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Discover Liturgy

Liturgical renewal in the Church of England - from the Book of Common Prayer to Series 2

Proclaim the Lord's death until He comes On the day following Trinity Sunday we enter a long period of Ordinary Time which extends until the Saturday before Advent Sunday. During this season there are a number of Saint's Days including St Peter 29th June and St Michael and All Angels 29th September, the latter being our patronal festival. These festivals, which are also know as Petertide and Michaelmas are days when new clergy are ordained into their ministry in the church as either deacons or priests. During this period up until Advent, Times and Seasons will be considering how clergy and the laity together as the people of God play their respective parts in proclaiming the Lord's death until He comes(1 Corinthians 11:26). St Paul is here referring to the service which we know at St Michael's and St Gabriel's as Holy Communion.

Within the Church of England it is possible to find congregations who refer to this service by alternative names such as: Eucharist; Mass; Lord's Supper. Each name highlights a different part or aspect of this one service which Jesus commanded us to do in remembrance of Him. In our series of articles we shall look at the structure of the Holy Communion, the roles of each member of the congregation and the different parts of the service in more detail. Our first consideration will be a brief overview of the changes which took place in the latter part of the 20th century and led us from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer via the Alternative Service Book (1980) to Common Worship which we use at St Michael's and St Gabriel's as our main service book.

The forms of service used in the Church of England are on one hand: a development from the founding of the church when the Holy Spirit came to the early disciples 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus; and also an expression of the theology of the Reformation which was taking place when the Church of England was founded. Some of the the churches formed at the time of the Reformation discarded much of the inherited liturgy, but the Anglican church has always been both 'catholic and reformed' and has steered a middle way. At our founding we kept the 3 historic orders of clergy: bishops; priests and deacons continue to declare in the Nicene creed which we use at Holy Communion that: "We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church".

At the time of the Reformation there were many changes as we moved away the Latin Mass. The liturgy was in English and we had a series of changes which can be found in the Prayer Books of 1549, 1552 and finally in the Book of Common Prayer (1662) which remains as the official Prayer Book to this day. However liturgy never has stood still and the 20th century saw many changes in the forms of alternatives to the 1662 Payer Book. The first of these was the proposed 1928 Prayer Book which was popular with some Anglican Congregations.

For most of us who became active members of the Church of England before the end of the 1960s the 1662 Prayer Book was our main experience of worship. Morning and Evening Prayer were from the 1662 Prayer Book and most congregations could still attend 1662 Holy Communion. Newly ordained clergy in the 1970s may have presided at the Holy Communion for the first time using the 1662 Holy Communion. It was a fine grounding for new priests even if they did not fully understand nor love what was seen by them as a liturgy in need of reform. One phrase from what the 1662 Prayer Book calls the Prayer of Consecration sums of what Jesus did through his death on the cross in a magnificent way "who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficent sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world". Nearly 40 years studying liturgy has not resulted in finding words better than these.

Despite our wonderful heritage of the 1662 Prayer Book and the fact that it is the liturgy of choice for the choral services in our catherdrals and other churches which have choral daily services, changes had begun in the 1960s which have led us to the Common Worship services which we use on a Sunday at St Michael's. In July 1967 Series 2 Holy Communion was authorised for experimental use for a period of 4 years. This little blue book began a process which was to change the liturgy of the Church of England in most substantial way. Series 2 Holy Communion was still in traditional language, but in our next article we shall consider why this was such an important step in the process of liturgical reform.


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