A Response to my Critics

Well, that seems to have stirred up a few things!  At the suggestion of Fr Anthony Ruff, I would like to respond to at least some of the comments made, both in relation to my posting and to Paul Inwood’s insightful and wise thoughts.

  • Fundamental to my own understanding of the Christian Way is that we move on, and do not afford ourselves the luxury of constantly looking back with longing.

    The Israelites in the Wilderness were chastised  for looking back to the ‘cucumber fields of Egypt’ for in so doing they were despising their new hard-won freedom. Jesus considered that ‘no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ There is a presumption here that in the journey of God’s people we move forward and do not hark back to what we have left behind.

    Certainly that was the basis on which the original translations of the Mass into English were formulated. The 1549 Book of Common Prayer (like all the Tudor books so beloved of the traditionalists today) was not a discussion document or one option among many but a do-or-die new way;  Now from henceforth, all the whole realm shall have just one use. (Preface of the First Prayer Book of Edward VI).

    This is not a million miles from the intention of the Council Fathers in 1963 in setting forth The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, nor of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in approving a new Book of Common Prayer in 1979, albeit with provision for a traditional rite alongside the contemporary.

    So I would take issue with F.C. Bauerschmidt when he describes the ‘new’ liturgy as ‘one I happen to favour’. The new liturgy is the liturgy of the Church. For Anglicans, with our interminable and heartbreaking and traumatic experience of liturgical revision by committee, with the full democratic process applying alternatively the gas pedal and the brake in equal measure, there really is not excuse for anyone ‘opting out’ of the end product. It is what we have made it, all of us.

      • The reforms of the liturgy over the last 50 years are not just about language or liturgical shape, they are the fruit of a renewed understanding of what it means to be church. This rediscovery helps us no longer to speak of ‘going to church’ but instead to realise that we gather to become church. This is a far cry from Christopher Evans’ assertion that I would reduce lay life to ‘doing things in church after Holy Communion’ , but it certainly includes acknowledging one another’s presence at the Lord’s Table, and giving generously of our time and energy to build up the body of Christ. These are activities which by and large the 8 o’clock culture reduces to optional, and highly questionable, extras.
          • When we look at a community of faith attempting to renew and strengthen its common life in a post-Christian culture, we should question whether there is ever sufficient cause for it to be divided by time or place for Sunday worship. If the gathered assembly is paramount in our thinking, surely the only reason for two masses rather than one is when we cannot all squeeze into the building for a single gathering? In those circumstances it is of little consequence whether we go early or late; the celebrations of the rite will be the same and of equal importance in the life of the parish. Only when we divide from one another on the basis of personal preference (a highly modern and Protestant notion!) do the problems begin.
              • Nowhere in the discussion do I see a recognition that liturgy is not primarily for our benefit. It is for the glory of God, for the proclamation of the good news that will draw many to Christ, and lastly for ourselves. It is not Rite I that will make Jesus weep, but a Church which has turned in upon itself and has ceased to be good news for anyone.
                  • I am sorry to sound such an old grouch about the 8 o’clock, and F.C.Bauershmidt is quite right to caution me about judging others’ souls, and yet ‘by their fruits you shall know them.’ Sadly, 44 years experience as a parish priest has left me with a consistent picture of the attitude of those who choose always an early Mass separate from the main body. Those who do so may claim that such a stance is about language, but it is in fact almost always and everywhere about taking part in worship one step removed from the life of the local faith community. This should not be so in theory, but invariably is, and a cause for deep sadness.
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                    19 comments

                    1. “So I would take issue with F.C.Bauerschmidt when he describes the ‘new’ liturgy as ‘one I happen to favour’. The new liturgy is the liturgy of the Church.”

                      Yes. And Rite I is part of that new liturgy. (That’s why it’s in the Book of Common Prayer.) It’s not simply a reprint of the 1928 liturgy.

                      “This rediscovery helps us no longer to speak of ‘going to church’ but instead to realise that we gather to become church.”

