Pastor Kathleen was away on vacation on Sunday, and she will be next Sunday as well. Rather than bringing in a supply priest to officiate at the Eucharist she recruited lay members of the church who had recently received training in leading worship to guide us through Morning Prayer.
There was a time when many Episcopal churches only had Communion once a month. The other Sundays of the month Morning Prayer was observed. I’m glad that is no longer the case. Not because there is anything wrong with the Morning Prayer service, but because Communion is so important to me.
There are a lot of differences between Sunday Eucharist and Morning Prayer.
- Confession is said at the beginning of the service, rather in the middle.
- The psalm is read before the other Bible readings, not in the middle of them.
- The Old Testament lesson is longer than the Sunday reading, providing more context.
- The three-year Gospel Sunday lectionary cycle is not observed.
- There is no Gospel procession; we remain seated while the Gospel is read.
- We read the Apostles’ Creed rather than the Nicene Creed.
I was glad to have had the experience of Morning Prayer. But I will be happy to return to our Rite II Eucharist on the 21st.
By the way, the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer is available online.
I don’t like getting out of bed early on a Sunday, but I did so yesterday. I knew that my normal 10:30 a.m. Rite II Eucharist at Good Shepherd Episcopal would be absolutely packed on Easter, and I knew that parking would be something of a headache. I also knew that I would be hard pressed to get back home in time for Easter brunch reservations with Terry and my dad at the lodge here.
So I got up early and attended the 8:00 a.m. Rite I service. At Good Shepherd the Rite I service has no organ, no choir, and no music. Easter is no exception. I had never attended a Rite I service before. We used a small portion of the Rite I liturgy on Ash Wednesday this year, but aside from that I have only experienced Rite II.
Rite I would not be my choice for worship on a weekly basis, but I am glad that I had the experience. Some of the Elizabethan language is quite soaring. This part of the Eucharistic prayer stood out for me:
[Remembering] his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension;
rendering unto thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable
benefits procured unto us by the same.
And although we are unworthy, through our manifold sins,
to offer unto thee any sacrifice, yet we beseech thee to accept
this our bounden duty and service, not weighing our merits,
but pardoning our offences, through Jesus Christ our Lord
It’s not a Malcolm Boyd style of prayer to be sure, but it is powerful in its context.
Next week I plan to be back at my usual Rite II 10:30 service with the choir, the magnificent pipe organ powered by our superb organist Jean, and the more contemporary language, but yesterday’s journey was one well worth having taken.
Back in 1996 when I was exploring the Episcopal Church I visited St. Bede’s in Menlo Park. They had this printed in their worship folder:
We realize that navigating our forms of worship may be challenging for those unfamiliar with worship in the Episcopal Church…
A suggestion which may be helpful would be to consider that you are entering into a conversation between God and the faithful which began centuries before we were here and which will continue long after we are gone.
Just join in as you are — bearing with us as we are — and we will all be changed as we go!
I think that was key in helping me continue my Episcopal quest, and I still love it today.
I believe worship is richer when we stay aware of that thought.
I was recently grousing about the Advent liturgy at St. John’s. As I thought about it, I figured that rather than being unhappy I should ask Fr. Phil what his thinking was. So I sent him an email.
He replied, and I found out a couple of things. First, the Kyrie, from an orchestral piece by Beethoven, as it turns out, that I thought to be so somber and less appropriate for Advent than for Lent, is not the one we’re using this year. Rather, we’re using the Healey Willan version (below) which I think will be wonderful.
Even better, we’re using Eucharistic Prayer C, which, as I have mentioned, is my favorite. It is the one with the marvelous words:
At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of
interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses,
and this fragile earth, our island home.
It’s also this same Eucharistic Prayer which reminds us, and I do need reminding:
Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal.
As I said in my response to Fr. Phil’s email, “I’m there!”
A while back Diana Butler Bass posted the following reflection on Facebook:
I’m increasingly worried how emerging theology is at odds with liturgy and hymnody. Can we get a bunch of new hymns, for example, that do not reflect substitutionary atonement? How about liturgy that emphasizes what we do here in this world rather than just looking forward to the next? Or, prayers about the reign of God now instead of personal salvation?
An interesting thought. More recently, Jane Redmont exchanged comments with a friend on Facebook who suggested that the 1982 Episcopal Hymnal contained too many hymns that “continue to push the bloody substitutionary theory of the Atonement, [and] seem to glorify violence and war….” He says that “ ‘Lift high the cross’… with a catchy melody also suggests that the goal of the church should be to convert the whole world to some version of Christianity.”
Certainly many people who call themselves Christians would like to do just that. But the “emerging theology” Diana mentions takes a broader view and accepts that Jews, Muslims, Hindus and all other religions have the right to their own beliefs and practices and that they are just as valid as ours.
Grace Cathedral used to have in its liturgy something to the effect of “We pray for all Jews, Muslims, and Hindus.” That was great. As Diana says, we need liturgy that emphasizes what we do here in this world and we need prayers about the reign of God now.
Perhaps the Episcopal Church would be better off working to update the liturgy in this manner instead of spending so much time getting exercised about the proposed Anglican Covenant, which appears destined for defeat anyway.
When I first started attending the Episcopal Church it was all new to me, and I paid attention to the words of the liturgy. Now that I have been around liturgical worship for a while, my mind tends to wander. This is not great, because there are things I need to hear, such as in the confession:
|Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
And there are things I love to hear:
|The Gifts of God for the People of God.
Take them in remembrance that Christ died for
you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith,
And there are things I need to be reminded of:
|Eternal God, heavenly Father,
you have graciously accepted us as living members
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,
So it's my intent to pay attention and listen.
I wrote last week about how I skipped church so Terry and I could go to the ocean. We had a great time and it was exactly what we both needed.
At the same time, when I miss church I realize how important Sunday Eucharist is to me. Given how stressful my job has been recently, when the alarm went off on Sunday morning I was really tempted to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep. But I knew what I had missed last week and I knew I needed it, so I pulled myself out of bed. I was glad I did.
In addition to the normal Eucharist of which I was delighted to be a part again, the fifth Sunday is always Youth Sunday at St. John the Divine. The St. John's youth always do a great job on those Sundays, and this Sunday's worship was especially delightful because it was a Beatles Mass.
It was good to be there.