COMMON WORSHIP

Jeremy Haselock replies to John Richardson and Michael Moreton.

 

THE FOLLOWING observations may well sound defensive and a little piqued as I perhaps over-react to the cold and, I believe, unhelpful reception extended to Common Worship under the headline "Unsolicited Services" in the June number of New Directions. Confining myself largely to the new Eucharistic Rites, I will try and answer some of the criticisms and will hope to present a more positive response to our new liturgy.

I do feel it is high time people realised that the business of liturgical reform and renewal in the Church of England is an exercise in the art of the possible. We all know of the changes to our rites, newly-crafted material, frequently-suggested improvements and the degree of doctrinal precision that are considered desirable, essential even, by those of us who still believe our Anglican liturgy to belong to an ill-defined but nevertheless recognisable way to the Western Rite. We should also know that most of them are impossible to achieve because, in the final analysis, first the revision of the material drafted by the Liturgical Commission and then the authorisation of our liturgy is in the hands of the General Synod. To put it bluntly, the Church of England gets the liturgy it asks for through the democratic process represented by synodical government and it gets the liturgy it perhaps deserves given the process it has set up to oversee it.

If this does sound rather tetchy it is because as a Catholic member of the Liturgical Commission, who along with Fr Andrew Burnham has born the burden in the heat of the day in trying to ensure in drafting group after drafting group and revision committee after revision committee that our revised rites are as patient of a catholic interpretation and performance as is possible in our comprehensive Church, I am fed up with the unrealistic expectations of those who think the Church of England should either authorise the use of the Roman Sacramentary tomorrow or worship in the 21st century with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

One of the regular contributors to this periodical, John Richardson, voiced his opinion in June - Liturgicalism Triumphant - that no one has asked for Common Worship or the revision work that lies behind it and, furthermore, that no one wants it. But this is just not true. The Church of England has asked for it in Synod, through its House of Bishops - we are an episcopally ordered Church are we not? - and through its elected Houses of Clergy and Laity. It was General Synod that initially authorised the Alternative Service Book of 1980 for the limited period of only ten years, later extended by a further ten. It was the General Synod that then declined to prolong the ASBís authorisation. It was the General Synod that inaugurated the round of liturgical revision which has culminated in Common Worship and, through its revision committees, full-synod debates and final authorization procedure, it is the General Synod that has shaped where we are now.

But I can also give the lie to Richardsonís assertion from my own experience both as a Diocesan Liturgical Adviser and as a Cathedral Precentor. I have made numerous visits to parishes, chapters, deanery synods and the like, over the last two years in Norwich and, apart from a hesitation on the part of some churchwardens and PCC treasurers who are not unexpectedly anxious about finance, the main reaction to the coming of Common Worship in this deeply conservative diocese is enthusiasm and a degree of excitement. Here in the Cathedral, licensed by the Archbishops for liturgical experiment, all the eucharistic services have been trial run over the last five years with very positive feedback from a large congregation. The publication of the Sunday Service Book is eagerly awaited. Incidentally, I have done teaching days all over the country on the new Initiation Services and while many clergy were initially cautious because of the change of culture required by the rites I find most now have warmly welcomed the services and are using them to great profit in the mission of the Church.

Richardson analyses the factors driving the liturgical revision process which has produced Common Worship and compares them with the reasons for earlier change in 1549, 1552, 1662 and leading up to the ASB. He finds the latest process wanting in theological seriousness largely because he has chosen to ignore or simply does not know about one of the most significant driving forces: ecumenical convergence in liturgy.

The Liturgical Movement has made a vital contribution to the life of the Church throughout the world. Its goal, the renewal of Christian worship, is common to all the Christian traditions and a concerted return to a study of the worship of the early Church has led to a hugely welcome ecumenical convergence in worship. Above all the Churches have realised more and more, pace John Richardson, that liturgical renewal is profoundly theological. The reshaping of our liturgy has helped us to reshape many of our ideas about what makes the Church, particularly at local level; we have come to see ourselves more clearly as a priestly people participating together in what is, after all, a common task rather than the preserve of a clerical caste and it has enabled us to express very much more directly in our worship the faith we have received and believe in our hearts. We have learned what S. Augustine meant when he said so succinctly - "we are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song" because the liturgy teaches us that we are a community brought together through the Paschal Mystery and we proclaim to the world our self-understanding in joyful worship and songs of praise.

Richardsonís problem may be that the ecumenical consensus in liturgical worship is a catholic consensus in every sense of that word. Except for the most extreme of High Anglican conservatives, those catholic congregationalists for whom private judgement and personal taste in matters ritual and ceremonial are sovereign over the liturgical teaching of todayís Church, liturgical renewal has not meant we have had to lower our liturgical standards to meet the requirements of Christian charity in the field of ecumenism. No, with delight and with great thanksgiving to God, we have witnessed a considerable recovery of liturgical awareness and raising of standards amongst the Churches of the Reformation. This has had a knock-on effect on what I dare to call internal ecumenism. That part of our own Church which has hitherto set its face against a strict interpretation of the liturgical canons and the rubrics of the Prayer Book and ASB, has seen the way in which the wind of change is blowing through both Continental and American reformed Churches and, except perhaps in Stratford Broadway, has taken a greater interest in ordered worship and liturgical preaching.

Liturgical renewal is an ongoing concern of the whole Church and it is the area, perhaps also alongside that of social concern, in which there has been the greatest amount of ecumenical convergence and co-operation at the point of need. In 1951, at one of the early encounters between the ecumenical and liturgical movements, hosted by George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, it was said that "in worship we meet the problem, nay the sin of the disunion of the Church in its sharpest form." Since then common sources have been rediscovered, old controversies have been re-examined and Eucharistic life has been renewed ecumenically. Along with a recognition of the centrality of the Eucharist has come a strong ecumenical consensus about the shape of the liturgy. It is now commonly agreed that the Eucharist is to be celebrated around the two foci of the "table of the Word" and the "table of the Bread".

