I’ve started any number of times to write a post on this topic and they keep self-destructing after having gone on for far too long about far too little. So—I’ll get right to the point, then.
In the UK, the Society of Catholic Priests is twinned with a lay group—the Company of Servers.
The point of this group is that it teaches the laity who serve at altars and in chancels the practicalities, theology, and spirituality of service in the sanctuary.
In brief, I’m very much for it in the same way and for the same reasons that I’m for the Society of Catholic Priests. In brief:
- Anglo-Catholicism has always had an issue with idiosyncrasy. Area-wide groups where people come together to learn can help smooth out parish level idiosyncrasies by means of a common practice.
- Too many times, rectors jerk parishes around especially on the liturgical level. Just because the rector is having a particular spiritual journey doesn’t necessarily mean that the congregation wants to go along. I keep insisting that liturgy in any given place is the theology of the gathered community made kinetic. That doesn’t mean it’s something a rector gets to impose. Instead, a wise priest will determine the operative theologies in a parish and respond to those. A group like this helps laity articulate together what their theology is and, as a result, what sort of worship should result.
- Sometimes, for a wide variety of reasons, Anglo-Catholics or other forms of “high” Anglicans get stuck in broad to low parishes. Wouldn’t it be nice if a local chapter of the Company of Servers could meet for the BCP-appointed Holy Days and offer a full-on reverent Mass (with the assistance of a like-minded priest) in order to retain the practice and spirituality even if stuck in a parish without it?
- It’s rooted primarily in practice—what we do together—which seems to me a far more productive ground and purpose than meeting around theology which can get quite fraught especially when we start up the games of “More Catholic Than Thou.”
What do you think—can/could this model get transplanted here? What kind of organizational tweaks might be necessary to deal with the North American situation?