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Sydney service site

The Anglican Diocese of Sydney has launched a new worship resource www.bettergatherings.com.

It is beautifully crafted, user-friendly and very easy to follow. And it is very fast. Would that there were more websites with this quality of both look and function. The Church of England and The Episcopal Church offer their resources online, but even the re-organised Common Worship site (CofE) could learn a thing or two from the way Sydney’s site is produced.

Then there’s the content. Very 1970’s – makes sense in a diocese that does not allow the 90’s A Prayer Book for Australia, but uses An Australian Prayer Book 1978 (AAPB). Here is one of the (non AAPB) eucharistic prayers (called “Thanksgiving and Consecration” in “The Lords (sic) Supper”):

All glory to you our heavenly Father, for in your tender mercy you gave your only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death on the cross for our redemption; who made there, by his one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; and who instituted and in his holy gospel commanded us to continue, a perpetual memory of his precious death until his coming again.
Hear us, merciful Father, and grant that we who receive these gifts of your creation, this bread and this wine, according to your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed body and blood; who on the night he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given you thanks,, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ Likewise after supper he took the cup, and when he had given you thanks, he gave it to them saying, ‘Drink from this, all of you; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ Amen.

Not much congregational participation! And no mention of the resurrection…

There is a major problem with computer systems for organising worship services. It can be similar to having a template for constructing sentences in a language you do not know and providing windows in which you choose an article, adjective, noun, verb, adverb… and then think you can write a novel in the other language like that. Without appropriate training, study, and formation you end up with Mark Discoll’s observation “that services in Sydney were ‘clunky’ and ‘starting and stopping like Sydney traffic’!”

The “Basic Shape” that is provided is highly reminiscent of the Anglican NZ Worship Template, “Every service should have an appropriate beginning, middle and end.” That is the starting point of formation that this site is working from. The home page reinforces that this site is addressing liturgical novices (postulants!): “Christian gatherings are not just a sermon.” (sic)

The April Sydney diocesan newspaper Southern Cross has a good article about the website, Service schmervice: getting liturgy right (PDF):

Liturgy is back. Sort of. After it was accused of a litany of failings-inauthentic, repetitive and outsider unfriendly – and was largely abandoned in Sydney and across the evangelical world over the past 30 years, some people are asking if ditching liturgy was such a good idea after all.

…Redeemer Presbyterian Church, pastored by Dr Tim Keller, is a wildly successful church plant in Manhattan. But the bulk of the 4400 regular attenders – most of whom are young professionals and creatives – participate in traditional Presbyterian service.
‘It is interesting to note that, at least in Manhattan, our ‘contemporary music’ service has not been more effective than our classical music service in including nonbelievers, ‘Dr Keller wrote in Don Carson’s Worship by the Book. ‘If anything, the reverse has been the case.’
Dan Kimball, who is now pastor at Vintage Faith Church in California, wrote in the Leadership Journal that he had found younger people at the contemporary worship megachurch where he served were increasingly disillusioned with ‘predetermined transitions, upbeat intro songs, announcements backed with Powerpoint slides, sermons crafted with felt need application and abundant video clips. ‘Instead they were asking questions about liturgy and the church calendar.
When his young adults ministry started using hymns, responsive readings and even the Book of Common Prayer, he writes, ‘the introduction of ancient practices helped them feel grounded and rooted to something bigger than themselves’.

…But Bishop Forsyth argues that the time of reaction is coming to an end. Now the church is entering a period of responsibility. “It’s not good enough just to react and not have liturgy,” he says. “Now comes a period of…taking responsibility for the form of our meetings, their prayers and what happens there: I think this is where the main work needs to be done.”
…For Bishop Forsyth, the question is bigger than liturgy or no liturgy. “It’s much more fundamental than that,” he says. “It’s whether or not what we do when meet really is an engaging with God through his word and each other.”
…Adds Bishop Forsyth: “Is the service thought out? Is it genuinely God-focussed? Is it coherent and truthful? These are the questions now. It seems to me that with the loss of authorised forms and liturgy we have entered a very dangerous period, as well as getting the benefits. The dangers are that our meetings will be offhand, unthought out. But the days of going back to one liturgy are over. The future will be much more flexible and more individual.”

Thanks to the many who alerted me to this.