                      We poor saps in Rhode Island must have missed a memo, because most people around here still say things like “I’m going to church.”

                      “It is not Rite I that will make Jesus weep, but a Church which has turned in upon itself and has ceased to be good news for anyone.”

                      For some people, a parish that uses Rite I *is* good news. You seem to dismiss that.

                      “Those who do so may claim that such a stance is about language, but it is in fact almost always and everywhere about taking part in worship one step removed from the life of the local faith community.”

                      You seem to be begging the question by assuming that the 8 o’clock service isn’t part of that life. Surely people who go to an early service are no less members of the “local faith community” than the people who go to the 11 o’clock service? And again, just how did you become privy to their “real” motivations?

                    2. “If the gathered assembly is paramount in our thinking, surely the only reason for two masses rather than one is when we cannot all squeeze into the building for a single gathering?”

                      Surely Fr Giles must realize that the exigencies of modern life make it impossible in many cases for there to be a single liturgy on Sundays and feast days, that all are free to attend? Or does he suggest the principle of a single liturgy supercedes the pastoral need to provide additional celebrations?

                      Further, I would like to express my disappointment in the fact that Fr Giles has elected to provide his response as a new post, rather than in and among the comments on his previous post. To me this suggests that he is not willing to engage his detractors personally, and this model of discourse, I believe, is better suited to academia than to the world of ‘blogs.

                    3. “Fundamental to my own understanding of the Christian Way is that we move on, and do not afford ourselves the luxury of constantly looking back with longing.”

                      I’m looking back, but not with longing. Try Matt 13:51-52. “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Out of context, I’ll admit, but certainly Matthew’s own Gospel seems to be about examining old tradition to see what if it most suitably and profitably proclaims the Gospel in his new day in light of Christ Jesus. The same is true of the liturgy. As I’ve written elsewhere in the past:

                      For Christians, history can never be “one damn thing after another”—instead it’s a storehouse of the footprints of the Spirit: how it has led and directed us, and how we’ve listened (or not). So when we start renewing our proclamation of the Gospel the surest and best place to start is looking back to see how the Spirit has spoken, how we have responded and what means were used then that can help us speak the word of life now. We must be grounded in our Tradition—not so we can simply replicate it, but so that we can draw on it the best we’re able.

                      Isn’t dismissing the past a dangerous dismissal of the mighty acts of God in the lives of our fore-bearers and their relevance to us today?

                      This post seems to take a step back from your previous post, one that I’d like to push you on. It seems like here you are expressing a problem with an 8 o’ clock service, rather than the rite in which it is conducted. So let me ask you this… do you have problems with:

                      1. a local church that has an 8 o’ clock Rite II low mass,

                      2. a local church with an 11:15 Rite I Sung Mass

                      3. A local church with one 10 o’ clock mass that varies between Rites I and II by season?

                      (All of these are actual specific examples within driving distance of my house.) Is it really the time you object to or is it the rite?

                    4. Mr. Giles, you have stated that you are very much into ‘experimental’ liturgies. I assume this means that you adapt the liturgy to suit the people attending and various other circumstances as you see fit.

                      Is it only you that has a right to choose to worship exactly as you please – and not those nasty backward bums at the 8 o’clock liturgy?

                    5. Fr. Giles raised an interesting question that I fear has gotten lost in the resentment of some of the posters. I would put it this way: what is the relationship between orthodoxy (right worship) and pluralism?

                      A genuine liturgical reform, as opposed to a simply cosmetic adjustment, is always making a statement about what is right worship for the Church in this day and time. If a communion doesn’t back this up, if other options are set up as equivalent, it all becomes a matter of taste and personal preference. This is all too common in our postmodern, consumer society, but it’s a far cry from a robust–and dare I say traditional–sense of what liturgy is and does for a community of faith. Liturgy can be like the baby in Solomon’s court; splitting it can be fatal.

