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Sydney’s Common Prayer

Sydney Anglicanism would describe itself as conservative evangelical. It is often a place that points where others who so describe themselves are looking. Sydney’s diocesan synod recently opposed adoption of the “Anglican Covenant”.

Liturgically it continues fighting nineteenth-century style battles putting energy where most have even forgotten that there was once controversy. Priests “ministers” are not to wear chasubles, water may not be mixed with the wine (grape juice?),… A Prayer Book for Australia (1995) is not used.

So the diocese has now launched “Common Prayer”– “Resources for gospel-shaped gatherings” (translation: “gatherings” is Sydney-speak for “services”; “gospel-shaped” means…). You can find the text here and download it here. You can put in your feedback here.

At first glance, these are some of the things that leap out at me. How little the resurrection is mentioned! In a Eucharist The Lord’s Supper, the resurrection appears to be mentioned only in the creed and if it is Easter or Ascension!

It is very clergy focused (am I allowed to use the word “clergy”?) There are few of the normal, biblical greetings that we have taken for granted for 2,000 years going back to Jesus, and through Jesus into our Jewish roots. What is left is in danger of being awfully “hip”:
“Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
Yes! He is worthy of our praise.
One version of The Lord’s Supper they proudly declare “it requires no verbal responses from the congregation other than amen.” (sic)

Liturgy is – the work of the people. We have a word for work for the people – it is “magic”.

Forget about looking for the sign of peace. And they continue what everyone has long ago abandoned: breaking the bread in the middle of the Last Supper story. If you are going to treat the Last Supper story as a re-enactment, a play, why stop at merely mimicking at one point? We follow Jesus’ example in taking bread and wine, giving thanks, breaking the bread, and sharing bread and wine!

In the baptism service there is no blessing of water – the minister stresses aloud that “ordinary water is used”. No oil or candle (explain to me why the sign of the cross is used). In marriage the man will “love and cherish her as Christ loved the church”, the woman will “respect and submit to him, as the church submits to Christ”

If this is “Common Prayer” they mean just in common with Anglicans in Sydney. Internationally and ecumenically there is little in common. There is little indication of even following a lectionary. Even within Australian Anglicanism what is presented here is not “common”.

Thanks to Andrew Reid who let me know about this.

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29 thoughts on “Sydney’s Common Prayer”

  1. oh, my. I know some who might like that response, except for the male pronoun. I admit I hope, linguistically, I never am in a service where I am to say “Yes! God is worthy of our praise.” Theologically, I hope I never suggest that it’s our opinion that God is worthy.

  2. Sydney’s Anglicanism is a very different Anglicanism, indeed. Our Eucharists are what I would describe as middle church, with sung Eucharist at times, other times said. We have no smells and bells except on special occasions, but due attention is paid to good liturgy, for which I’m grateful.

    We are a responsive congregation, and the congregation is part of Eucharist, rather than the Eucharist being for the congregation.

  3. The Sydney diocese is not “Anglican”. They should be sued for misuse of the term. I travelled 2 hours each way to attend an Anglican service in St James, King Street. A few still provide a proper communion service at 8am but other services would be more typical of the Baptist church down the street. I met people who with tears in their eyes told me they had to put up with the non-Anglican services as they were too elderly to make the long journey to find an Anglican service. Realising that might be me one day, I have migrated to Dunedin. One Christmas day we took our mother to the nearby church at Chatswood. 8am was too early for her (aged 95) so we went to the next service. The ‘priest’ walked in with a suit and tie but hey that is often the dress of the Archbishop. The only part of the service I recognised was the Apostle’s creed and I walked out when we were asked to raise out hands if we were ‘saved’. My sister and mother(in tears) came out soon after. I wrote and complained and did receive an apology that the advertising did not make clear when communion would be offered but was told they did not offer communion at most services on Christmas day as people who only came on that day would be unworthy recipients. I was flabbergasted. Many churches only offer communion services occasionally. I grew up in the “then’ evangelical but Anglican diocese and remember my priest chastising me because, although a sunday school teacher and youth leader, as a 20 year old I did not like rising early so only received communion when it was offered once a month at the evening service. Unfortunately the good evangelical but Anglican men like him have now gone to their rest.

    1. This story reminds me, not for the first time, that Jesus did not turn Judas away from the last supper. Judas was an adult and Jesus allowed him to make his own choice (which might be regarded as the paradigmatic example of eating and drinking judgment). The protestant protest against calling priests/ministers “father” is very word-based, but often seems to miss the fact that protestant leaders behave quite frequently in substance as “father”. Now, would Jesus have minded more about the words people used, or the reality they concealed? I know what my Bible tells me.

