite we share with others not just in world-wide Anglicanism but in historic Christianity (eg RC) going back to Jesus’ day (and beyond), these people try one of the other eucharistic rites in our NZ Prayer Book which, when we are honest about them, end up being even more didactic as we recite pious poetic creedal-sounding stuff to each other (more than praying to God), and all with eyes fixed firmly on books or sheets or projector screens – because those long stretches of didactic poetry we are reciting certainly are not easily memorable.

For the Gathering, one greeting is enough (3). And make sure it is actually a greeting. “This is the day…” is not a greeting. [It is the relic of a 1964 draft as placeholder for the Introit when the Gathering was an option to replace Matins].

What is the purpose of using “The Sentence of the Day” (4). If it has no purpose – leave it out. The ones that are provided so often end up being just another nice little prayer, lost in the pile of other nice little prayers in the service.

The Collect for Purity (5) is one of my all-time favourite prayers. [It is people who love it, like me, who are tempted to include it in a service. Resist the temptation!] I regularly use it to begin my personal prayer. Its origin is private preparation before a service. That’s where it belongs. Encourage people to use it as their private preparation before a service – but there’s hardly anything more downbuzz than to have this publicly early in a service. [OK – use it Ash Wednesday, maybe, and other times you want people to be particularly introspective, and more individualistic…]

The Gloria is sung (6). Enough said.

A New Commandment (7): what is this “Spirit of God, search our hearts” and then not even a breath’s pause. So we didn’t really mean, “search our hearts” did we?! It was just more meaningless words piled into the vestibule’s clutter. Leave it out. Same with the sentences before confession (9).

“The peace of Christ…richly” (13). Again: remind me what the point of this is? Leave it out.

The collect has four movements: the presider calls the community to prayer; we pray silently; the presider proclaims the collect (it is the central prayer of gathering/Ministry of the Word, of collecting – it is not written with the cadences for group recitation); we all respond with a resounding “Amen” (cf the Eucharistic Prayer – the central prayer of the Ministry of the Sacrament). But you knew that.

I have written more about this stuff in Chapter 6 The Gathering of the Community in my free, online book Celebrating Eucharist.

If you haven’t seen the video that stresses all this, do watch:

Do comment from your own experience, and if you are from beyond NZ Anglicanism, do translate this into your own context, and tell us how this is in your own experience.

To be continued…

Similar Posts:

6 thoughts on “Our Cluttered Vestibule”

  1. In seminary, when attending Anglican worship services, this Lutheran who loves liturgy, was consistently lost during the gathering. Usually I would just find the page we were reading some sentence from just as it had been read and we needed to find the next random thing to read. I couldn’t wrap my head around what these extra readings, prayers, responses, greetings etc… were all about.

    Our Lutheran liturgy structures the gathering much more simply.

    1) Confession/Absolution (often the collect for purity is contained within)
    2) Brief welcome and introduction to the day (including instructions on how the hymnbook works for visitors)
    3) Gathering hymn
    4) Apostolic Greeting
    5) Kyrie (omitted in Easter and regularly in ordinary time)
    6) Gloria/Hymn of Praise (omitted in Advent, Lent and regularly in OT)
    7) Collect / Prayer of the Day (always the one relating to the lectionary texts).

    However, at more minimalistic times (like in summer) the Gathering could be limited to:

    1)Welcome introduction
    2)gathering hymn
    3)Apostolic Greeting
    4) Collect / Prayer of the Day

    1. Thanks, Eric. A helpful point: how one gets lost in the clutter.

      Your minimalist Gathering is the basic bones I would advocate, like a basic sentence being subject verb object, around which, with great care, one might shape some feast or seasonal addition. I would, if possible, begin with the single greeting, the hymn is a strong gathering event, introduction can be before or after the hymn, and then bid a shared silent prayer concluded by the presider’s proclamation of the collect. The resounding communal Amen means we are now ready as a community to listen to the scriptures. Thanks. Blessings.

  2. Our Gathering is relatively simple:
    1. Prayerbook greeting
    2. Collect for Purity **
    3. Kyria or Gloria (sung)
    4. Collect of the day

    We’ve been experimenting with the Collect for Purity, since its origin is a preparation prayer said by priest prior to the service. For the season of Advent, the presider, gathering with the choir in the narthex, prayed the collect in a voice loud enough to carry into the sanctuary. this then followed by a couple of peals on our bell, a few beats of silence, then organ intro to processional hymn. I like this a lot, and have been advocating for a continuation of the practice.

    1. Great, Lou. I think returning the Collect for Purity as a prayer of preparation before a service helpful as I said above. I think using that prayer early in a service, eg during the Easter Season, would undo rather than enhance the focus of that season. I would need to check, but I have recollections of formal attempts to make Kyrie or Gloria – rather than ever “and”. That may have been an early post-Vat II RC draft. Blessings.

  3. Once again Bosco you articulate well my exact thoughts.
    Why oh why do we priest kep going along with the sheep as they baa baa aaaa along.

    at least westies have lots of choices in our liturgies, try the philippines or most africian countries. Talk about 50 years flashback, its hard.

  4. Here’s the equivalent rite in PECUSA:
    1. “A hymn, psalm, or anthem may be sung”*
    2. Greeting
    3. Collect for Purity may be said**
    4. The Gloria or a Hymn – on Sundays and major feasts except in Advent and Lent – OR – the Kyrie (in Lent, Advent, and on weekdays).
    5. The Collect of the Day

    *But in practice never is IME
    **In practice the Collect for Purity is always used.

    The Greeting, Gloria/Hymn/Kyrie, and Collect of the Day are not optional. The Collect is supposed to be said only by the celebrant. FWIW I prefer that the Collect for Purity be used as the first public prayer of the service. Yes, it began as a private prayer of the priest in the Sarum missal, but it’s been a public prayer since the first English prayerbook of 1549. For us, the Confession and the Peace come much later in the service, after the Prayers of the People and before the Offertory.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.