Monday, March 29, 2010

Attention to detail

At one level worship services are "products". People choose which product they prefer in the sense that, while Christians are obliged to gather for corporate worship regularly, none are obliged to attend St Ethelbert's in the Marsh rather than the New Wine New Wineskin church meeting in the warehouse. Now people make choices about which church to attend/participate in for all sorts of reasons. But they are more likely to choose a church where the worship service has relentlessly perfected itself from unnecessary faults. Over the months I have mentioned some of these. One simple one to notice, though often difficult to quickly sort out, is a faulty sound system (or faultily driven sound system). Here I simply emphasise again: attention to detail is important if we wish to draw people to our services and to see them return. Inattention to detail will not necessarily drive regular worshippers away, but it may mean we wonder why we see little or no growth in congregational numbers.

One of the great attenders to detail in modern life is Steve Jobs. He, in case you have not heard of him, is the driving force behind the Apple Computer company. So important that when he once left the company he was brought back to rescue it! The products of his company are wildly popular (iMac, iBook, iPhone, iPod, etc). Indeed many Christians freely admit their near idolatry concerning these products!! When we are using an iBook, say, to power up the powerpoints for our service, it could be worth asking whether we are as attentive to the detail of what we are doing as Steve Jobs has been to the making of that iBook.

Yet, that is not all that makes for a great service. It is just a necessary condition. Also required is a gifted leader of worship. I shall try to remember to post on that next week.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cranmer on Communion

Read a lovely and short post on Cranmer's understanding of communion here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

NZ Lectionary online

(H/T Bosco Peters, Liturgy)

Go here for the 4 Mb PDF of the 2010 NZ Lectionary.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Common Prayer as Christ's Prayer

A comment from Bosco Peters on my post below about common prayer has opened my eyes to a dimension of common prayer I had not thought of:

"the understanding that we are not merely individual humans in relation to God, but as Christians inserted, immersed, baptised into Christ and it is within Christ that we pray to God - Christ's prayer we share together."

This bears repeating ... and repeating, until we get it!

Understanding our status as Christians 'in Christ' is often overlooked but of immense importance in many aspects of Christian life, including our worship together.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Common Prayer is good

Anglicans once prayed together and alone using the Book of Common Prayer. It meant that when Anglicans prayed we expressed what we believed and what we wanted to say to God via words common to us all, so we were united in belief, thanksgiving and intercession. We were clearly and unmistakeably a Communion of believers who held things together in common!

All sorts of liturgical changes have happened in the last 50 years around the Communion - most of which has been very good, some of which has been necessary because language changes, and some of which has been an improvement on the undoubted greatness of the BCP. However we have lost the precision of our common prayers and replaced it with a fuzzier sense of commonality: our prayers as global Anglicans have a familiar resemblance in many cases (and no resemblance to each other in some cases).

Here in ACANZP we have decided to have a prayer book from 1989 onwards which diminished our own sense of common prayer by providing multiple options for prayers, and in particular several options for our eucharistic prayers. Around 1996 or 1998 (I think it was) we made a further change and made it possible via a changed rubric on page 511 for significant flexibility in the composition of a eucharistic service to take place; even down to making the eucharistic prayer itself open to great variety in wording.

Now, it would take quite a bit of writing to weigh up the pros and cons of these developments, so, causa brevitatis, I just offer one thought today:

a great advantage of praying prayers in church such as the eucharistic prayer which are agreed texts of the church (and not compositions of individual priests or parish liturgical committees) is that the worshippers can allow the prayers to flow through their minds as an act of worship without anxiety about the veracity of the content; conversely, the disadvantage of flexibility in wording is the worshipper is drawn to wonder about the theology of the prayer rather than be lost in wonder and praise of God!

Our church has gone about as far as any Anglican church can reasonably go in the direction of diversity and flexibility. But the more I experience this diversity and flexibility the less I am pleased with it. Let's head back to greater commonality!