  4. I cannot help wondering that, with Sydney’s accent on the identity of clergy as ‘ministers’ (and I know that the term is used in the 1662 Prayer Book at some points), are they preparing for the time when the Sydney Diocese will officially appoint a Lay-Person as licensed to preside (consecrate the Sacred Elements) at the Eucharist. Perhaps a Sydney onlooker on this site could provide the answer to this. In New Zealand we have licensed lay ‘ministers of the Sacrament’, but that is not the same thing.

  5. “Liturgy is – the work of the people. We have a word for work for the people – it is “magic”.”

    While I share your feelings about Sydney’s liturgy Bosco I can’t let your note go by without noting in return that “work for the people” is actually a valid translation of liteurgia – more so actually than “work of the people” that was popularised in the sixties. I have elsewhere argued (as have others” that reclaiming a concept of liturgy as public service is an important task as the church looks to more actively participate in the missio Dei.

    Yours pedantically


    1. Thanks for that very important point, Brian. You are correct in terms of strict translation – if “people” is understood as not merely those within the worshipping Christian assembly, but those beyond the Christian community. I’m sure, however, that we both agree that liturgy is not the priest’s minister’s work for the gathered congregation. Which was the point I am making. It often seems to me that the very people who say they are against clericalism in fact run a very clericalist service (including clericalising the laity). Blessings.

      1. As Metropolitan Kallistos has recently put it, to translate leitourgia as “the work of the people” is “bad etymology, but good theology.”

        1. Thanks, Jesse. That’s a good quote. As I said to Brian, the etymological derivation is also good theology if we don’t think of the people referred to as being the ones present at the liturgy. Blessings.

  6. Oh dear! Rest assured not all Australian Anglicanism is like that of Sydney. Brian – I’m so sorry about your experiences – who judges about unworthy recipients? Agh!!!

    1. Thanks. I think/hope it’s part of what keeps the culture of the community around this site positive. There’s been some “strong” disagreements here, but always respectful. People are themselves here and anonymous comments on other sites, I’ve often noticed, can cause discussions to lead to more heat than light. There’s been a couple of exceptions here, but they have communicated with me privately, and I agree with the reasons for their anonymity. Blessings.

  7. Thanks for the link, Bosco.

    “Forget about looking for the sign of peace.”
    I think a lot of non-evangelicals would agree with this. It seemed a good idea when it was introduced (via the CSI in 1948?), but in larger gath- oops, services, often it signifies ‘disruption’ rather than ‘peace’, as people wander about to embrace their friends and talk about the football etc. It’s very easy to lose the focus in worship, which should be upon the Lord.

    “And they continue what everyone has long ago abandoned: breaking the bread in the middle of the Last Supper story.”
    Only everyone who has abandoned the BCP Service of Holy Communion, where this is done.
    Overall, this is ‘Common Prayer’ in the spirit of the Book of Common Prayer. How far does the NZ Anglican litury book measure up against that standard?

    1. Thanks Steve. Yes, it is easy to lose focus in worship at the Peace and many other points in a service. This needs to be part of a community’s reflection and formation.

      Cranmer’s BCPs, of course, did not have the breaking of the bread in this position where there is a partial mimicking of the Last Supper in the middle of narrating the story. That was added after the discontinuity of the Civil War when several things were inserted into the 1662 revision which lost Cranmer’s vision. Blessings.

  8. When I was a teenager I enjoyed the compulsory hugs that came with the Peace! Now I know from experience how hard it is to keep folk on track when we should be concentrating on the central moment of the service and focusing our thoughts and prayers on the crucified Lord. I think the Peace works fine with smaller groups, less so in larger services.
    Thanks for the head’s up on 1552, which I’ll check out.

  9. “Cranmer’s BCPs, of course, did not have the breaking of the bread in this position where there is a partial mimicking of the Last Supper in the middle of narrating the story”

    Checking it out, as far as I can see, there is NO “taking and breaking” at all in 1552 – really quite radical and reformed. It looks like 1662 introduced these “manual acts” and they’re found in an identical place in each of the 1978 Australian communion prayers. So it looks like Sydney is just reflecting usual Australian practice.

    1. I’m not sure how not taking bread and not breaking bread is either radical or reformed. The breaking of the bread is part of the Eucharist from the beginning, so much so that it is one of the titles used for the service. In the absence of contrary instructions I would argue that priests would have continued taking bread as indicated in the First Prayer Book of Edward VI prior to “The Lorde be with you” which begins the Eucharistic Prayer, and have the fraction prior to communion.

