Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Discarding Accretions

I commend to you the following thread, over at Continuing Home, which can be found at

In a discussion in class this evening our Rector noted his annoyance at some practices that have accreted to our celebration of Mass over the years. I think to his surprise, I know to my (pleasant) surprise, there are a few of us in the class who've been annoyed by them and now each of us knows we are not alone.

One, a congregational response that is not in the 1928 Order for Holy Communion, is traceable to the ECUSA 1979 BCP and was probably brought in by a convert (refugee?) from ECUSA. I think this probably occurred in the earlier days of our parish when former Episcopalians made up the majority of our congregation (we are a distinct minority now, I counted just 10 to 20% a year ago), and they would have been accustomed to the '79 service.

Another is reading the Prayer of Humble Access out loud along with the priest. I have no idea where that came from; somebody brought that in from somewhere else. The congregation varies widely on this; a few read it out loud, others (including me) remain silent, the rest seem to follow whichever group is the majority. But the rubrics are quite explicit on this point.

I suspect we're going to be discarding these practices. Without so much as a(nother) word from the Rector.


Anonymous said...

I think perhaps we've fallen heir to a bit too much "Prayer Book Fundamentalism" with a great deal of haggling over details that don't affect the substance. I'm not sure what 'congregational response' the writer is referring to, but If it isn't at war with the theology of the service, I wouldn't worry too much about it. I have never once in all my years attended a Mass that was letter-perfect by the rubrics of the BCP. Everyone makes adjustments, consciously or otherwise. Is the liturgy of that parish book-perfect except for those two items?
Is the Decalogue said faithfully each and every month? Is 'The Lord be with you' said at any place other than the one appointed time? Is the Fraction done during the Verba? Is there a hymn in place of the Gloria when it is omitted? Are the ablutions defered until after the Blessing? These are just a few of the places where the rubrics are very likely to be ignored.

With regard to the Humble Access: the rubric in USA1928 reads much like the one for the General Confession in England's 1662. In that case it has long been seen as inappropriate for it not to be said by the people, in spite of the rubric, and our American book has renedied that one. Why not the Humble Access? It seems to make the same kind of sense. I'm indifferent as to which way that is done, and would say that local preference would rule in such a case - and I'd cheerfully go along with either. It is ultimately not the congreagation, but the bishop (and, under him, the rector) to make those decisions.

There are much more important things to fight over than these details.


Continuing Home said...


Maybe... but maybe not. Our service is not 100% book-perfect, though we try. The monthly reading of the Decalogue was something that had disappeared along the way, and it had to have been for a while, only to be re-introduced last summer when somebody noticed the rubric and pointed it out.

The point is that we aren't narrowly checking every little thing; nobody's following the service and double-checking the rubrics every step of the way. If anything, because (most of us) have the service committed to memory, things can creep in.

The congregational response?
"Here endeth the Epistle."
"Thanks be to God!" (That the Epistle is over...?)

Anonymous said...

Yuk! I just tried to post a comment and the system discarded me.

We routinely respond "Thanks be to God" to a scripture reading, whether the Epistle or a lesson at MP/EP. I find I thoroughly dislike sitting stlidly through a Bible reading without giving a response, and that that response requires me to accept challenging Scripture that I really would rather ignore. That probably is why the Western liturgies are almost universal in calling for this response. BCP as written is an exception, and an unfortunate one IMHO.

"Things can creep in" Well, yes! That, rather than the work of a committee or of a convention, is how a living liturgy grows.


Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Agree with Ed here completely. Which may surprise him! :-)

The Canadian BCP, which we use because we are in a Commonwealth country (Oz), seems to imply the Prayer of Humble Access should be said by the congregation with the priest. (The ACC's foundational BCPs are the 1549, the 1928 American, the 1962 Canadian and the 1960 and '63 Indian books.) This is not only from the rubric, but the fact that the concluding Amen is not italicized, meaning it is not a response. Nevertheless, following both common tradition and Missal practice, in our parish only the priest says it, the people responding Amen.

But do I get upset when I go to other ACC parishes where the congregation says it all the way through? No way. To modify a popular saying and acronym -- WWJC, "what would Jesus care?"


Anonymous said...

Father Mathew,
I am so glad that we found something to be in agreement about. :-)

That, I'm sure would apply to almost everything regarding the Faith, but, as always happens, those things not included in the "almost" have a habit of dominating discussions.