General Synod 2016 & The Liturgy Task Force
Lost in the Forest Part III
Now that General Synod 2016 has come to an end, it is important to note two of the resolutions of General Synod that did not make the CBC national news and other news outlets.
Resolution A 142 encourages ‘the work begun within the term limit of the Liturgy Task Force (2010-2016) [continue], guided by the Liturgical Principles and Agenda for Liturgical Revision as adopted by the General Synod 2010, and light of evolving priorities in the General Synod’s ministry’. So, in the months ahead, we may hope for the appointment of a new incarnation of the Task Force. When that information becomes available, I shall do my best to see that the information is shared here on Liturgy Canada’s blog.
Resolution A 143 receives ‘with gratitude the Report of the Liturgy Task Force and [authorizes] . . . for trial use and evaluation for a period of three years’ (i) the three-year set of propers for the liturgical year for use with the Revised Common Lectionary, (ii) morning and evening prayer for ordinary time and seasons and (iii) the liturgical psalter.
This leads me to offer some thoughts about the work that the Task Force was unable to complete within this mandate and that may reasonably be expected to become part of the agenda of the next iteration of the Task Force.
Any proposals to revise the rites of Christian initiation in the Anglican Church of Canada are rightfully ones to be subject to scrutiny by the leadership of our community of faith. For this reason, the Christian Initiation Working Group moved deliberately in its work of identifying the issues with the current rites and possible ways to address them.
The Working Group determined that its task was to provide resources that are excellent and can be adapted to the various contexts in which Canadian Anglicans live, work and serve. Over the course of five years the Working Group
- pooled and collected resources from around the communion and beyond;
- developed alternative renunciation sentences;
- explored options to include in the liturgy when one parent or sponsor is not of the faith and developed a resource for this;
- commissioned the writing of two new “Thanksgiving Over the Water” texts; and
- revised the ‘Prayers for the Candidates’ that moves the prayers from being solely about the candidates to be more inclusive of the community gathered and towards a missional focus of ministry.
In terms of future work the Working Group identified (i) how the rites of Christian initiation contained in Evangelical Lutheran Worship might be used in an Anglican context, (ii) what alternative resources the Church may require and (iii) the preparation of a new liturgical resource created by the Working Group which will include expanded recommended practices expanding on those found in The Book of Alternative Services.
The Working Group has recommended that the work on Initiation continue. There is additional work and many other resources to develop. It is recommended that further partnerships be forged and explored with those in Canada and through out the communion, especially with those who are shaping and developing work on initiation, the catechumenate and who are providing resources of excellence.
Eucharistic Ordo Project
The task of the Eucharist Working Group evolved into ‘The Ordo Project’. Canadian Anglicans are blessed with an abundance of eucharistic resources: The Book of Common Prayer (1962), The Book of Alternative Services (1985), Supplementary Eucharistic Prayers (1998) and Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006). the Book of Alternative Services, the Supplementary Eucharistic Prayers (1998) and Evangelical Lutheran Worship. These resources combine to provide 23 choices of Great Thanksgiving prayers which we believe gives the church an appropriate richness. Extensive work is being done by other provinces of the Communion as well. This led the Working Group to determine that was is needed is not another printed resource but a digital, on-line presence to assist and advise congregations in their liturgical planning.
An ordo is, of course, simply a manual of procedures, a set of instructions and advice, including both description and history, along with rubrics, which help us to order and organize our liturgies. The ordo project subdivides the liturgy into four main sections: Gathering, Proclamation, Meal, and Sending. Each major sections further sub-divides into its component parts: Procession, Act of Praise, Collect of the Day, etc. For each piece of the action, there is a descriptive passage detailing what it is and what it is for, along with rubrics suggesting how it can best be used. Posture, style, tone of voice, the role of the assembly, and the principal actors are all discussed and explained. This is all designed as an on-line, easily accessed and adapted resource.
Progress Report on Calendrical Reform
The Liturgy Task Force was mandated to undertake a review of and propose revisions to the liturgical calendar in The Book of Alternative Services as well as other calendrical matters. Substantial research was undertaken by the Venerable Dr. Francis Cooper, OGS, in the context of his studies for a Doctor of Ministry degree.
Proposals for the progressed temporal calendar were considered such as creating an Epiphany season, adding an optional feast of Corpus Christi, transferring Ascension to the following Sunday, just to mention a few. The Task Force discussed the process for ‘retiring’ memorials and commemorations as well as how particular dates are chosen in connection with historical events.
In its report to General Synod the Liturgy Task Force has recommended the future work of liturgical revision, begun by this Task Force and faithful to the directions established in Liturgical Principles: Principles for the Revision of our Contemporary Language Authorized Liturgical Texts, should include
- the continuation of the daily office project to include prayer during the day and night prayer;
- the preparation of an Anglican chant version of the liturgical psalter;
- the review and, if necessary, further revision of the trial-use propers;
- the review and revision of the ordinal;
- the review and revision of the rites for ministry with the sick; and
- the review, revision and expansion of rites for the dying, at the time of death and funerals.
We now wait to see if a new Liturgy Task Force will be appointed to continue the work begun five years ago. As the dust settles from the General Synod 2016, I hope that the important work the Liturgy Task Force has completed and the work we envision still needs to be done will not be lost in the haze created by the revision of the Marriage Canon. Worship continues to be the most public act of the Christian community and remains the primary means by which people learn how to follow the path of Christian discipleship in communion with God and with others.
Our on-going ministry requires that we have liturgical rites that are, to use Keith Watkins’ phrase, ‘faithful and fair’ and rites that engage our context in the four dimensions identified by our Lutheran sisters and brothers in the Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture: transculturally, contextually, counter-culturally and cross-culturally. There is still work to be done and for this I say, ‘Thanks be to God’.
(The Rev’d Dr) Richard Geoffrey Leggett
Note: Portions of this blog entry are adapted from the Report of the Liturgy Task Force and its Working Groups.