                      I do not know enough about the situation in the Episcopal Church to comment on the specifics he describes but I applaud Fr. Giles for having the courage of his convictions, and for standing behind his church’s reform.

                    6. Rita, thanks for bringing up some interesting points. I would offer one word of correction; I don’t resent Fr. Giles or his statements. I disagree with them. There’s a difference.

                      I absolutely agree with your point in the second paragraph. One of the fundamental principles I hammer into my students is that “there are *no* liturgical changes. Rather, there are theological changes with liturgical implications.” A bit hyperbolic, yes, but it gets the point across.

                      The issue of taste, preference and standing behind [the Episcopal Church’s] reform is exactly what is at stake here. Speaking strictly about the American Episcopal Church, there is no set magisterial teaching on theology (hence some of our difficulties) but there is one book which we are required to use: The Book of Common Prayer. This book *is* the Reform. And it includes both a traditional language rite, a contemporary language rite and avoids the issue of ceremonial almost entirely.

                      Fr. Giles would like us to believe that his implementation of the BCP is correct and that his understanding of the Reform is normative. I disagree. I, too, embody our Reform albeit differently from him. But neither do I *want* him to worship my way–because it clearly fits neither his theology nor his preferences. I simply ask that he recognize that our church, our theology, and our liturgy provide space enough for the *both* us to genuinely follow God as we believe the Anglican way has taught it to us.

                    7. “A genuine liturgical reform, as opposed to a simply cosmetic adjustment, is always making a statement about what is right worship for the Church in this day and time.”

                      The Episcopal Church did this back in 1979, when after a long experimental process we issued the first revision of the Book of Common Prayer in over fifty years. The BCP contains the Church’s official liturgy – the Daily Office, the Eucharist, and various pastoral and ordination services. Part and parcel of that official liturgy are what are called Rite One versions (“traditional language” services, as opposed to Rite Two services, which are in contemporary English) of the Daily Office and the Eucharist. They are not simply reprints of the 1928 services, but re-edited/reformed versions of them in “traditional language.” And in an introductory section of the BCP is the explicit direction, “In any of the Proper Liturgies for Special Days, and in other services contained in this book celebrated in the context of a Rite One service, the contemporary idiom may be conformed to traditional language” (14).

                      My point is that the services Fr. Giles denigrates are on the same official footing as the contemporary language services he loves. He has given the impression here that they are the Church’s former liturgy, and that those who opt for them are guilty of dragging their heels. He is, to put it bluntly, mistaken at best.

                      Indeed, I would argue he is mistaken in one of the premises of his original article, and that Rite One is NOT the Anglican analogue to the TLM at all. The corresponding liturgy to the TLM for Episcopalians would be the 1928 edition of the BCP. There are parishes that, with the permission of their bishops, do use that liturgy. If there is an Episcopalian Usus Antiquior, that’s it – and not Rite One.

                    8. I suppose I shouldn’t have said “which I happen to favor,” and I happily accept Fr. Giles fraternal correction on that point. What I do or do not happen to favor is immaterial. So, putting aside any issue of personal preference, I find myself having to say that since the Motu Propio there are now two forms of the Roman Rite (ordinary and extraordinary). It is not a move that I happen to have favored, but apparently now both forms are the liturgy of the Church.

                      I also cannot let pass without comment the proof-texting regarding “looking back.” There are plenty of Biblical texts that warn of the dangers of forgetting the past (“if I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my tongue cleave tot he roof of my mouth;” “Do this for the remembrance of me”), so I’m not entirely convinced about the mandate to be always forward looking. Doesn’t it really depend on what one is looking back at?

                    9. Thank you for your explanation, Derek, which the subsequent post reinforced. That’s helpful.

                      Now, if I understand this correctly, given that both of these rites are indeed part of the Book of Common Prayer and enjoy the same legitimacy, it would seem that what is lacking is the means to integrate the two communities with their diverse practices.