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17 thoughts on “Sydney service site”

    1. Colin, yes I know 😉 but it’s rare for me to get a nicely alliterating heading.

      Brian, I mentioned the 1970sness of the material. Unfortunately, I cannot quickly put my hands on my AAPB (it’s not a big book and my library is not the same after the quake 🙁 ) Can you confirm then that in this AAPB prayer you refer to there are no responses with the congregation, no preface, no sanctus (Holy, Holy,…)…

      Yes, Jesse, affirming all your points, and adding that calling this bit “the Prayer of Consecration” (no thanksgiving in that eucharist 😉 ) was also an addition unknown to Cranmer.

  1. The prayer quoted looked awfully familiar and I checked. It is directly from AAPB First order . page 126.

  2. It’s always nice to get independent affirmation of one’s own prejudices: I’m glad to read of a trend back to responsible, ordered worship. But I quite agree that an artificial uniformity (such as never obtained before the invention of printing) is not what we’re after.

    On the subject of the Prayer of Thanksgiving and Consecration quoted here, it is nothing more than the “Prayer of Consecration” of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer in modern dress (is this from the 2008 An Anglican Prayer Book?). But do they really imply that this is all that is to be said? The 1662 BCP is actually very “participatory”, especially as it is used nowadays (with everyone saying the Sanctus, the Confession, the Prayer of Humble Access, etc.).

    Given that Anglicans around the world used the original form of this consecratory prayer for many generations (with the important exceptions of Scotland and the USA), I can’t wish it to be consigned utterly to oblivion — and it’s worth pointing out, as several early commentators on the BCP did, that the Church of England at least retained a Eucharistic prayer (the “Amen” was inserted in 1662), not a reading of the scriptural mandate for the Lord’s Supper (which, unless I am misinformed, was the favoured practice in Zurich and Geneva).

    Nevertheless, Gregory Dix long ago complained, as you rightly do here, that the BCP’s anamnesis omits any reference to the resurrection and ascension (although both the 1662 and this “modern” version at least preserve an eschatological reference, “until his coming again”, which in a way subsumes the post-Crucifixion events). The 1959 Canadian revision of the BCP restored something similar to Cranmer’s sonorous first draft: “remembering the precious death of thy beloved Son, his mighty resurrection, and glorious ascension, and looking for his coming again in glory…” (cf. 1549: “hauyng in remembraunce his blessed passion, mightie resurreccyon, and gloryous ascencion”). All of this, incidentally, is found in the traditional Roman Canon of the Mass, whose date of composition, I gather, is nowadays judged to be extremely early. A pity Cranmer didn’t just translate the prayer he no doubt already knew by heart!

  3. AAPB’s first order Holy Communion was, deliberately, just BCP’s Holy Communion in more modern English. I guess that is why it has no congregational responses. For what it is worth, I never attended a celebration of AAPB’s first order Holy Communion. Plenty of BCP services, and plenty of second order, but no first order. I suspect Sydney was one of the few places it was widely used.

    1. Thanks. But, Colin, BCP has
      Lift up your hearts
      We lift them up unto the Lord.
      Let us give thanks unto our Lord God
      It is meet an right so to do.
      … a preface often including a proper preface concluding with
      Holy, holy, holy, Lord…
      and after receiving communion continuing with
      O Lord and heavenly Father,…
      or
      Almighty and everliving God,…
      ALL that is missing from the text I quoted.

  4. As others have said, the First order of AAPB seems to me to be the same as BCP in modern language. It is (was?) the most common form of service used in Sydney evangelical churches who had not gone the whole hog of ditching Anglicanism and omitted regular services of Holy Communion. After the General Confession and Absolution there are the Words of Assurance then
    Lift up your hearts
    We lift them to the Lord
    Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
    It is right to give him thanks and praise
    It is indeed right and our bounden duty…..Therefore with angels and archangels….. evermore praising you and saying
    (Congregation) Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts,
    heaven and earth are full of your glory
    Glory to you, O Lord most high.
    Then the prayer of humble access, more recently prayed by the whole congregation
    Then the Prayer of Consecration as quoted.
    After Communion all say the Lord’s Prayer then after 1 of 2 prayers by the ‘minister’ all say the Gloria followed by the Benediction.
    This was the only liturgy I knew until I was made to feel unwelcome in Evangelical churches and moved in 2006 to St James, King Street where the 2nd order AAPB is used. As I had taught in Catholic schools, this was familiar to me. I also find it familiar as I have visited churches in England, USA and Canada. When I first came to NZ the service was also similar but I have been surprised at the variations that our parish (between vicars) has been using in recent months. However they are all found in the NZPB.

