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Common Worship for Our Church Updated

Common Worship for Our Church Updated

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Published by Peter Carrell

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Published by: Peter Carrell on Sep 05, 2011
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Common Worship for Our Church?The first service was a catholic-style eucharist perfectly ordered in respect of furnishing, robing andflourishes. Next I joined a service expressing the best of charismatic, informal yet structured morningworship. This particular Sunday was rounded off with an evening youth service blending screen-projected prayer book words with songs unknown to our ancestors in the faith. Each service was in adifferent Anglican parish.I suppose if I visited every parish, rohe, cathedral and chapel in our church, participating in allservices across any given Sunday, then the variety described above would be extended beyond theimaginings not only of Thomas Cranmer but also of our own Prayer Book Commission when it firstsat down to meet in 1964. Never mind what they might make of a future they did not predict, whatare we
 –
 
God’s people in ACANZP today –
to make of our situation? Have we reached a point in ourworship history in which we are superbly adapted liturgically to the ever-changing landscape of 21
st
 century post-modernism? Or, are we in liturgical chaos in which worship leaders are doing what isright in their own eyes with results which not only reject our heritage but may damage our futureprospects?We are a church with a liturgical history. Behind what we do today lies
 A New Zealand Prayer Book 
,
the Book of Common Prayer 
, Cranmer’s revisions in 1549 and 1552 to the assorted service books the
medieval Church of England had acquired, and back through the mysteries of aboriginal Celtic
worship of ‘ancient times’ in
the British and Irish islands. This history is part of our identity as
 Anglicans
.
 
But it is a history both of continuity with what went before it and of change when changewas required. Our liturgical future is likely a similar mixture. Elements of continuity are obvious:NZPB and BCP services remain part of the liturgical programme of many parishes. But what aboutthe services in many parishes which
 –
at least on first appearances
 –
seem to owe little to ourliturgical history and much to the choices made by worship leaders. Are these services signs of further liturgical change taking place before our eyes? Or, will such services be seen with hindsightto represent a liturgical sidetrack, useful for their time but without influence on the long-term life of our church?My own judgment is that we are living through a risky period in the history of our church as anetwork of worshipping communities bound by some kind of common identity. Here is a law of worship participation which, with a very few exceptions, I propose holds true throughout our churchtoday: the closer a service adheres to our liturgical history, the older and the smaller will be thecongregation; the converse being the younger and larger the congregation in an Anglican parish, thefurther will be the service from that liturgical history. Our risk is that pressing for greater adherenceto liturgical history as central to our identity could lead to the demise of our church. But there is arisk which runs in an opposite direction: if less and less holds new generations of Anglicans together
liturgically 
in the 21
st
century, what will form the real content of the word
 Anglican
? I do not deem itsufficient in the long run that by
 Anglican
we mean that the bishop turns up once a year to wave theAnglican flag and once a year a few clerical and lay reps leave the parish to attend a mysterious
gathering known as ‘synod’
!Is there a way forward from where we are into a brighter future? Canny Cranmer may provide uswith a clue. When Thomas Cranmer worked on reducing the variety of prayer books of his day toone Book of 
Common
Prayer, he wanted the English people to pray and to believe together as one

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