                      Perhaps someone who has followed this discussion could provide a good example or two of success in this realm? What, if anything, forges bonds of unity among sub-communities of this kind? Is it a sort of diakonia, or koinonia?

                    10. Rita, I’m not sure that the practices of the two congregations are so diverse that they need to be integrated any more than the members of an RC parish with multiple Sunday Masses need to be integrated. I mean, it happens naturally. Like in my parish (although our model is different than the one Fr. Giles has in mind).

                      In my parish, we use Rite One at all of our services. Our 8:00 Sunday service is Low Mass (with sermon but no music), and our 10:00 service is Solemn High Mass (again, with sermon). In the past the two congregations have been brought together by things like Adult Ed. programs, special musical programs, meals, the parish BBQ, service projects like the weekly soup kitchen that uses our facilities or our New Years’ Dinner, and devotional societies like the Society of Mary. And daily Mass (although our attendance at weekday Masses is not what it should be).

                      I don’t know any reason why it would be different at a parish that uses Rite One at the early service and Rite Two for the later one.

                    11. Once when I was invited to preach at our neighboring Episcopal church, I was chatting with one of the parishioners at the 8 a.m. service, who told me she liked the 8 a.m. Mass because “It got Mass out of the way so she could enjoy the rest of Sunday.” I was somewhat taken aback, but I realized this was also the attitude I found among many at our own parish among those who attend the vigil Mass and the 8 a.m. Mass.

                      I have a dear friend who attends the vigil Mass, and whenever I preach then we have a standing joke that he times my homily and lets me know if it goes over seven minutes. I do know that when I preach at the vigil Mass or the 8 a.m. Mass, there is a different energy. I encounter less positive reaction, there is less apparent engagement. At the other Masses, parishioners will engage me after Mass on some point of the homily, and as I preach I feel a greater sense of involvement. It’s the same homily, but there is less folded arms and stern looks and more leaning forward and active listening. The singing at the other Masses is also more vibrant than it is at the vigil Mass or the 8 a.m. Mass.

                      So yes, I do think there is a difference.

                      That being said, I do not know that there is a difference in involvement. Some of our most active and dedicated parishioners attend both the vigil and the 8 a.m. Mass. When we have our Advent Toy Drive and such ministries of the whole parish, I do not perceive a difference in participation.

                      I should note, however, that when we have special liturgies outside the Sunday or holy day “obligation,” such as our annual Thanksgiving liturgy, the difference between having a church filled with those who want to be there versus those who feel obligated to be there is electrifying. It’s the same difference I experience between a Sunday celebration in the Roman Church and an Orthodox liturgy. It’s just something in the air. Joy, maybe.

                      Others have said, and I concur: the worst thing we ever did to the liturgy was to force people to be there.

                      1. we have a standing joke that he times my homily and lets me know if it goes over seven minutes

                        As a general rule 5 minutes should be sufficient to say what you want in a succinct manner. Any more runs the risk of lack of focus and imbalance with the rest of the liturgy. There are exceptions, so I propose a system under which priests and deacons are licensed in the first instance for homilies of up to 5 minutes. They would then be reviewed every 3 years by a panel of clergy and laity, who would have a remit to add or subtract a minute from the licence. This would work wonders for the standard of homilies and the amount taken in by listeners.

                        1. Ian, I agree to a point. We were actually told in homiletics to keep it to seven minutes (close enough to five to mean the same thing). On occasion, a good preacher can hold attention over that, but as a general rule when a preacher goes to 20 minutes or more it’s unlikely he/she is a great preacher!

                      2. “I was chatting with one of the parishioners at the 8 a.m. service, who told me she liked the 8 a.m. Mass because “It got Mass out of the way so she could enjoy the rest of Sunday.”

                        I think this explains why a lot of people go to the early service. My partner’s mother and stepfather almost always go to the 8 o’clock service at their parish, and did so even when they were serving on the vestry (the parish council, I suppose RCs might call it). They were heavily involved with the parish, but preferred a service that left a larger uninterrupted chunk of the weekend for them.