    1. Thanks, Brian. The interesting thing about the prayer I quoted is that it is there by itself – the other parts normal to a eucharistic prayer, even present in BCP & AAPB have just vanished. As you say, the basic structure is common right throughout the Anglican Communion, and across denominations – there has been significant growth, reform, and renewal in eucharistic understanding and agreement in the last century. Blessings.

  5. What, no lectionary?
    I tried two services; second order AAPB picked out the correct collect but just said “The Epistle” and “The Gospel”, and the Contemporary service said “Type your bible reading here.”

    1. Thanks for pointing that out, Barbara. As I said above, I’m not able to put my hands on my AAPB – but I would have thought that AAPB has three readings and a psalm, not “epistle and gospel”. It seems often the case that those who cry “the Bible,… the Bible” actually read very little of it. Just look at the amount of scripture that those of us who follow the lectionary will read tomorrow – the psalm and gospel for the palms, then OT, psalm, NT, complete passion narrative from Matthew. Over the last few weeks each Sunday has had OT, psalm, NT, and a complete chapter of John.

      1. OK – finally put my hands on my AAPB. [If you’ve seen the photo of my post-quake study things will be clearer to you].

        I was correct in understanding that AAPB has OT & psalm as well as NT & gospel – so the site has halved the scriptural content from AAPB without noting this as far as I can see. I also notice that the Gloria is always there (it’s optional in AAPB) – contra the tradition of not using it in Advent & Lent. It could easily have been another toggle with explanation. I guess the liturgically agile can always remove it after the “build” stage.

  6. Ah – here I am slightly surer of my ground. Holy Communion in Sydney is usually not the ‘main’ Sunday service. It is often directly before or after another ‘meeting’. That may be the reason for the reduced provision for Biblical readings (those gathered will already have been to another ‘meeting’, or be about to go to on). If I can put my hands on the book that Dio. Sydney put out around 10 years ago (‘Sunday Services’) I’ll check to see if this Holy Communion liturgy is from there rather than from AAPB.

  7. Bosco and Colin, thank you for your responses. For me (Church of England), service planning begins with the lectionary, even if I later decide to deviate from it, and the software I use (Visual Liturgy) informs me of any options and allows me to substitute different readings. The Church of England web site has downloadable liturgical texts from Common Worship, and a Daily Prayer option which includes the texts of psalms and readings. My congregation has service booklets and hymn books, so most of the time all I need to print on the pewslip are seasonal propers, response to intercessions, hymn numbers, and the text of the readings – very useful for those whose first language is not English.

  8. For those interested, here is a link to the old ‘Sunday Services’ site, operated by Dio. Sydney. They issued the book, ‘Sunday Services’ in around 2001, to provide updated liturgy. As I said above, they did not authorise APBA (1995) for use in their Diocese, and AAPB (1978) was looking pretty dated. AAPB was a very conservative revision that was committee driven, seeking consensus in the Australian church, which has very diverse churchmanship. APBA has a more ‘catholic’ feel, which was why it was unacceptable to Sydney. In a sign of the times, they simply disengaged from the discussion, rather than pursued a revision which reflected their position.

    The link: http://www.sundayservices.anglican.asn.au/

    Barbara – the only lectionaries authorised in Sydney would be the Book of Common Prayer, and the lectionary from AAPB. I suspect neither would be much used, as the usual practice is exegetical preaching that is based on working through a book of the Bible.

    Dio. Sydney doesn’t make me uncomfortably, really. I could wish they’d be kinder, within and outside their boundaries, to those who find the prevailing Calvinist emphasis to be not what feeds them, but I do think they represent (at the far end) a tradition of Anglicanism. Personally, I’d much prefer to keep them in the tent of the Australian church. I say that knowing that, for me and people like me, it comes at a high cost – they are one of the most powerful groups in the Australian church speaking against even having discussions about the ordination of gay people.

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