Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Morning Prayer and Church Planting

The normative service for Sunday liturgy in most of the history of the Anglican Church has been Morning Prayer or Mattins, followed by the Litany and Ante-Communion, or the parts of the liturgy before the Prayer of Consecration. Communion was only celebrated at the most monthly and usually quarterly (some parishes had weekly communion but that was a small number and more of an exception than the rule). This was universal, both for High and Low Churchmen and Evangelicals. I'm not arguing that this was good or bad, simply that it was what happened. There is ample evidence that Cranmer wanted weekly communion, but for whatever reason his dream never actualized. Things began to change at the Oxford Movement and throughout the latter half of the 19th century and into the 20th. With the advent of the Liturgical Movement, Holy Communion once again became the principal Sunday service.

I will argue in this post that the revival of Morning Prayer as the normative Sunday service is beneficial for North American Anglicans. This has nothing to do with the idea that multiple services of Holy Communion is bad, rather I believe Holy Communion to be tthe life of the Church and to be celebrated frequently. Instead, I will argue that Morning Prayer is a better service for evangelism and church planting.

My proposal is that Anglican church planters should not wait until they are ordained to plant churches. Archbishop Duncan has called for 1,000 Anglican parishes to be planted in five years. Realistically, this is not possible for priests to accomplish this goal. If this is to be the work of the Holy Spirit, we have to empower, allow, and encourage faithful laymen to plant churches. We can ordain hundreds of priests in a year but we can train thousands and tens of thousands of lay readers in a month. I encourage bishops and dioceses to develop thorough lay reader training programs which will enable a layman to conduct services reverently from the Book of Common Prayer, to preach sermons or to read already printed sermons for congregations, to be trained in theological education to a certain extent (I'm thinking of a year long "Anglican certificate" program or something of that nature). I believe that this is an accomplishable goal, especially if local priests are willing to sponsor and guide a young church planter. For instance, say there is a town that has an Anglican parish. Let's say this town has 300,000 people, this is too large for one Anglican parish to serve. So a young planter comes into town and starts a plant. He can meet weekly with the priest from the established Anglican parish to discuss his theological training, sermon help, and as a spiritual advisor. The priest at the Anglican parish can administer Communion once a month at the church plant and oversee its growth.

Another beneficial aspect to Morning Prayer services is that the emergent congregation is exposed to a large amount of Scripture. There are the psalms, readings, and the text of the liturgy itself. The liturgy of Morning Prayer presents the gospel of justification by faith alone (in the 1662 version) and invites a repentance of sins every service. I must discuss the nature of these services. We are accustomed to chanting and organs but if we are to plant 1,000 parishes, we have to realize that we have to part ways with our preconceived notions of what Anglican liturgy is supposed to look like. Anglican liturgy can be conducted with reverence with a guitar or keyboard. I am also a fan of metrical psalms, while they should not replace the psalms in the liturgy, they can be included as hymns as they were in the Elizabethan era and after. The Anglican tradition also has a wealth of simple hymns which can be learnt by an emergent congregation. I do not think that contemporary Christian music is really congregational song because it can be difficult for a congregation to learn and master. Hymns are very easy, however, especially hymn tunes, which can be used to introduce the congregation to even more lyrics which present the truth of the Gospel.

Of course, each congregation is different and the pastor should listen to his congregation because he knows what they can handle and what they are ready for. However, I strongly believe that we need an empowered and mission-driven laity to accomplish the goal that the Holy Spirit has given us.


Robin G. Jordan said...


Where is your "Like" button? Moore Theological College in Sydney has a Correspondence Course that has been used in the training of lay readers in Australia and elsewhere for a number of years.

The older praise choruses and worship songs, what were called "celebration songs," were more congregational. They included songs based on the canticles like Wiley Beveridge's "Great and Wonderful" from Revelation 15. A lively metrical version of the Benedicite is Stephen P. Starke's "All You Works of God Bless the Lord!" set to LINSTEAD, a Jamaican folk tune, adapted by Doreen Potter. It may be sung unaccompanied except for sharp hand claps on the last three words of the refrain or to a simple djembe or conga accompaniment. Michael Perry's "Glory, Glory, Glory to the Lord" is based upon the canticle "Glory and honour" from Revelation 4 and 5. Michael Perry's "O Bless the God of Israel" may be sung to FOREST GREEN or KINGSFOLD. Both are English traditional melodies. All four songs are very singable and accessible to the average singer.

Metrical psalms can be integrated into the psalmody of Morning Prayer, primarily as the Invitatory Psalm--the Venite, but also a Laudate Psalm. Michael Jonca's "O Come and Sing to God the Lord," set to CLEARWATER, is an adaption of Psalm 95 in the Scottish Metrical Psalter. It can be accompanied on an accoustic guitar and is easy to learn.

Laudate Psalms are psalms of praise, usually Psalms 148, 149, and 150, sung at the conclusion of the portion of Psalms of the cathedral (or popular) morning office of Lauds. Alternately, the Gloria in Excelsis in a metrical version might be sung. 1789 Book of Common Prayer permitted the use of the Gloria in Excelsis at the conclusion of the psalmody, a revival of a practice of the early Church. On Sunday morning the psalmody might look something like this:

Psalm 95 (metrical, sung by all)
Psalm of the day (prose, recited antiphonally, from side to side, by two sections of the congregation, or sung to a responsorial setting, a cantor singing verses and the congregation joining on the refrain)
Psalm 150 (metrical, sung by all)

Jordan said...

Good suggestions, robin!

We're going to have to realize that church planting is going to have to look different from the cathedral parish at our diocese.