Friday, 29 January 2016
If the Church of England is going to abandon vestments, what's next, the BCP? Is that church racing to become a bland evangelical denomination that doesn't like gays and sings happy-clappy nonsense projected on overhead screens?
Perhaps we need to plant an Episcopal Church presence in England for more than just tolerance and marriage equality. It might be the case that England may need a liturgical church with a Prayer Book planted on her shores just to keep some form of Anglicanism alive there.
So when it comes to what the clergy should wear when conducting divine worship it is down to a choice between "seemly" or "slovenly"? One definition of "seemly" is "decorous" - what can be more decorous than traditional Eucharistic vestments which are designed to draw the attention away from the individual priest and point the focus towards Christ? Will this constant simplification and dumbing down ever cease within the Church of England with its relentless lowering of standards? No wonder a soon to be published book on how the Church of England lost the English people is entitled "THAT WAS THE CHURCH THAT WAS"
Really enjoyed John Bingham's opening sentence: "free to conduct services in tracksuits and hoodies." How to shock the Telegraph readership. In reality, most of those (usu. evangelicals and charismatics) who will drop vestments will probably wear a jacket and tie or, if we really push the boat out, chinos and an open-necked shirt: terribly unseemly! No doubt there will be a very occasional hoody-wearer, but it's hardly going to be commonplace.
The Church is exploring some truly radical and dangerous ideas: priests ministering sacraments while dressed in a summer dress, same sex marriage ...
Are such ideas truly radical and dangerous, or do they just offer the Church the deluded illusion that it is truly challenging itself? I think the latter.
Radical challenge, radical evangelism, would be an online strategy. It would be Christians knowing that on the hour, every hour (on Sundays to start with) they could join an online service, praise the Lord with brothers and sisters from around the world, learn about the Word of God, and at the end all break bread together in their own homes and in their offices, on ships and trains, in hospitals and prisons ... And yes, sat together in community spaces and churches too. That's modernisation. That's evangelism.
A congregation of six is only a congregation of six if we allow it to be. Network services and that six can be sixty thousand all worshipping together, just geographically dispersed. We declare we believe in "One Holy, Roman and Apostolic Church" and for the first time in history we have the technology to allow that, to break geographical bounds, to transcend national borders.
The church needs to evangelise. It needs to modernise. But it needs to stop thinking that tinkering with issues around the edges like policy on vestments is going to make a difference either way.
Christopher Wells captures the need for radical change well, the need to transcend geography. He quotes ++ Rowan Williams:
"if we are to continue to be any sort of ‘Catholic’ church, if we believe that we are answerable to something more than our immediate environment and its priorities and are held in unity by something more than just the consensus of the moment, we have some very hard work to do to embody this more clearly."
Then he stops short and discusses ecclesiology and the nature of the Anglican Communion. The challenge is there. So many writers, churchgoers and primates see the challenge. Then they stop short of considering the sort of transformation the Internet can offer.
I fear the train has left the station over vestments.. This is simply making legal what has been happening for a while...vestments relegated to a said 8 am if they have one. I saw a pic on Facebook of a smart morning dress wedding in a central London church with the officiant in suit, shirt and tie.Having just finished a 3 yr stint doing POT I discovered in one year nearly half the curates came from parishes where they didn't use the lectionary. The old prayer book Evangelical ethos has more or less died....Its ironic that by the time Common Worship appeared a significant minority in the C of E had abandoned liturgy pretty well...a recent friends funeral was taken in church by Vicar and curate in church..both in suits..the only Prayer Book bit being a doctored version of the Committal.Yet in other places eg cathedrals its more liturgical than ever..more use of incense, votive candles, ashes and Holy Week ceremonies. I think it's called " a mixed economy ". To me it looks like fragmentation and the increasing loss of a family resemblance between Parish Churches calling themselves C of E but offering everything from the modern Roman rite and Francis our Pope to worship conducted from the podium by the worship group a LA Hillsong...
I liked Kate's idea of what a radical approach to new technology would be the 'webcast' service every hour on the hour. It might give added resonance to the notion of the 'canonical hours'. Though I suppose before we praise ourselves too much for being thoroughly modern it reminds me of the idea of the 'act of worship' on the Home Service [and no I am NOT that old!!] and the decision that as it was a service it could not be recorded but had to go out 'live'. Kate's other point however, that she recites her belief in "One Holy Roman and Apostolic Church" came something as a surprise to me: my "pistefo" doesn't run like that.....
Well said, Perry. I am reminded of a former student reading history who told he how impressed he was that "the Book of Common Prayer was equally acceptable to an Evangelical like Charles Simeon and a Catholic like Dr Pusey." Naturally, because both of them were fundamentally CHURCHMEN. As you say, the old Evangelical ethos devoted to the BCP, and approaching Holy Communion devoutly, seems almost to have vanished. Now we have those claiming to be Evangelical whom Simeon would not recognize, and those claiming to be Catholics whom Pusey would not recognize - not to mention those who call themselves Anglicans without displaying any familiarity with Anglican history, tradition and ecclesiology.
Common Worship has had dire results, offering so many variations that one wonders just what is common now in C of E worship. No wonder that those who seek dignity and reverence in worship are going to our cathedrals rather than to parish churches.
'that she recites her belief in "One Holy Roman and Apostolic Church" came something as a surprise to me...'
Me too !
The creeds recited in RC churches do not contain the above words at all.
further to Laurence Roberts,
and perhaps more importantly nor does this form appear in the _pistefo_ [kept specially in this form just to make Cynthia feel at home!!] at Nicaea or Constantinople nor in the manner it is recited in the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom.... (may the blessings of the 318 Fathers be upon him) =:-)
As for the 'Columba' declaration, from Tim Wyatt's report in the Church Times, "Mr Nye said that since the Declaration had been publicised, the Church had taken steps to “join up a little more those partners who have been involved”, including the SEC, which had been an observer to the talks with the Kirk from the start." Do I hear the faint sound of backtracking or is the mood still one of 'blame the pesky Scottish Episcopal Church'?
@ Laurence Roberts: you're certainly right about that: even the Romans know better than to try that little sleight of hand.
Having said that, I remember hearing stories when I was a little guy about Irish nuns in RC parochial schools in the US teaching their pupils to insert "Roman" among the marks of the church. I suppose it was intended to refute Anglican pretensions.
@ Daniel, Laurence and me:
And we all know where inserting things into the Creed/Symbolon got us!! =:-)
Πίστεως, thank you, Dion!