From this first focus has come our welcome adoption into Common Worship of the Revised Common Lectionary based on that originally produced to accompany the new Roman Missal of 1970. In North America this lectionary rapidly found acceptance among Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists and with the Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ. With some alteration it was authorised for use in the Church of England in 1997.

From the second focus, the focus on the Sacrament, has come widespread and rapidly growing agreement about the nature and the structure of the Eucharistic Prayer itself. And, whilst it may seem that in the new Common Worship rite Eucharistic Prayers proliferate - we now have, eight authorised for use in the new Order One alone - in structure, in shape and in text they are becoming increasingly similar throughout the denominations even where doctrinal emphases remain different. This ecumenical convergence over a wide area, together with our commitment to common texts, has provided the main engine for change.

Richardson accuses Common Worship of retaining "the practices of earlier generations, but without the rationale". He gives as his specific example the need for careful devotional preparation before the service, quoting the Third Exhortation from the BCP. "No such warning," he says, "are sounded in Common Worship." But he has not looked very far: the whole of the Third Exhortation is printed in the Common Worship Eucharistic Rite, clearly annexed to Order Two.

One could continue to answer Richardsonís criticisms as he scrapes the bottom of a very shallow barrel in order to rubbish what is clearly not to his theological taste. The nub of the matter comes when he claims that the declared theology behind the Communion service is wrong. He quotes from the Bishop of Salisburyís Introduction to the Sample Edition and declares the bishopís words to be "at virtually every point contrary to Scripture or tradition (or Both)", but what the bishop writes is a simple paraphrase of the 1971 ARCIC agreement on Eucharistic Doctrine which speaks of entering "into the movement of Christís self-offering." The reform of our Eucharistic liturgy has, in Common Worship, taken note of and reflected an important ecumenical agreement on eucharistic sacrifice and anamnesis.

I have long admired the contributions Fr Michael Moreton has made to the debates on Anglican liturgy over the last thirty or more years. From a scholarly, catholic perspective he has provided a valuable critique of what has been done from Series One right through to the ASB. I am, however, saddened at the air of unreality pervading his observations - Ancient and Classic?. What does he expect of a Synod dominated by Evangelicals ? What does he expect of a Synod in which the Catholic Group is numerically at a low ebb - the pessimistic might say in terminal decline ? He seems seriously to expect such a Synod to authorize for use in the Church of England the Prex Eucharistica I of the Roman Rite - the Roman Canon. Now I know the majority of the priest members of the Catholic Group are busy using services neither authorized nor permitted by canon and are thus largely indifferent to Anglican formularies and predisposed towards Roman liturgical material but they are sufficiently street-wise in synodical terms to know that this is a non-starter. Why does Fr Moreton not rejoice at what we have achieved, rather than moan at our not contending for the impossible? What we have struggled for, and to a considerable extent attained in Common Worship, is a Eucharistic rite (Order One) far less sui generis than anything we have had before, closer in structure and content to an ecumenically-agreed Western norm, with Eucharistic Prayers which express far more clearly than before what the Church of England has now declared it believes through the ARCIC process.

There is neither time nor space here for a detailed response to Fr Moretonís criticisms, but a response could be made and indeed should if Catholics in the Church of England are not going to lose confidence in the new Eucharistic rites we have struggled hard to have approved. But I want here to affirm the fact, contra Moreton, that we do now have intercession in the Eucharistic Prayer, tentatively in prayer E and explicitly in prayers F and G. The intercession is perhaps not as developed as he would like, or as in the historic anaphorae he cites, but what we have is a tremendous advance on what was in our prayers before. The fact that such intercessory petitions are actually there within the Eucharistic Prayer means that they are tied in to the action of the prayer by association.

Fr Moreton claims that the "offering of the bread and the cup is consistently excluded in favour of the offering of ourselves," but examination of the new Eucharistic Prayers reveals how we have moved from "with this bread and this cup we make the memorial . . ." in prayer A, via "as we offer you this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, we bring before you this bread and this cup" in prayer B, to "bringing before you the bread of life and cup of salvation" in prayer E. I know my schoolboy Lewis and Short is not the last word in classical scholarship but it does say that the Latin offero is just as well translated 'bring before' as it is 'offer'.

Much could be said about the phrasing of the epiclesis and the odium theologicum such a concept induces in Synod. In prayer E the original draft (my own) read "send your Holy Spirit on us and on these gifts, that broken bread and wine outpoured may be for us the body and blood of your dear Son" but the revision committee was too timorous a beastie to allow this all too clear phrasing to remain and so what we have is simply "send your Holy Spirit, that broken bread and wine outpoured." I know what I meant and most of those who use the prayer will know what we are asking God to do. Yes, as Fr Moreton observes, it is not as we might like, but to say that the epiclesis in all the new prayers "consistently refers only to us and never to the gifts" is an ungenerous lack of acknowledgment of the real progress we have made.

I believe that the new Common Worship Eucharistic provision represents a real sharpening up of our Eucharistic doctrine in the direction of both ancient and classical and modern ecumenically agreed faith. Perhaps it does not go as far as I or Fr Moreton would like but, as I said at the outset, the business of liturgical reform and renewal in the Church of England is an exercise in the art of the possible. But I suspect, dare I say, as John Richardson is so set against what we have done, we have gone about as far as we can go.

Jeremy Haselock is a Residentiary Canon and Precentor at Norwich Cathedral and a member of the Liturgical Commission.

 

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