Lost in the Forest, Part II

General Synod & The Liturgy Task Force:  Lost in the Forest Part II


As I mentioned in my first blog on the work of the Liturgy Task Force, we were able to identify quickly the projects we wanted to address during the five years before us. But, as so often happens, we were not able to complete all our work. We were able to complete three major projects: (i) the creation of a three-year set of propers, (ii) the revision of morning and evening prayer and (iii) a liturgical psalter, based on the psalter of The Book of Alternative Services, but emended for inclusive language.

Collects and Prayers over the Gifts and after Communion

The Rev’d James Brown, Dr Kenneth Hull, the Rev’d Dr Richard Geoffrey Leggett, the Rev’d Dr Boyd Morgan, the Rt Rev’d David Torraville, the Very Rev’d Peter Wall

In 1983 the Doctrine and Worship Committee presented the General Synod with a draft Book of Alternative Services which required further editing and revision. General Synod authorized the Doctrine and Worship Committee to complete its work and to permit the National Executive Council to publish the work upon its completion. When The Book of Alternative Services was published in 1985, it followed the pattern of The Book of Common Prayer (TEC 1979) by providing one collect for each occasion in the three-year lectionary. In addition to the collect, The Book of Alternative Services included a prayer over the gifts and a prayer after communion.

It became quickly apparent that having only one collect was unsatisfactory. If, as the introduction to the Holy Eucharist in The Book of Alternative Services states, the collect of the day ‘provides the transition to the readings for the day’ (p. 174), then what is the community to make of a collect that has no connection at all to what is to be read? For this reason, General Synod 2010 authorized Faith, Worship and Ministry to establish a Task Force, one of whose tasks was the preparation of a three-year cycle of collects that provide a genuine transition to the readings for the day.

The Propers Working Group has fulfilled this task. We have used three approaches to our work: (i) we have created collects; (ii) we have adopted collects from other sources; and (iii) we have adapted collects from other sources. We have chosen language that we believe to be faithful to the Scriptures and food for the theological and spiritual imagination of the gathered community. Some of the collects follow a structure familiar to Anglicans, while others do not. All, however, are expressions of the Christian faith rooted in the Scriptures and the ecumenical creeds.

Instead of preparing a prayer over the gifts and a prayer after communion for each occasion, we have recommended the use of the seasonal prayers from Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

With this work the worshipping communities of the Anglican Church of Canada will have a choice of up to four collects for each occasion: (i) the collect from The Book of Alternative Services, (ii) the collect from Evangelical Lutheran Worship and (iii) two trial use collects. Communities will have a similar choice regarding the prayer over the gifts and the prayer after communion: (i) the prayers from The Book of Alternative Services and (ii) the seasonal prayers from Evangelical Lutheran Worship. These choices will permit presiders to choose prayers which serve the context of their community and to explore new language for the mystery of creation, redemption and sanctification made known to us by God through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Daily Office

The Rev’d Dr Richard Geoffrey Leggett in collaboration with the Members of the Liturgy Task Force

In the years since the publication of The Book of Alternative Services many Anglicans have found a renewed interest in regular and structured daily prayer as a means of ‘praying without ceasing’. This renewed interest, however, was not served well by how Morning and Evening Prayer were laid out in The Book of Alternative Services. A full and satisfying use of the Offices required worshippers to turn numerous times to different pages and then back again. This editorial design meant that many of the riches of the Offices in The Book of Alternative Services were not well-used or even well-known.

Other factors have also influenced Daily Prayer in these first decades of the twenty-first century. First, although The Book of Alternative Services made some strides in more complementary language for God and more inclusive language for people, many contemporary worshippers desired that more strides be made towards language that is ‘faithful and fair’. In this set of offices a balance has been sought between traditional and more inclusive language for God using principles similar to those used in the preparation of ‘The Liturgical Psalter’.

Second, in 1992 the Society of Saint Francis published Celebrating Common Prayer, a daily prayer book that introduced a new way of structuring the Daily Offices around the liturgical year. This innovative approach, along with a wider selection of canticles and prayers, influenced many Anglicans throughout the world. By 2005 the Church of England published Common Worship: Daily Prayer which provides worshippers with daily prayer for every day of the week in ordinary time and daily prayer for the seasons of the liturgical year. This resource has influenced the work of the Liturgy Task Force in preparing this resource for trial use in the Anglican Church of Canada.

While the structure of Morning and Evening Prayer in The Book of Alternative Services is the foundation of the offices that follow, Common Worship: Daily Prayer has provided both texts and approaches to the offices for each season. Each office is designed so that those who use it for prayer need only move page by page through the office. Seasonal Morning and Evening Prayer have been prepared for Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Passiontide, Easter, Pentecost and All Saints. Morning and Evening Prayer for each day of the week in Ordinary time have also been provided.

The Liturgical Psalter

The Rev’d Dr Richard Geoffrey Leggett in collaboration with the Rev’d James Brown and Dr Kenneth Hull

The purpose of this emendation of the Psalter as printed in The Book of Alternative Services is to prepare a psalter whose language is (i) faithful to the intent of the writers of the psalms as poems expressing the relationship between God and the people of Israel and (ii) fair to current users of the psalms who have found some barriers to the integration of the psalms into their life of prayer and worship.

Since the adoption of the psalter from The Book of Common Prayer (TEC 1979) for use in The Book of Alternative Services, there has been a growing awareness of the need to address several issues.

The first issue is a linguistic one. The English language uses the masculine singular pronoun when referring to God in the third person. In this psalter alternative wordings or sentence structures have been used to eliminate the use of the masculine pronoun when referring to God. Likewise, third-person plural pronouns have been used to replace the singular when referring to human beings in a particular category, e.g., ‘the wicked’, ‘the scornful’, ‘the righteous’, etc. In some cases, however, masculine gender has been retained for human beings referred to in the psalms, e.g., Psalm 72. In such cases the context requires gender specificity. In addressing this linguistic issue the psalms as printed in Evangelical Lutheran Worship and in the New Revised Standard Version of the Scriptures have been consulted for guidance in the emendation.

A second issue is versification. As a consequence of certain historical circumstances, the versification of the Psalms in the Anglican tradition does not always coincide with the versification in the Bible itself. Consequently, the versification of the psalms in ‘The Liturgical Psalter’ has been altered to conform to the versification of the New Revised Standard Version in order to facilitate use with the Revised Common Lectionary citations of psalms, especially when liturgical planners are using on-line and web resources.

A third issue focuses on certain traditional titles for God. While some contemporary psalters have eliminated the use of ‘Lord’ as a title for God, this emendation retains its use. In a world of competing claims of sovereignty, in our own times as well as in biblical times, the use of ‘Lord’ reminds us who is truly sovereign and whose purposes are being worked out in human history.

A fourth issue centres around the psalm prayers provided in The Book of Alternative Services. At the discretion of the liturgical planner any psalm may be followed by the recitation of a doxology or a psalm prayer. Appropriate psalm prayers are found in The Book of Alternative Services and Evangelical Lutheran Worship: Leaders Desk Edition.

The traditional division of the psalter into five books has been maintained here as well as the use of the Latin incipits (‘first line’).

The Liturgy Task Force recognizes that there are many inclusive-language psalters available for use including, but not limited to, the psalms in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the Psalter for the Christian People, The Saint Helena Psalter and the Canadian publication, Songs for the Holy One. Our intention is to provide an emendation of a familiar translation to foster the prayer of the Church.


(The Rev’d Dr) Richard Geoffrey Leggett

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