Thursday, 24 March 2016

Prayer Book reminiscences

This morning I celebrated the Maundy Thursday Eucharist at St John's Canton for a dozen people, thus setting the Parish clergy free to attend the Bishop's Chrism Mass at the Cathedral. This is an important occasion in the year for bonding between the bishops and their full time clerics, I'm happy to support them in this way, plus I get to use the 1984 Church in Wales equivalent of the Book of Common Prayer, the substance of which dates back to revision which began in 1966, just before I entered St Mike's. It's the traditional element of worship that defined my generation, one we moved away from in successive modernising revisions and return to for a sense of continuity. After a lifetime advocating modernisation and liturgical renewal, I still know it off by heart and enjoy being leading a congregation which is still at home with it.

As a student we studied the English Book of Common Prayer, the 'Urtext' of Anglicanism, translated first into Welsh in 1567. I got to use it once or twice a month in English for the first time after becoming priest in charge of St Paul with St Barnabas in Bristol in 1978. The other churches in the St Paul's area were already into modernising liturgical innovation when I arrived there, Advent 1975. Once I became Team Rector of Halesowen in 1989, I learned it by heart, having to use it weekly at the eight o'clock Communion, and other occasions. The classic register of liturgical English is as familiar to me as the modern. Likewise the language of the first post-Vatican II Missal of the Roman Church, from my days in an ecumenical university chaplaincy team over forty years ago. So many good experiences to give thanks for.

After lunch at home, I went into the office for a while before making my way on foot again over to St Germans for the evening Eucharist of the Lord's Supper. Having preached four times this week so far, ad extempore, I thought that I'd at least prepare some notes to contain my homily safely. After working on this for a quarter of an hour, MS Word crashed on me and the document eluded recovery - such an unusual occurrence, and I will read nothing into it - so I had to extend my extemporising run, although this was a little easier as I had done this in the morning Eucharist also. It's funny, I'm unused to feeling quite so unsafe when preaching. Trouble is, I'm far too used to vetting my own work before delivery.

The Eucharist was conducted with a full team of servers and catholic solemnity, with the sacrament in a monstrance for adoration for the Watch of the Passion at the end. This something I know is customary in some places, though not universally practised. It's certainly the first time I've ever had to do it, and I'm none the worse for that, although I felt tired afterwards, and left the others to set things straight after the stripping of the altars, and went straight home.

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