      You are incorrect about the fraction occurring “in an identical place in each of the 1978 Australian communion prayers” to Sydney’s placing of this. Sydney certainly is not “reflecting usual Australian practice”.


  10. Reading thru it, I can’t see any ‘manual acts’ of formally picking up bread and breaking it or picking up the cup mentioned in rubrics in 1552. Have I missed something? The ‘taking and breaking’ are necessary utilitarian acts implied in any eating and drinking. They don’t seem to have any significance in themselves, as far as I can see, but I seem to recall Dix made them central to his thesis, and, IIRC, called 1552 a “maimed rite”. It looks as if Cranmer was seeking to exclude any possible sacrificial interpretation of the Holy Communion (e.g. no ‘elevation of the host’, displaying the hostia to the people, or ritual breaking of the Body of Christ).
    The ‘manual acts’ in AAPB 1978 are found on pages 126 (following BCP), 147, 160 166, 170, in the midst of eucharistic prayers, in the respective ‘narratives of institution’. Msybe things are different in Australia now?

    1. No, you haven’t missed anything in the 1552 rite as far as I can see, Steve. I’ve already argued that, in their absence, priests would have continued as they did the service before. It is not as if, having said the prayer, they then would have gone and obtained the bread and wine. Or is that what you are arguing?

      Breaking is not a “necessary utilitarian acts implied in any eating and drinking”. Pieces can be small enough that no breaking is involved. Are you suggesting that 1552 had no breaking of the bread? That would be a radical suggestion. As I said, the Bible places quite an emphasis on the breaking.

      There is no breaking on the AAPB pages you mention 147, 160 166, 170. That happens after the Thanksgiving on p148. The options continue in A Prayer Book for Australia (1995).


  11. Bosco, I’ve never given it much thought until I came across your fascinating site – for which I am grateful, thank you – but I suppose the bread and wine were already there on the table, and that the “manual acts” of “taking the bread and wine” meant holding them up in your hands. There is no “fraction” that I can see mentioned in either 1549 or 1552, so maybe there was no “breaking” in 1552, if they were using wafers? I don’t know. Did they use wafers in 1552? It’s notable that the rubric on manual acts in 1549 was deleted in 1552 – maybe as a result of the criticisms of 1549 by Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr Vermigli? I gather they influenced Cranmer a lot in his revisions.
    Regarding the other thread, on ‘north side’, this rubric from 1552 does show how communion practice was envisioned:
    “The Table havyng at the Communion tyme a fayre white lynnen clothe upon it, shall stande in the body of the Churche, or in the chauncell”
    Thanks again for your site.

    1. 1549 certainly does assume a fraction: “For aduoyding of all matters and occasyon of dyscencyon, it is mete that the breade prepared for the Communion, bee made, through all thys realme, after one sort and fashion: that is to say, unleauened, and rounde, as it was afore, but without all maner of printe, and somethyng more larger and thicker than it was, so that it may be aptly deuided in diuers pieces: and every one shall be deuided in two pieces, at the leaste, or more….”

      And, no, they didn’t use wafers in 1552. The rite is clear, “And to take away the supersticion, whiche any person hathe, or myghte haue in the bread and wyne, it shall suffyse that the bread bee such, as is usuall to bee eaten at the Table wyth other meates, but the best and purest wheate bread, that conueniently maye be gotten.”


  12. “I’ve already argued that, in their absence, priests would have continued as they did the service before.”

    You may assume so, but the fact that the explicit rubric was restored in 1662 does rather suggest that the “manual acts” had been discontinued in the meantime. Sydney is in line with the “manual acts” in AAPB 1978.

    1. Sorry, with respect, Steve – the rubric was not “restored” in 1662 – this is a new rubric reflecting the discontinuity of the period of Civil War and Commonwealth when eg. episcopacy was abandoned. I would agree with you about the discontinuity in that period. It is quite different for me to argue that, in the absence of alternatives, people would have continued in 1548 what they did in 1547, and similarly in 1549, and a couple of years later in 1552.

      I have already pointed out the pages in AAPB where Sydney’s manual acts in no way are in line with the 1978 rite.


  13. Gosh – thanks for info. I was able to find a pdf of book even before I get a copy of it! All thanks to your website.

    Can’t wait for Common Prayer.

  14. Currently writing an essay on the fact that Australia really hasn’t anymore, a Prayer Book ‘FOR’ Australia – i.e. Sydney and various others using Common Prayer.

    Bosco, have you got a collection of APBA articles or prayer book liturgy articles in one place -or have you thought of writing a Prayer Book Studies text?

    1. Greg, I’m in NZ – so, no, obviously I’m very interested what happens next door, but I haven’t thought of a systematic analysis of Australian texts. Blessings.

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