                        The whole idea of faulting people for the time that they attend Mass just seems so bizarre to me that I have trouble understanding the Fr Gile’s mindset. Unlike the RCC, Anglicanism has done a pretty bad job of inculcating the idea that Sunday Mass attendance is a requirement. If an Anglican is in church, it’s probably because they want to be there. As a result, the proportion of Anglicans who regularly attend services is lower than the proportion of Roman Catholics who do so. Scolding them for choosing an earlier service – and, presumably, doing away with that service – is not likely to increase attendance at the later Mass very much.

                    12. You should stop digging, Mr. Giles. I’m afraid this post just confirms the impression of one determined to do it his way, and d**n the souls of those who get in the way. It also strengthens my suspicion that Clericalism is alive and well at the liberal end of the liturgical debate.

                    13. The problem, Fr. Giles, in the way you frame you words is that what is implied in them is that the primacy of the lay vocation happens in church after church. Perhaps the best writer on the lay vocation I have read to-date, William Stringfellow, would find this a problematic assertion, as do I. It seems to assume that those at an 8 o’clock service who happen to leave thereafter, as in having been dismissed, are not living out their vocation as lay persons in the fullest sense. That sort of generalization is unwarranted and given what I know of early Massers in TEC, untrue. They are being Christ’s Body in the world often in many unacknowledged and unnoticed ways. It is the tone and assumption of looking on others’ souls so precisely that raises my objections.

                      Your original post objected to Rite I. As Derek espies this post seems to reject early Holy Communion liturgies. If the former, a second problem is that Rite I is as much the liturgy of this Church as is Rite II, and as such, should be in use. I know too many priests who foreswear never to use Rite I, and that is not a common prayer nor Prayer Book spirit. Rite I provides christological correctives to some current trends in our church, and is more than about traditional language, it is about a strand of our theological inheritance that is worth keeping.

                      Third, forward march with no looking back may be an Exodus approach, but I hardly think it the full sense of Scripture or of the Hebrew relationship with God. Such a broad assertion reads similarly to those who claim the prophets as anti-Temple. After all, St Matthew and St Paul look back to that written previously in light of Christ when they quote St Isaiah and the Psalms and Genesis. Engagement with our ancestors in the faith and that which nourished them is part of being the Body not just in the present but in fullness. Given this, Cranmer and others looked back quite a lot to Sarum, the Eastern Church, etc. It isn’t so simple as if 1549 came into existence whole cloth.

                    14. Bill, thank you for your example. As an outsider to the Episcopal church, I’m not in any position either to verify or dispute Fr. Giles’s observations of the “personality” which attaches to certain kinds of liturgical subcommunities, but as a Catholic I certainly have lots of possible analogs in the back of my mind.

                      I was struck by his initial description of the resistence he met as a pastor when trying to engage the 8:00 crowd with any parish activities outside of Mass–a problem that your parish, Bill, doesn’t seem to have, and good for you.

                      Two observations came to mind. One is that Fr. Giles may have a group that is alienated from the dominent culture of his parish (personal friendliness, volunteerism, etc.), but which carries on its Christian discipleship in ways that fly beneath the radar scope (moral virtue in the workplace, care for family, generosity to non-church charity, etc.). The question might then be how to get to know these people without trying to remake them in the image of the dominant culture.

                      The other is that sometimes a sub-community is based on its “complaint” against the rest–we see this in many settings, left and right–and it’s toxic. It’s a different thing entirely. It’s always accompanied by defensive patterns of behavior; it’s not a “relaxed” position but a reactive one. Any pastor who loved his people would not want them to spend their lives in this mode. When Fr. Giles entitled his earlier post “institutionalizing dissent” it was this reality I thought he meant.

                      None of these things is easy to overcome. The problem may be expressed liturgically, but have its roots somewhere else entirely. Thanks, everyone, for an interesting discussion.

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